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WNBA Draft 2017: Team-By-Team Analysis

Heading into the 2017 WNBA Draft, it was a safe bet to assume Washington’s Kelsey Plum would be the first name called as the No. 1 overall pick. As for how the remaining 35 names would go, that was a bit of mystery. Indeed Plum went first, followed by South Carolina’s Alaina Coates – the first of three Gamecocks selected in the first round.

With all 36 picks in the books and (as of now) no trades to report, let’s take a look back at Thursday’s draft and see how each team did in addressing their needs.

San Antonio Stars

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/1st Overall – Kelsey Plum, G, Washington
  • 1st Round/5th Overall – Nia Coffey, F, Northwestern
  • 3rd Round/25th Overall – Schaquilla Nunn, F, Tennessee

While everyone expected San Antonio to select Plum first overall, there were questions about whether or not they would hold onto her or use the pick with the highest value as a trade chip to get a player back to fill a bigger need. With Moriah Jefferson at the point and a returning Kayla McBride at the two, the Stars don’t have an immediate need for Plum. That being said, a team that finished last in the league in scoring (72.0 ppg), could always use the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer. In addition to the top pick, the Stars also had the No. 5 overall pick which they used to select Northwestern’s Nia Coffey. At 6-1, she played power forward in college, but may have to transition to the wing in the WNBA.

Chicago Sky

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/2nd Overall – Alaina Coates, C, South Carolina
  • 1st Round/9th Overall – Tori Jankoska, G, Michigan State
  • 2nd Round/21st Overall – Chantel Osahor, F/C, Washington
  • 3rd Round/33rd Overall – Makayla Epps, G, Kentucky

The Sky acquired the No. 2 pick in the draft as part of the Elena Delle Donne trade and used the pick to select Coates, a 6-4 center with a great combination of size, strength and athleticism. However, she missed South Carolina’s run to the NCAA title due to an ankle injury that just required surgery, which means she will miss at least a portion of the 2017 WNBA season. Later in the first round, the Sky took Tori Jankoska out of Michigan State, who will provide toughness and a solid 3-point threat for a Chicago team that averaged the third-fewest 3-pointers last season. The Sky used their second-round pick on Chantel Osahor – the NCAA’s leading rebounder with an unorthodox but effective 3-point shot and exceptional playmaking skills for a forward/center. They ended their draft night by taking Kentucky’s Makayla Epps in the third round.

Dallas Wings

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/3rd Overall – Evelyn Akhator, F/C, Kentucky
  • 1st Round/4th Overall – Allisha Gray, G, South Carolina
  • 1st Round/10th Overall – Kaela Davis, G, South Carolina
  • 2nd Round/23rd Overall – Breanna Lewis, C, Kansas State
  • 3rd Round/26th Overall – Saniya Chong, G, Connecticut

The Wings were one of the busiest teams on draft night as they had five total selections, including three of the first 10 overall picks. While Kentucky’s Evelyn Akhator was a bit of a surprise at No. 3, she provides Dallas with a great athlete with incredible upside to develop. With their next two picks, the Wings took a pair of Gamecocks that played pivotal roles in leading South Carolina to the NCAA title at the Final Four in Dallas just a few weeks ago. The addition of Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis gives the Wings two athletic and versatile wings that were at their best when the games meant the most in the NCAA Tournament. They will help fill the void left by Odyssey Sims, who was traded in the offseason, and fit in well with Fred Williams’ uptempo style of play. Dallas also selected Breanna Lewis out of Kansas State and Saniya Chong out of UConn – the only Huskie to be picked in this year’s draft.

