2022 WNBA Mock Draft 2.0: Dream takes Rhyne Howard #1 after mega trade; Destiny Henderson to Ice

2022 is away from the WNBA draft, but the drama has already begun. In a huge trade earlier this week, Atlanta Dream took home the #1 overall pick from the Washington Mystics in exchange for #3 and 14 picks and a future first-round pick swap. In another deal, Minnesota Lynx sent #8 and #13 picks to the Las Vegas Aces in exchange for first- and second-round picks from the Aces in 2023.

Atlanta will now have the first pick for only the second time in franchise history, likely targeting Ryan Howard. The winger from Kentucky has established herself as the best player in this category, thanks to her size, athleticism and ability to influence the game on both sides of the ball.

Other notable candidates include Baylor striker Nalissa Smith and Ole Miss senior Shakira Austin. These three seem to have separated from the rest of the group, after which there are no guarantees. While this is widely seen as a deep draft, there isn’t a lot of separation between the many players, which makes the nightly draft fun.

Ahead of Monday’s WNBA draft, here’s a look at how the first round might go with the latest draft mock. As a reminder, this takes individual talent and the team’s needs and fits them.

For the best possible fits and fits for each team, go here.

1. Atlanta Dream: Ryan Howard-G, Kentucky

Howard, who recently became only the ninth player to win three First Team All-American awards, has long established himself as the best player in this category. She scores in all three levels, has a real impact on the defensive end and has the size and athletic performance to easily adapt to the WNBA. The Dream made a blockbuster deal to jump to number one, and Howard is the kind of player worth the price.

2. Indiana Fever: Nalissa Smith – F, Baylor

This has been a race between two players at the top of the draft for a while now, and with Howard off the board, Fever would be happy to accept Smith, who was one of only five players in the country to average 20 points and at least 10 points. Follow ups this season. She’s an incredible player who excels in transformation, a solid defender, a strong defender and a competent finisher around the basket. She has real stellar potential, especially if she continues to improve her offensive game.

3. Sophie Washington: Shakira Austin – F/C, Ole Miss

The Mystics were the surprise lottery winners, then in an even bigger surprise, they traded the first pick with Dream. So who might they target at the bottom of the board? Shakira Austin is one potential option, as they could use some front yard depth, and the bulk of the 6-foot-5 Ole Miss is arguably the same amount of climb as anyone in this class. She’s an impressive defender, moves smoothly for her size and has some interesting potential on the offensive end with her ability to stand up and put the ball on deck.

4. Indiana Fever: Kierstan Bell – G/F, Florida Gulf Coast

After taking Smith, it makes sense that Fever would head toward the ocean by picking the second lottery. At 6-1, Bale is the kind of big sporting winger you need to build a winning team in the modern game. One of the country’s top scorers (23.5 points per game she would have ranked fourth if he hadn’t missed time with a knee injury), she shattered the glass well for her size and should be able to play multiple positions. Watch if she can improve her three-point shot.

5. New York Liberty: Emily Engstler – F, Louisville

Engstler moved to Louisville in part because she wanted to play on a program that would help prepare her for the next level. That decision paid off in a big way as it rose on the draft boards, thanks to its versatility and uncompromising work ethic. She averaged 4.5 arrows (steals plus blocks) this season, and she’ll be able to protect multiple positions at the next level, shoot well from the outside and don’t need the ball. In short, a perfect fit for Liberty.

6. Indiana Fever: Niara Sabali – F/C, Oregon

Niara Sabali, younger sister of Dallas Wings forward Sato Sabali, has a brutal injury history highlighted by multiple tears to the ACL in her right knee. But because she’s a big 6-foot-5 that can hit paint and move enough to move around the perimeter, she’s an obvious talent in the first round. Its upside if you stay healthy is well worth the risk for the Fever rebuilding team that needs all the help they can get and has four top 10 picks.

7. Dallas Wings: Ray Burrell – G/F, Tennessee

Burrell was great when she was young, but her stock fell after a disappointing season marred by a knee injury and some very ineffective scoring. However, the striker’s potential on the wing is clear, and she had her best game of the season at Sweet 16 against a Louisville side featuring a number of future pros. Dallas needs a winger who can help take some offensive pressure off Arike Ogunbowale, and Burrell’s rise makes it worth watching.

8. Las Vegas Aces: Destiny Henderson-G, South Carolina

On Sunday, the ace traded their first- and second-round picks in 2023 to Lynx in their picks #8 and #13 on Monday night. In a similar move earlier in the week, they ceded Destiny Slocum, suggesting they could potentially target the backcountry to replace him. Assuming that’s the case, could this be a landing spot for Destiny Henderson? The South Carolina protector played her way into the first round with a stunning performance in the NCAA National Championship game, and her defense, building and three-point shooting made her a good fit. And if you want to connect some dots, fellow Gamecock A’ja Wilson will probably give her a solid recommendation.

9. Los Angeles Sparks: Kristen Williams – J, Ocon

With a huge predicament in the frontal area, it’s clear that Sparks need some help on the periphery, and Williams might be the best fit for them. She struggled with consistency in college but was once one of the best recruits in her class and there aren’t many questions about her talent. Her 3-point shot was fine, but she was an effective scorer inside the arc due to her size and sportsmanship. The latter aspects also help her on the defensive end, something head coach Derek Fisher will appreciate.

10. Indiana Fever: Nia Clawden-G, Michigan State

There are some conflicting opinions about where Clouden might be headed, in part because it’s only 5 feet 9 feet wide. But given her speed and ability to create shots for herself and others, she deserves a late pick in the first round. Only six other players in the country put in at least 20 points and four assists in every game last season, and none of them fired better than Clauden from three-point ground (39.6 percent).

11. Las Vegas Ice: Elisa Conan-C, NC State

With Liz Cambage gone off-season, the Aces need some depth in the front yard, and they could look at Cunane. The three-time All-American needs to improve her physicality, but she is skilled, can go up and down the ground and has shown some promise as a 3-point threat in limited attempts — 41.9 percent on one attempt per game as the lead. . It could eventually become a good fit for new coach Becky Hammon’s more modern style.

12. Connecticut Sun: Veronica Burton, Northwestern

The Sun likely won’t have much playing time available to any rookie this season, but after Briann January’s departure on free agency, it would make sense for them to look for some extra depth in the backcourt – in particular, the defensive-minded protects. No one fits those bills better than Burton, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times during her tenure at Northwestern.

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