The 2022 WNBA Draft is in the books, and as expected, the Atlanta Dream started the night by picking Rhyne Howard out of Kentucky with the overall number 1. Howard is a big, athletic two-way winger, and is the best player in this class and will help put time in the reconstruction of the dream.
At the end of the lottery, Indiana Fever chose NaLyssa Smith out of Baylor as No. 2, Washington Mystics went with Shakira Austin of Ole Miss as No. 3, and Fever chose Emily Engstler of Louisville as No. 4. These choices were largely passed as expected, but there were plenty of surprises later.
Now that the action is complete, here are the full results along with splits and grades for each first-round pick.
1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky
As expected, Dream Rhyne picks Howard with the overall pick No. 1. Howard is a large, athletic wing from Kentucky who can influence the game on both sides of the ball. She is an elite scorer who can shoot from outside and get to the basket and will be able to defend multiple positions. Best player in the draft and a big win for the dream when they start their rebuilding.
2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor
The Reconstructive Fever has four choices in the first round and uses the first to take NaLyssa Smith out of Baylor. No surprise here either, as Smith is the best major customer in this draft. She is extremely athletic and excels on the glass and on the defensive end. If she continues to refine her offensive play, she has a real chance of becoming a star in this league.
3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin, F / C, Ole Miss
The Mystics moved back into the draft and swapped the overall No. 1 pick for the dream, in large part because they thought this was a three-player draft, not a one-or-two-player draft. The third player they grabbed was Shakira Austin, the 6-foot-5 big out of Ole Miss. Austin is a great defender, moves fluently and has an interesting potential at the offensive end.
4. Indiana Fever: Emily Engstler, F, Louisville
Indiana’s interim GM Lin Dunn has talked endlessly about getting better at the defensive end, so it was a little surprising to see them target Emily Engstler with their second lottery pick. Engstler rose up after a fantastic season in Louisville, where she made a big impact on the defensive end. She works extremely hard and has the size and athleticism to guard several positions at the next level.
5. New York Liberty: Nyara Sabally, F / C, Oregon
New York Liberty’s biggest weakness last season was in the front line, and they have tried to address that in the draft with Nyara Sabally. There is some potential risk with this choice given Sabally’s brutal injury history (two torn ACLs), but she’s a clear talent in the first round if she can stay healthy. She’s big enough to hit the paint, but mobile enough to move around the perimeter.
6. Indiana Fever: Lexie Hull, G, Stanford
This is the night’s first big shocks. With their third pick in the first round, Fever decided to take Lexie Hull out of Stanford. She is a strong 3-point shooter and plays very hard at the defensive end, but there are questions about whether she has the athletics to adapt to the WNBA. It feels like the fever could have gotten her later.
7. Dallas Wings: Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern
The Dallas Wings were one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season, trying to solve that problem by taking Veronica Burton out of the Northwestern. She was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times in her college career and will instantly improve their perimeter defense. However, there is a bit of congestion in their backcourt now, so it will be interesting to see how their team shakes out.
Grade: B +
8. Las Vegas Aces: Mya Hollingshed, F, Colorado
The Aces swapped their first and second round picks in 2023 to get picks No. 8 and 13 this year, and were apparently targeting Mya Hollingshed from Colorado. She is versatile big who can step out and shoot the ball, and should fit in well with the new head coach Becky Hammons more modern offensive system. However, no one projected her as a first-round pick, and it feels like she would have been with later.
Grade: C +
9. Los Angeles Sparks: Rae Burrell, G, Tennessee
The Los Angeles Sparks desperately needed some help on the wing, and it was a great victory for them that Rae Burrell was still on the board. She struggled this season in Tennessee, even though it was largely due to a knee injury. If she stays healthy, there is a very clear path to WNBA success with her size and offensive skills.
10. Indiana Fever: Queen Egbo, C. Baylor
Another big surprise from the fever. With their fourth and final pick in the first round, they take on Queen Egbo, who is reunited with her Baylor team-mate NaLyssa Smith. The Fever were clearly looking for strikers who work hard and can defend themselves, but there are some real questions about how Egbo projects offensively. In addition, she had trouble staying out of bad trouble in college. Another choice where it feels as if the fever reached a player who would have been available later.
11. Las Vegas Aces: Kierstan Bell, Florida Gulf Coast
After taking a big one with their first pick in the first round, the aces looked to the perimeter at No. 11 and took Kierstan Bell off the Florida Gulf Coast. Bell, who was still on the board at this point, was a bit of a surprise, so this is a big advantage for the aces. Bell can really score the ball and is the type of big, athletic wing you need to be successful in this league.
12. Connecticut Sun: Nia Clouden, Michigan State
The Sun have fallen short in the playoffs in the last few years because they struggle to create a good look and score as the game slows down. They have clearly moved on to solve that problem, first by signing Courtney Williams in free agency, and now by taking Nia Clouden out of Michigan State with number 12. She is a little undersized but is super shifting and can score from all over the path.
Grade: B +
The result of the second round
13. Vegas Aces: Khayla Pointer, LSU
14. Washington Mystics: Christyn Williams, UConn
15. Atlanta Dream: Naz Hillmon, Michigan
16. Los Angeles Sparks: Kianna Smith, Louisville
17. Seattle Storm: Elissa Cunane, NC State
18. New York Liberty: Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech
19. Los Angeles Sparks: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn
20. Indiana fever: Destanni Henderson, South Carolina
21. Seattle Storm: Evina Westbrook, UConn
22. Minnesota Lynx: Kayla Jones, NC State
23. Vegas Aces: Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech
24. Connecticut Sun: Jordan Lewis, Baylor
Third round results
25. Indiana fever: Ameshya Williams-Holliday, Jackson State
26. Phoenix Mercury: Maya Dodson, Notre Dame
27. Los Angeles Sparks: Amy Atwell, Hawaii
28. Minnesota Lynx: Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota
29. New York Liberty: Sika Kone, Mali
30. Dallas Wings: Jasmine Dickey, Delaware
31. Dallas Wings: Jazz Bond, North Florida
32. Phoenix Mercury: Macee Williams, IUPUI
33. Seattle Storm: Jade Melbourne, Australia
34. Indiana fever: Ali Patberg, Indiana
35. Vegas Aces: Faustine Aifuwa, LSU
36. Connecticut Sun: Kiara Smith, Florida