Washington Mystics

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/6th Overall – Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, G, Maryland
  • 2nd Round/18th Overall – Jennie Simms, G, Old Dominion
  • 3rd Round/27th Overall – Mehryn Kraker, F, Wisconsin-Green Bay

The Mystics didn’t have to look far to find their first round pick – Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who starred at the University of Maryland for the past four years. After acquiring Elena Delle Donne via trade and Kristi Toliver via free agency, the Mystics were already poised to make a huge leap in the standings and enter the title picture next season. In Walker-Kimbrough, they get a rookie that should be able to make an impact right away. Her combination of length and speed on the wing should help ease her transition to the pros and having a reliable 3-point shot (49.3% in her last two seasons at Maryland) should earn her minutes in Mike Thibault’s system. The Mystics also added high-scoring guard Jennie Simms out of Old Dominion in the second round and forward Mehryn Kraker of Wisconsin-Green Bay in the third.

Atlanta Dream

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/7th Overall – Brittney Sykes, G, Syracuse
  • 2nd Round/19th Overall – Jordan Reynolds, G, Tennessee
  • 3rd Round/31st Overall – Oderah Chidom, F, Duke

While every team enters the draft with needs to fill, few face the challenge the Atlanta Dream do as they enter the 2017 season, as All-WNBA forward Angel McCoughtry will sit out at least a portion of the season for rest. The Dream simply can’t replace everything that McCoughtry provides, but her absence does open up opportunities for wing players looking to make an impact. Enter first round draft pick Brittney Sykes from Syracuse. The 5-9 guard averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.24 steals during her senior season. She also knocked down nearly two 3-pointers per game and shot 39.3 percent from the beyond the arc, which should help a Dream team that ranked last in 3-pointers made last season. Later in the draft, the Dream selected guard Jordan Reynolds of Tennessee and forward Oderah Chidom of Duke to provide added depth as the team enters training camp.

Connecticut Sun

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/8th Overall – Brionna Jones, C, Maryland
  • 2nd Round/13th Overall – Shayla Cooper, F, Ohio State
  • 2nd Round/16th Overall – Leticia Romero, G, Florida State
  • 3rd Round/28th Overall – Jessica January, G, DePaul

For the second time in three years, the Sun must prepare to play without All-Star forward Chiney Ogwumike, who is recovering from Achilles surgery this past December that will likely sideline her for the entire season. To help fill that void, the Sun selected Brionna Jones from Maryland with the eighth pick in the draft. Jones led the NCAA in field goal percentage in each of the past two seasons and nearly averaged 20-10 during her senior season. In the second round, the Sun took Ohio State forward Shayla Cooper with the 13th pick and Florida State guard Leticia Romero with the 16th pick. Cooper is a versatile forward that can guard multiple positions, while Romero not only finished her college career as the ACC’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage (47.7%), she also won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics as part of the Spanish national team.

Los Angeles Sparks

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/11th Overall- Sydney Wiese, G, Oregon State
  • 3rd Round/35th Overall – Saicha Grant-Allen, C, Dayton

The defending champs lost their best 3-pointer shooter – Kristi Toliver – in free agency, so what did they do in the draft? How about taking one of the top 3-point shooters in the draft in Oregon State’s Sydney Wiese. The 6-1 guard is the Pac-12’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and ranked 12th in the NCAA this season with 103 treys on 42.6 percent shooting. Wiese has proven to be more than just a 3-point shooter as she also averaged a team-high 4.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds during her senior season. With her height, playmaking abilities, and 3-point shooting, Wiese can run the point and even play off the ball as needed, giving the Sparks added lineup flexibility.

Minnesota Lynx

Draft Selections

  • 1st Round/12th Overall – Alexis Jones, G, Baylor
  • 2nd Round/24th Overall – Lisa Berkani, G, France
  • 3rd Round/36th Overall – Tahlia Tupaea, G, Australia

The Lynx came within 3.1 seconds of winning their fourth title in six years and with the core of their team returning, there are no real holes to fill on the roster. However, this is a team loaded with veteran players, so adding depth to the roster to allow coach Cheryl Reeve to limit the minutes of her star veterans will definitely help as the team looks to make another title run. With the final pick in the first round, the Lynx added guard Alexis Jones out of Baylor. Jones has the versatility to play both guard positions and is a solid 3-point threat, shooting over 41 percent in each of her two years at Baylor. Minnesota ranked second-to-last in 3-pointer made per game (4.0), which Jones could help improve. The Lynx had the final picks in each round and selected a pair of international guards with the 24th (Lisa Berkani of France) and 36th (Tahlia Tupaea of Australia) picks in the draft.

