The 2017 WNBA Draft is just over two months away, with an expected date sometime in mid-April. And teams are already jockeying for position in what promises to be a talent-laden set of selections, with several trades this week altering the landscape of the draft’s very top.
The massive Elena Delle Donne trade between the Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics moved the second overall pick to Chicago, while a deal between the Phoenix Mercury and San Antonio Stars sent the fifth overall pick to the Stars. Seattle dealt the sixth overall pick to the Mystics in a trade for Carolyn Swords, and while rumors swirl that the Mystics will be using that in a trade, they maintain it for now.
So as we await further developments in the league — teams can start signing free agents beginning February 1, potentially filling holes that way as well — here’s the official first crack at the WNBA Mock Draft.
1. San Antonio Stars: Kelsey Plum, guard, Washington
This is not an area of need for the rebuilding Stars at first glance. The backcourt is set for a while, between last season’s lottery pick, point guard Moriah Jefferson, and Kayla McBride at shooting guard, the third pick in the 2014 draft. But the versatile McBride can slot in at the three, and adding Plum to the Stars’ backcourt will massively upgrade both their ability to push the pace (they were last in the league last year) and their perimeter shooting (eleventh in three-point shooting, 29.9 percent as a team). Plum is a do-it-all guard who is putting up a 50-40-90 season with the Huskies while leading the country in scoring. The luxury of putting her next to Jefferson, allowing her to play off the ball, will create matchup problems for virtually everyone San Antonio faces.
2. Chicago Sky: Diamond DeShields, forward, Tennessee
There are plenty of question marks about DeShields, whose consistency has been an issue, and is shooting just 42 percent from the field. But no one has more tools in this draft than DeShields, and she’s been on a mission lately, shooting 51 percent over her past five games, including wins against Notre Dame and South Carolina. And the Sky can offer a pair of veteran mainstays to mentor her in Tamera Young and Jessica Breland. DeShields will have to choose to declare early, but it’s hard to imagine she won’t.
3. Dallas Wings: Brionna Jones, center, Maryland
No team in the WNBA shot less efficiently on twos than the Wings last year, and so adding Bri Jones and her 71.3 true shooting percentage makes too much sense not to happen. She’ll slot in perfectly at the five next to the versatile, rangy Glory Johnson at the four.
4. Los Angeles Sparks: Kelsey Mitchell, guard, Ohio State
The fourth overall pick is a luxury for the defending champs made possible by shrewd trading, and what better way to treat that luxury than by picking the most exciting athlete in the draft and letting her develop? Mitchell is simply unguardable one-on-one, and the Sparks can use her as a change-of-pace off the bench while she figures out WNBA defenses and learns the point. Mitchell will have to declare to come out early, but WNBA scouts love her so much, it’s hard to envision her staying in school.
5. San Antonio Stars: Alaina Coates, center, North Carolina
Getting that second top-five pick will allow the Stars to go big on their dreams up top, and then get the sturdy, dependable Coates at five, a potential starter at the position who can split time with the just-signed Erika de Souza in 2017.
6. Washington Mystics: Nia Coffey, forward, Northwestern
With all the shooting the Mystics now possess, it’ll be up to Coffey to do more of the rugged dirty work, replacing Kahleah Copper’s production out on the wing, defending 3s and 4s, grabbing rebounds and helping facilitate by committee.
7. Atlanta Dream: Alexis Peterson, guard, Syracuse
The Dream have been searching for a true point guard seemingly since coming into existence, and they will be getting one in Peterson, whose 43.1 assist percentage ranks sixth in the country, while she’s limited her turnovers and is shooting 36 percent from three in the pressing, up-tempo Syracuse system. She can also provide points in bunches, necessary for a team without Angel McCoughtry for at least part of the season.
8. Indiana Fever: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, guard, Maryland
The second-leading scorer for the Terrapins shoots better than 45 percent from three for her career, plays in an up-tempo system for Brenda Frese that serves as a reasonable stand-in for what new Fever coach Pokey Chatman likes to run, and makes for a solid running partner with Tiffany Mitchell, last season’s first round pick, while point guard Breann January is sure to find Walker-Kimbrough in her favorite spots to shoot.
9. Chicago Sky: Brittney Sykes, guard, Syracuse
The Sky are pretty much set at the point with Jamierra Faulkner and Courtney Vandersloot, while the bigs are covered between Imani Boyette and newly acquired Stefanie Dolson. But putting Sykes, a versatile two, onto a team where her defensive intensity and broad base of skills will be particularly helpful, makes all kinds of sense. Sykes added the three to her game this season, shooting better than 40 percent from deep, and her ability to rebound and force turnovers helped Syracuse reach the national championship game last year, and has only gotten better since.
10. Dallas Wings: Alexis Jones, guard, Baylor
The Wings had a real problem last year whenever Skylar Diggins, their star and offensive motor recovering from a significant knee injury, couldn’t play at her customary level. Adding Jones, a scoring playmaker who shoots the three well and runs the most efficient offense in the country, provides cover and allows coach Fred Williams to play Diggins more judiciously, leaving her freer to take over games late.
11. Dallas Wings: Nina Davis, forward, Baylor
Davis is a do-it-all forward who can slot into the three spot, rebound as needed, while adding another attack-the-basket dimension to the Dallas attack. She’s also a plus-defender, vital for a team that sat at the bottom of the league last year in defensive efficiency. And like Jones, she’s been a collegiate star nearby, vital for a team still making itself at home in Dallas after moving from Tulsa after the 2015 season.
12. Minnesota Lynx: Chantel Osahor, forward/center, Washington
Who better to try and make sense of the most mysterious college player than the brilliant Cheryl Reeve and the Minnesota Lynx? If forced to find a comp for Osahor, you could do a lot worse than Janel McCarville, the just-retired center from Minnesota. It is impossible to imagine Reeve won’t find a way to make Osahor’s combo of plus shooting from the perimeter, elite rebounding, great passing (not just for a big, but for anyone) fit into the scheme of the team that finished one possession from a fourth WNBA title in six years.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / WNBA Mock Draft: Not a single Connecticut player slotted in first round?