The team that already has Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally and Allisha Gray — all former top-five draft picks — will make three of the first five picks in the 2021 WNBA Draft tonight. That’s what happens when you get lucky (landing second in the lottery), aggressive (trading away Katie Lou Samuelson) and opportunistic (trading for No. 5 and No. 7 over the past year-plus). It also creates chaos, which is what could very well be on the table Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN when the Wings start off the night with the No. 1 overall pick.
One might expect that the Wings were dealing with a barren roster and using this year’s draft to reconstruct the entire team, but that’s not so. Dallas already has 10 players on its roster (a reminder that the WNBA only has 12 per team), including three rookies from last season, when the Wings also dominated the first round with three selections. That means the Wings — who also have the first pick of the second round and — will not likely be able to keep the player it would select at each spot.
Keeping on chaos as a theme, what will instead happen is that Dallas will be active on draft night, working the phones to either deal veteran players and make space for rookies or trading away picks in real time for more talent or future draft capital. Dallas already flipped the 7th pick to the Sparks on Wednesday, but might not be done making moves. They are still young, but the constant turnover and youth makes it hard to build a winner. With Ogunbowale entering her third season having led the league in scoring in 2020 and a new head coach in Vickie Johnson ready to win, tonight could be the first page in a new chapter for the Wings.
Though they control the draft, Dallas is not the only interesting team. The entire first round features players and teams whose futures are going to be determined.
The most fun drafts have the most movement and surprises, so on that note let’s get to our predictions:
1. Dallas Wings: Awak Kuier, F, Finland
The youngest player in the running for No. 1 got a ton of run in Italy this year as a pro, and flashed significant growth as a scorer and defender. Kuier would be the first international player selected at the top of the WNBA Draft since Lauren Jackson (heard of her?) but provides the building Wings a potentially All-WNBA level player who is just 19 and could be developed in-house for many years.
2. Dallas Wings: Arella Guirantes, Wing, Rutgers
I recommend this fantastic New York Times profile to understand what makes Guirantes such a filthy competitor, but the other great thing about her is that she exemplifies where basketball is going. Dallas not drafting Charli Collier would come as a surprise to most, but in Guirantes, they could bring in a two-way wing player who can create her own shot and defend multiple positions. That’s the most valuable player in the game, especially compared to a more traditional post player like Collier.
3. Atlanta Dream: Charli Collier, C, Texas
Collier graduated early and therefore declared after her junior year, meeting the WNBA’s eligibility requirements and giving Atlanta more time to mold her. After an unsteady tournament for her individually (although Texas made a surprise Elite Eight run), Collier will have something to prove as a pro, but few can match her talent and two-way ability in this class. The Dream have a deep stable of guards but could use more scoring inside, which Collier should bring them.
4. Indiana Fever: Rennia Davis, Wing, Tennessee
Similar to the Guirantes pick, this one is about the future. Davis is pretty raw offensively and was inconsistent as a shooter in college, but is a great athlete with size who can also rebound. On a Fever roster lacking toughness and athleticism on the wing, Davis should be a nice fit.
5. (TRADE) New York Liberty: Aari McDonald, G, Arizona
Here’s the deal: The Liberty swap up from No. 6 to No. 5, giving up last year’s tenth overall pick, Jocelyn Willoughby, in the process. Willoughby was uneven offensively as a rookie and McDonald gives more of a secondary ball-handler to play next to Sabrina Ionescu going forward, as well as someone whose point-of-attack defense is better than anyone New York has or could have drafted here.
6. Dallas Wings: Chelsea Dungee, G, Arkansas
The Wings have a ton of options at guard already, including 2020 first-round pick Tyasha Harris, Ogunbowale, and the recently extended Allisha Gray. However, aside from Ogunbowale, the Wings don’t quite have a player who can create their own shot on the perimeter consistently.
7. Los Angeles Sparks: Dana Evans, G, Louisville
The news broke late Wednesday that L.A. acquired this pick (and Dallas’ 2022 second-rounder) for the cost of the Sparks’ own 2022 first. That’s questionable value, and starts to reek of the Wings panicking and selling off a pick (why else would *they* give up an extra pick in the trade?). With No. 7, Los Angeles gets a player in Evans who can play backup guard behind All-Stars Erica Wheeler and Kristi Tolliver this season and potentially be the team’s point guard of the future.
8. Chicago Sky: Kiana Williams, G, Stanford
This week, espnW’s Mechelle Voepel reported in her mock draft that Chicago has zeroed in on a backup point guard, and Williams is the best one available. She was the driving force for a Stanford squad that won the national championship, and plays efficient, balanced basketball as a floor general.
9. Minnesota Lynx: Natasha Mack, F, Oklahoma State
After trading away their last athletic young forward in Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan, the Lynx get one back here, with a player in Mack who has been compared with Natasha Howard, a devastating small ball big that was drafted by Cheryl Reeve and Minnesota once upon a time.
10. Los Angeles Sparks: Michaela Onyenwere, Wing, UCLA
After trading up to No. 7 earlier, the Sparks double dip in the first round as they look to a future without Candace Parker or Chelsea Gray. In Onyenwere, they get a toolsy wing who local fans will know and whom head coach Derek Fisher can hope to mold into a two-way playmaker from the perimeter.
11. Seattle Storm: Kysre Gondrezick, G, West Virginia
A 3-and-D guard, Gondrezick should be able to help plug the holes left by Sami Whitcomb and Alysha Clark, who both departed this offseason. Ideally you’d like a bit more size next to Sue Bird and Jordin Canada, but Gondrezick is an efficient shooter and capable defender who should be able to move around the lineup in the WNBA.
12. Las Vegas Aces: DiJonai Carrington, G, Baylor
In her fifth year of eligibility after transferring from Stanford, Carrington solidified her draft stock, upping her three-point volume, handling more play-making chances, and stepping up as a turnover creator on defense. At 5-11, Carrington should be able to play across the court and brings a physical defensive mindset that is sure to make head coach Bill Laimbeer proud.