New York Liberty

Draft Selections

  • 2nd Round/14th Overall – Lindsay Allen, G, Notre Dame
  • 3rd Round/34th Overall – Kai James, C, Florida State

The Liberty entered the draft without a first round pick, but got a player with first round talent with the second selection of the second round in Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen. The 5-8 point guard, who ranked fourth in the NCAA in assists (7.4 per game) during her senior season, is the ACC’s all-time leader. She is a pass-first point guard that will have plenty of scoring options to look for in New York, led by WNBA scoring leader Tina Charles. It was Charles who led the Liberty in assists (3.8) last season but with a player like Allen on board, she’ll get some help in distributing the ball. With their third round pick, the Liberty took 6-5 center Kai James out of Florida State, who will have to compete for a roster spot come training camp.

Seattle Storm

Draft Selections

  • 2nd Round/15th Overall – Alexis Peterson, G, Syracuse
  • 3rd Round/30th Overall – Lanay Montgomery, C, West Virginia

After having the No. 1 overall pick in the last two drafts, the Storm did not have a first round pick this year after Jewell Loyd (2015 No. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year) and Breanna Stewart (2016 No. 1 pick and ROY) helped lead the Storm back to the playoffs last season. In need of a perimeter athlete and a backup point guard, the Storm found a great fit in Syracuse’s Alexis Peterson. The 5-7 guard offers a combination of scoring (23.4 ppg, ranked 6th in the NCAA) and playmaking (7.0 apg, ranked 11th in the NCAA) that should help bolster the Storm’s backcourt depth behind Sue Bird and Loyd. In the third round, the Storm selected Lanay Montgomery of West Virginia. The 6-5 center can provide rim protection and rebounding, but will have to compete to make the Seattle roster.

Indiana Fever

Draft Selections

  • 2nd Round/17th Overall – Erica McCall, F, Stanford
  • 2nd Round/20th Overall – Feyonda Fitzgerald, G, Temple
  • 2nd Round/22nd Overall – Ronni Williams, F, Florida
  • 3rd Round/32nd Overall – Adrienne Motley, G, Miami

The Fever did not have a first round pick, but had a trio of selections in the second round, led by Stanford forward Erica McCall, who was the last of the 10 prospects in New York to be selected. The 6-3 forward can work in the post or facing the basket and developed a 3-point shot that adds to the versatility she can offer new coach Pokey Chatman. Three picks later, the Fever grabbed Temple guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, who brings a combination of scoring (17.3 points) and playmaking (7.3 assists) to add to Indiana’s backcourt depth behind Briann January. With their third selection in a six-pick span, the Fever took Ronni Williams, an explosive wing scorer from Florida. The Fever were the second-lowest scoring team last year and played a pace that ranked in the bottom half of the league. That should change under Chatman and she has some fresh talent looking to prove themselves at the next level after falling to the second round.

Phoenix Mercury

Draft Selection

  • 3rd Round/29th Overall – Alexis Prince, G, Baylor

The Mercury used a combination of trades and free agent signings to overhaul their roster from a year ago, leaving them with only one pick midway through the third round in this year’s draft. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner are the only players back from the core group that helped the Mercury win the 2014 WNBA title. Penny Taylor retired, Candice Dupree was traded and DeWanna Bonner will miss the 2017 season due to pregnancy. The absence of Bonner does open some space on the wing for the Mercury to add some depth and by landing Alexis Prince of Baylor, the Mercury have a player that could take advantage of that opportunity. A former college teammate of Griner’s, Prince is coming off her best collegiate season as she averaged 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 41.6 percent from three.