Winner WNBA: Dallas Wings, first selected Charli Collier. Big-time loser: draughts everywhere.
The WNBA’s 2021 draught is in the books, with the Wings making league history using the first two picks. After selecting Texas center Charli Collier and Finnish Awak Kuier, Dallas appears to have reinforced his frontcourt. The Dream snagged Aari McDonald with the third pick, adding the NCAA’s 2021 women’s tournament star.
While this year’s class does not have some of the headline-grabbing names of other recent groups, it still has plenty of talent to form the future league. Below are Thursday’s draught winners and losers:
Winner: Wings Dallas
In a league full of stacked frontcourts, Dallas hopes the duo picked on Thursday night will become a fundamental part of a potential dynasty. For the Longhorns, Collier had 19 doubles last season, scoring 19 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. She emerged as a force around the rim in Texas, shooting 51.6% on post-up possessions from the field. Although her perimeter game is still improving, she will look along well with 19-year-old Kuier, who is coming off with Italian club Virtus Eirene Ragusa’s debut professional season. The pair will look to complete a front-court rotation that also includes last year’s No. 2 pick, Satou Sabally, and Bella Alarie, pick No. 5.
Although Collier could be the most WNBA-ready player taken Thursday, Kuier might have the highest upside, both due to her physical attributes and age. “I think she has no limits,” said Vanja Cernivec, a scout for the Chicago Bulls who worked with Kuier at several Basketball Without Borders camps while serving as NBA Europe’s operations director. Kuier grew up watching Candace Parker highlights on YouTube, seeing herself in the versatility and height of the forward. She knows she must get better if she really wants to emerge as an elite WNBA player, but the early returns on her career are promising.
But that’s not the end of Dallas’ big night. Adding guard Chelsea Dungee at No. 5 makes Dallas a 39 percent shooter from three, and Dana Evans’ pick is one of the draft’s biggest steals. The 5’6”Louisville guard finished her career as a two-time ACC Player of the Year and is a skilled developer who can put pressure on 2020 WNBA leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale.
Awak Kuier is ready
Losers: WNBA Drafts
The first two night picks went as predicted, with Collier and Kuier going one-two to Dallas. Atlanta’s pick, NCAA tournament star McDonald, was also predictable. But the draught got wonky from there. Indiana’s West Virginia guard selection Kysre Gondrezick marked the night’s first big surprise, and Chicago’s selection of Australian guard Shyla Heal No. 8 and Los Angeles’ selection of Stephanie Watts No. 11 were both relatively surprising. A number of noteworthy players, including Evans, Rennia Davis, and Arella Guirantes, slipped in the first round or even into the second round. Apparently, every 2021 WNBA draught mock draught was torn in pain.
The league is a major winner on Thursday night. Yes, it successfully put on its second straight virtual draught (although commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced picks from ESPN’s studios this year, not from her New Jersey home like last year). But it’s a winner in the sense that this year’s event provided the latest example of how much talent enters the league each year. High-quality players now slip regularly in the draught due to the depth in each draught class.
In media availability earlier this week, Engelbert admitted that “expansion is definitely on the list of things I’ve been thinking down the road,” saying that “hopefully next year, we’re ready to start talking about” the league expanding. With each passing draught, it seems like the existing 12-team, 12-roster-spot system could arbitrarily limit deserving entrants.
Loser WNBA: Guirantes-Arella
This categorization isn’t a Guirantes player reflection. It stems from Guirantes’ falling in the second half of the second round. Nobody would beat an eye if the Dream took No. 3. She scored 20 points per game in each of her last two seasons at Rutgers, shooting 41.6 percent from the field, and 37.8 percent from last year’s three. For the second consecutive year, Guirantes was also given first-team All-Big Ten Team honours. It wouldn’t be a big shocker if Guirantes were one of the most active rookies this season.
Ultimately, Los Angeles would be a great fit for her, particularly with Chelsea Gray signing as a free agent with the Aces. But her draught night wasn’t as fun as she would have thought, given how long she waited to hear her name call. “Waiting was scary,” Guirantes told reporters. “It was a bunch of flying feelings.”
But, Guirantes said, “If I need inspiration, that’s it. Definitely bear poked. “
The Dream already had one of WNBA’s strongest backcourts featuring Tiffany Hayes, Courtney Williams, and first-round pick Chennedy Carter in 2020, who scored 17.4 points per rookie game. But they’ll also fold McDonald’s, the year’s beloved Pac-12 player, into the mix. “You said my name and Chennedy?” McDonald invited reporters to join Atlanta’s backcourt after the draught. “That sounds frightening.”
Due to her scoring abilities and competitive drive, McDonald captivated the hearts of the college basketball community in the NCAA tournament, but she was also a destructive perimeter defender. The Dream won only seven games last season and made just two playoff appearances since 2015, but McDonald’s arrival would make them one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch.
Winner: Sky Chicago
If Chicago’s No. 8 heal pick was one of the biggest surprises of the night, Natasha Mack’s No. 16 pick was the biggest steal of the draught.Mack slipped into the second round despite last season’s average of 19.8 points and 12.4 rebounds for Oklahoma State, shooting 53 percent from the field. She also took home the Year Award’s Naismith Defensive Player after leading the NCAA in blocked shots, four per contest. The 23-year-old center will not be forced to take on a starring role immediately upon joining the Sky, but will instead be given the opportunity to learn from one of Candace Parker’s best league stars.Chicago may have added both its present core and the future this offseason. “I’ve got a shoulder chip. I’m set, “Mack continued. “Like I’ve always been sleeping, so this is nothing new to me.”
Winner: Reeve Cheryl
On draught night, Reeve and her Lynx won the benefit of the doubt due to their continued success. And with their one Thursday night pick, they could have found another foundational item. In selecting Davis at No. 9, they added a long, athletic wing that gives Minnesota some positional versatility. Reeve, the coach and general manager, told reporters that Davis was the No. 2 player on their draught board. “Even more impressive at nine. The Lynx created Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield’s last two Rookie of the Year winners, and it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Davis took home the hardware to Minnesota for the third straight year. There’s an explanation why the Lynx made the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons, and Thursday’s draught shows why.
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