The 2022 WNBA Draft is a day away, but the drama has already begun. In a grand trade earlier this week, the Atlanta Dream acquired the No. 1 overall from the Washington Mystics in exchange for the No. 3 and 14 picks and a future first-round pick. In another trade, the Minnesota Lynx sent Nos. 8 and 13 to the Las Vegas Aces in exchange for Aces’ first and second round selections in 2023.
Atlanta will now have the first choice for just the second time in franchise history and is likely targeting Rhyne Howard. The Kentucky winger has established herself as the best player in this class, thanks to her size, athleticism and ability to influence the game on both sides of the ball.
Other top prospects include Baylor striker NaLyssa Smith and Ole Miss big Shakira Austin. The three seem to have differed from the rest of the group, and afterwards there are no guarantees. While this is largely seen as a deep draft, there is not a wealth of separation between many of the players, which should make draft night interesting.
Ahead of Monday’s WNBA Draft, here’s a look at how the first round could go with our latest mock draft. As a reminder, this takes into account individual talents, team needs and fit.
Go here to see the best fits and potential fits for each team.
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1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard – G, Kentucky
Howard, who recently became just the ninth player to achieve three All-American First Team awards, has long established himself as the best player in this class. She scores at all three levels, makes a real impact on the defensive end and has the size and athleticism to easily adapt to the WNBA. The Dream made a huge success of jumping up to No. 1, and Howard is the type of player worth the award.
2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith – F, Baylor
This has been a race with two players at the top of the draft for a while now, and with Howard off the board, the fever will happily take Smith, who was one of just five players in the country to an average of at least 20 points and 10th rebounds this season. She is an incredible athlete who excels in the transition, a strong rebounder and defender and an effective finisher around the basket. She has real star potential, especially if she continues to refine her offensive play.
3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin – F / C, Ole Miss
Mystics were the surprising winners of the lottery, and then, in an even bigger surprise, they switched the No. 1 choice to the dream. So who are they targeting further down the board? Shakira Austin is a potential option as they could use some front-row depth, and the 6-foot-5 big out of Ole Miss no doubt has as much upside as anyone else in this class. She is a powerful defender, moves fluently for her size and has an exciting potential at the offensive end with her ability to look up and put the ball on the deck.
4. Indiana Fever: Kierstan Bell – G / F, Florida Gulf Coast
After taking Smith, it makes sense for the fever to turn against the perimeter with their second lottery choice. With 6-1, Bell is the type of big, athletic wing you need to build a winning team in the modern game. She was one of the best scorers in the country (her 23.5 points per game would have been in fourth place if she did not miss time due to a knee injury), crashes the glass well for her size and should be able to to play multiple positions. Beware if she can improve her 3-point shooting.
5. New York Liberty: Emily Engstler – F, Louisville
Engstler moved to Louisville in part because she wanted to play for a program that would help prepare her for the next level. That decision has paid off in a big way as she has moved up in the draft board, thanks to her versatility and relentless work ethic. She averaged 4.5 stocks (steals plus blocks) this season, will be able to guard several positions at the next level, shoots it well from the outside and does not need the ball. In short, a perfect fit for Liberty.
6. Indiana Fever: Nyara Sabally – F / C, Oregon
Nyara Sabally, the younger sister of Dallas Wings striker Satou Sabally, has a brutal injury history highlighted by several ACL tears in her right knee. But as a 6-foot-5 big who can knock in the paint and is mobile enough to move around the perimeter, she is a clear first-round talent. Her advantage, if she stays healthy, is worth the risk for a rebuilding Fever team that needs all the help it can get and that has four top-10 picks.
7. Dallas Wings: Rae Burrell – G / F, Tennessee
Burrell was fantastic as a junior, but her stock has fallen after a disappointing season marked by a knee injury and some extremely ineffective scores. However, her potential as a wing scorer is obvious and she had her best match of the season in Sweet 16 against a Louisville team with a number of future professionals. Dallas needs a wing that can help take some of the offensive pressure from Arike Ogunbowale, and Burrell’s upside makes her worth a look.
8. Las Vegas Aces: Destanni Henderson – G, South Carolina
On Sunday, the Aces swapped their first and second round picks in 2023 for Lynx for No. 8 and 13 on Monday night. In a similar move earlier this week, they relinquished Destiny Slocum, suggesting they could aim for a backfield prospect to replace her. Assuming that is the case, could this be a landing site for Destanni Henderson? The South Carolina guard played her way into the first round with an incredible performance in the NCAA’s national championship game, and her defense, playmaking, and 3-point shooting would make her a great fit. And if you want to connect some dots, fellow Gamecock A’ja Wilson will probably give her a strong recommendation.
9. Los Angeles Sparks: Christyn Williams – G, UConn
With a huge block in the front line, Sparks clearly need a little help on the edge, and Williams could be the best fit for them. She struggled with consistency in college, but was once the best recruit in her class, and there is no doubt about her talent. Her 3-point shot was just OK, but she was an effective scorer inside the arc because of her size and athleticism. The latter aspects also help her on the defensive end, which is something head coach Derek Fisher will appreciate.
10. Indiana Fever: Nia Clouden – G, Michigan State
There are some conflicting opinions about where Clouden can go, in part because she’s only 5-foot-9. But given her speed and ability to create shots for herself and others, she is worth a late choice in the first round. Only six other players in the country delivered at least 20 points and four assists per game last season, and none of them shot better than Cloud from 3-point country (39.6 percent).
11. Las Vegas Aces: Elissa Cunane – C, NC State
With Liz Cambage’s departure in the offseason, the Aces need a little depth on the front line and could look to Cunane. The triple All-American needs to improve her physique, but she is skilled, can get up and down on the floor and has shown something promising as a 3-point threat in limited attempts – 41.9 percent on one attempt per game as senior. She could end up fitting in well with the new head coach Becky Hammon’s more modern style.
12. Connecticut Sun: Veronica Burton, Northwestern
The Sun probably does not have much playing time available to any rookies this season, but after Briann January’s departure in free agency, it would make sense for them to look for a little extra depth on the backcourt – especially a defensive-minded guard. No one fits the bill better than Burton, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times during his tenure at Northwestern.