WNBA Draft 2018: Team-By-Team Analysis

WNBA Draft 2018 opened the way everyone expected with South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson being selected No. 1 overall by the new Las Vegas Aces. Over the ensuing two hours, 35 more players were selected with a few surprises along the way.

With the Draft in the books, lets take a look back and see how each team did in addressing its needs and adding talent to their rosters. Training camps open April 29, the 2018 season tips off May 18, and #WNBAAllDay is May 20.

Las Vegas Aces

  • 1st Round/1st Overall: A’ja Wilson, Forward, South Carolina
  • 2nd Round/13th Overall: Jaime Nared, Guard/Forward, Tennessee
  • 2nd Round/17th Overall: Ji-Su Park, Forward, KB Stars (South Korea)*
  • 2nd Round/24th Overall: Kahlia Lawrence, Guard, Mercer*
  • 3rd Round/25th Overall: Raigyne Louis, Guard, LSU
  • * Acquired in draft night trade with Minnesota for rights Jill Barta (3rd round/32nd overall)

The Aces had a busy night on Thursday as they walked away from draft night with five of the top 25 picks. Of course, the headliner is No. 1 overall pick A’ja Wilson, who will be a foundational piece for the newly relocated franchise to build around for years to come. With the 13th pick, the Aces selected Jaime Nared out of Tennessee. The 6-2 wing was the Lady Vols leading scorer last second (16.7 points per game) and brings added versatility to the roster. With their final two picks the Aces selected Raigyne Louis and Jill Barta. At the end of the draft, they traded the rights to Barta and a second round pick in 2019 to Minnesota for the rights to Ji-Su Park from South Korea and Kahlia Lawrence of Mercer.

Indiana Fever

  • 1st Round/2nd Overall: Kelsey Mitchell, Guard, Ohio State
  • 1st Round/8th Overall: Victoria Vivians, Guard, Mississippi State
  • 2nd Round/14th Overall: Stephanie Mavunga, Forward, Ohio State

Not only did the Fever hold a lottery pick in the first time in what seems like forever (it was 13 years ago to be exact), they actually held two of the top eight picks in the draft. They used those picks to take a pair of All-American guards in Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State and Victoria Vivians of Mississippi State that know how to put the ball in the basket. Considering the Fever ranked second-to-last in scoring last season (75.1 points per game) adding the second-leading scorer in the history of Division I women’s basketball in Mitchell is a great fit. Vivians gives them a bigger guard that can play alongside Mitchell or slide up to a forward spot as she did her senior year at MSU. In the second round, the Fever took their second Buckeye of the night in forward Stephanie Mavunga to add depth to their frontline. The 6-3 forward averaged 16.6 points, 11.0 rebounds as a senior and her rebounding ability will help the 12th-ranked Fever (44.5 rebound percentage) compete on the glass.

Chicago Sky

  • 1st Round/3rd Overall: Diamond DeShields, Guard, Cukurova (Turkey)
  • 1st Round/4th Overall: Gabby Williams, Forward, Connecticut
  • 3rd Round/28th Overall: Amarah Coleman, Guard, DePaul

The Sky entered Thursday armed with back-to-back picks at Nos. 3 and 4. After Wilson and Mitchell were selected ahead of them, the Sky pounced on two of the most athletic players in the draft in Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams. Both players bring great length, athleticism, and the ability to score, rebound and defend from the perimeter. The Sky ranked third in the league last year in pace and that mark may go up a notch this year as DeShields and Williams will be great fits to run with WNBA assist leader Courtney Vandersloot and the rest of the Sky. And don’t forget, the Sky have another rookie set to debut in 2018 in Alaina Coates – the No. 2 pick in the 2017 Draft – after she missed all of last season following ankle surgery. That’s three top four picks ready to make an impact when they join the squad in 2018.

Seattle Storm

  • 1st Round/5th Overall: Jordin Canada, Guard, UCLA
  • 3rd Round/29th Overall: Teana Muldrow, Forward, West Virginia

While mock drafts are known to get more picks wrong than they get right, the choice for the Storm at No. 5 was unanimous among the four mock drafts that WNBA.com compiled. Everyone saw UCLA’s Jordin Canada as the pick to head to Seattle and become the heir apparent to Sue Bird as the Storm’s point guard. The mock drafts were right on this pick as the Seattle selected Canada at No. 5 and kept the Pac-12 all-time assists leader and 2018 Defensive Player of the Year on the West Coast to start her professional career. Canada can impact the game on both sides of the ball and she will have the perfect mentor in Bird to help grow her game even further. With their second pick, Seattle took Teana Muldrow out of West Virginia. The 6-1 forward averaged 18.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks as a senior and will compete for a roster spot come May.

Dallas Wings

  • 1st Round/6th Overall: Azurá Stevens, Forward, Connecticut
  • 2nd Round/18th Overall: Loryn Goodwin, Guard, Oklahoma State
  • 3rd Round/30th Overall: Natalie Butler, Center, Mason

The Wings already made a big splash this offseason by re-signing 6-8 center Liz Cambage – the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 Draft – and bringing her back to the WNBA after a four-year hiatus. On draft night, they added more size to their frontline by drafting 6-6 forward Azurá Stevens out of Connecticut. Stevens was a late entry into the field as she decided just 10 days before the draft to forgo her final year of college eligibility and turn pro. While she has a 6-6 frame, Steven is a versatile forward that can stretch the floor, rebound and get out in transition, which will fit in well with Fred Williams’ high-paced offense. The Wings added guard Loryn Goodwin in the second round. The 5-9 guard is well-traveled having played with four different collegiate programs (North Texas, Butler, Texas San Antonio and Oklahoma State). For her career, she averaged 19 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5 assists. Transitioning to a new team is nothing new for Goodwin, so it will be interesting to see how quickly she picks up Williams’ system once training camps open.

Photo courtesy of University of Texas Athletics

Washington Mystics

  • 1st Round/7th Overall: Ariel Atkins, Guard, Texas
  • 2nd Round/19th Overall: Myisha Hines-Allen, Forward, Louisville
  • 3rd Round/31st Overall: Rebecca Greenwell, Guard, Duke

The Mystics selected the first player that was not in attendance at the draft in Ariel Atkins. The 5-11 lefty guard out of Texas is a standout on both ends of the floor as an All-Big 12 First Team and All-Big 12 Defensive Team selection. She brings a high basketball IQ, great shooting ability (53.4 FG%, 42.0 3P%, 85.9 FT% shooting splits as a senior) and outstanding defensive instincts (2.5 steals per game). In the second round, the Mystics added Myisha Hines-Allen out of Louisville. Hines-Allen averaged 14 points and 9.6 rebounds as she helped lead the Cardinals to the Final Four as a senior. The 6-2 forward had 45 double-doubles at Louisville and will add depth to a Mystics frontline that will be without Emma Meesseman this season. With the 31st pick, the Mystics added Duke sharpshooter Rebecca Greenwell, who shot 42.9% from beyond the arc as a senior. Washington ranked 10th in the WNBA in 3-point percentage last season at 31.7% shooting as a team.

Connecticut Sun

  • 1st Round/9th Overall: Lexie Brown, Guard, Duke
  • 3rd Round/33rd Overall: Mikayla Cowling, Forward, California

The Sun began draft day by executing a trade with Atlanta to add Bria Holmes to the roster in exchange for the No. 15 pick in the 2018 draft and a second round pick in the 2019 draft. Holmes will miss the 2018 season due to pregnancy, which left Connecticut with two selections (Nos. 9 and 33) to find a player to add to a roster already loaded with young talent. The selection of Lexie Brown at No. 9 does just that as the Sun get a combo guard that can create plays for herself and her teammates, shoot from distance (262 career 3s) and lock down opponents on the perimeter (345 career steals) as she was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The Sun were looking to add guard depth in the draft and they got exactly that by taking Brown.

New York Liberty

  • 1st Round/10th Overall: Kia Nurse, Guard, Connecticut
  • 2nd Round/22nd Overall: Mercedes Russell, Center, Tennessee
  • 3rd Round/34th Overall: Leslie Robinson, Forward, Princeton

Of the 18 players currently on the Liberty training camp roster, five hail from the University of Connecticut, including 2018 first-round pick (No. 10 overall) Kia Nurse. The 6-0 guard brings the ability to score, pass (442 career assists) shoot the three (44.3% as a senior) and defend the perimeter (WBCA Defensive Player of the Year) and comes from a storied program known for preparing players to excel at the next level. With their second pick (22nd overall), the Liberty were able to land 6-6 center Mercedes Russell from Tennessee. Russell averaged 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent from the field as a senior, but will face stiff competition in training camp to make the roster to play behind the great Tina Charles. The Liberty rounded out the draft by taking Princeton’s Leslie Robinson, who will have to battle for a roster spot on this team.

Photo courtesy of Florida State Athletics

Los Angeles Sparks

  • 1st Round/11th Overall: Maria Alekseyevna Vadeeva, Center, Dynamo Kursk (Russia)
  • 2nd Round/23rd Overall: Shakayla Thomas, Forward, Florida State
  • 3rd Round/35th Overall: Julia Reisingerova, Forward, Sant Adria (Spain)

Picking near the end of the first round and without any glaring holes to fill on a team that is coming off back-to-back Finals appearances, the Sparks were in position to sit back and wait and see which players would fall to them and be available at No. 11. Lo and behold, Russian center Maria Vadeeva was still on the board when it was time for the Sparks to select and they grabbed the talented 19-year-old to add to a frontline that already features a pair of MVPs in Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. Vadeeva has been playing against WNBA players in Russia for the past four years and brings a combination of size and skill that would make her a top-five pick in most drafts. However, there is always concern with selecting international prospects in regard to their commitments outside the WNBA. However, the Sparks are in a great position to take a risk with this pick and see if Vadeeva turns out to be the steal of this draft. L.A. added Florida State forward Shakayla Thomas in the second round and finished off the draft by selecting Spanish forward Julia Reisingerova.

Photo courtesy of Oregon State Athletics

Phoenix Mercury

  • 1st Round/12th Overall: Marie Gülich, Center, Oregon State
  • 2nd Round/20th Overall: Tyler Scaife, Guard, Rutgers
  • 2nd Round/21st Overall: Raisa Musina, Forward, UMMC (Russia)
  • 3rd Round/26th Overall: Imani Wright, Guard, Florida State

Phoenix had to a wait a while to get into the action on draft night, but once their first selection came up at the end of the first round, they had three selections over a nine-pick span that saw them add Oregon State center Marie Gülich, Rutgers guard Tyler Scaife and Russian forward Raisa Musina, who is currently playing for Ekaterinburg alongside Brittney Griner and being coached by Mercury coach Sandy Brondello’s husband. Gülich averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and shot 65.2% from the field as a senior at Oregon State. The 6-5 center will likely serve as a backup to the WNBA’s reigning scoring champ in Griner. Scaife and third-round pick Imani Wright will enter training camp competing for limited roster space. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is Musina, who already had ties to the Mercury and has a wealth of international experience for someone that just turned 20 years old two weeks ago. In the 2017 FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup she averaged 16.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. It will be interesting to see when she comes over to join the Mercury.

Atlanta Dream

  • 2nd Round/15th Overall: Monique Billings, Forward, UCLA**
  • 2nd Round/16th Overall: Kristy Wallace, Guard, Baylor
  • 3rd Round/27th Overall: Mackenzie Engram, Forward, Georgia
  • ** Pick acquired from Connecticut in draft day morning trade for guard Bria Holmes, who will miss 2018 due to pregnancy

While they did not have a first-round pick, Atlanta got their draft day started early by executing a trade with Connecticut that send a pregnant Bria Holmes to the Sun in exchange for the 15th pick in the 2018 draft and the Sun’s second round pick in 2019. When it came time to make the first of back-to-back selections near the top of the second round, the Dream were pleasantly surprised to see that UCLA’s Monique Billings was still seated at her table in the draft room and available to them to select at No. 15. Billings is an athletic power forward that can run the floor, rebound and score inside and out. She is a welcome addition to a team looking to rebound from a 12-22 season in 2017, the team’s worst since its inaugural season in 2008. New head coach Nicki Collen has three All-Stars from last year, a returning All-Star in Angel McCoughty and adds a talent like Billings into the mix. However, Collen won’t have her second round pick available this year as the Dream selected Baylor point guard Kristy Wallace with the 16th overall pick. Wallace suffered a torn ACL during her senior season and will be out for the year. Atlanta closed out its draft by taking forward Mackenzie Engram, who will have to compete for a roster spot on a team looking for a quick turnaround in 2018.

Photo Courtesy of Gonzaga Athletics

Minnesota Lynx

  • 3rd Round/32nd Overall: Jill Barta, Forward, Gonzaga***
  • 3rd Round/36th Overall: Carlie Wagner, Guard, Minnesota
  • *** Acquired in draft night trade with Las Vegas for rights to Ji-Su Park (2nd Round/17th Overall) and Kahlia Lawrence (2nd Round/24th Overall)

The defending champs did most of their offseason roster re-tooling prior to the draft as they entered Thursday night as the final team to make a selection at No. 17. Minnesota ended up taking Ji-Su Park at 17 and Kahlia Lawrence at No. 24 before trading both to Las Vegas in exchange for Gonzaga forward Jill Barta and Vegas’ 2019 second round pick. The Lynx closed out the draft by taking local product Carlie Wagner from the University of Minnesota, which happens to be where point guard Lindsay Whalen will embark on the next chapter of her career as the new head coach at her alma mater, which was announced on draft day. Whalen will continue to play for the Lynx as she does double-duty in 2018 as the Lynx pursue an unprecedented fifth WNBA title.