The 2022 WNBA Draft will be judged a lot on how Indiana Fever improves after dominating the first round with four picks. The Fever had seven selections in total, and players who earn a spot on the roster will have the opportunity to be agents of change for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016.
With so many picks on Monday, it’s no surprise that Fever topped ESPN’s WNBA draft ratings. Indiana threw a curveball to most prognosticators by taking guard from Stanford Cardinal Lexie Hull in the first round. But the fever is for hungry players to make a difference, and Hull has that kind of personality on the pitch.
While it was a busy night for some teams, the Chicago Sky was only a draft watcher as the defending WNBA champions had no choice. The Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury had four picks between them, including three in the third round, so those picks might not make much of a difference.
How did teams such as the Atlanta Dream and Las Vegas Aces, who traded for certain Draft Day goals, fare on Monday? Did the Washington Mystics make the right call in handing out the No. 1 pick?
Here are our WNBA 2022 draft notes, dissecting it all.
Emily Engstler joins NaLyssa Smith as she is selected fourth overall by the Indiana Fever.
Choice : 2. NaLyssa Smith, Baylor, PF; 4. Emily Engstler, Louisville, PF; 6. Lexie Hull, Stanford, SG; 10. Queen Egbo, Baylor, C; 20. Destanni Henderson, SC, PG; 25. Ameshya Williams-Holliday, Jackson State, C; 34. Ali Patberg, Indiana, SG
General manager Lin Dunn said she wanted young, energetic players who could defend, and she seems to have gotten it. Hull was a surprise as the third of Fever’s four first-round picks, but Dunn clearly believes in his engine. Hull led the Cardinals in steals (78) this season. Smith and Egbo have been teammates at Baylor for four seasons, so they bring chemistry. The ever-moving Engstler is a defensive force and plays like she was made to compete for Dunn.
Even after a superb performance in the Final Four, Henderson went on to the second round. But while she can make the roster, Henderson also plays the kind of defense the Fever are looking for. It will be tough for Williams-Holliday to find a spot on the roster, but her selection is a boost for HBCUs everywhere.
Choice : 1. Rhyne Howard, Kentucky, SG; 15. Naz Hillmon, Michigan, Pennsylvania
The Dreams are under new management and a new coaching staff, and they knew who they wanted in Howard and were willing to trade for him. It should energize Howard to know how much the Dream believed in her to do this. It’s a great legacy to carry on being the No. 1 selection, and Howard has the ability to fulfill that role. New Dream coach Tanisha Wright was highly respected for her leadership and defense as a WNBA player, and she should be a great mentor to Howard.
As formidable as a player like Hillmon was in college, her second-round selection confirms that WNBA teams care about her size and range. What they can’t fully measure is his heart and his maturity – and both are out of this world. These qualities should help her earn a spot on the roster and prove that she can continue to improve her game.
Choice : 3. Shakira Austin, Ole Miss, C; 14. Christyn Williams, UConn, SG
The trade worked for the Mystics: Dealing with the No. 1 pick still landed them an elite post player in Austin, for whom the sky’s the limit if she progresses steadily as a pro. And Washington also got an extra pick to select Williams, who has the UConn pedigree for her.
Much has always been made of Williams’ ups and downs in college, but the former Huskies’ record in the league is more than impressive. On Washington, it can flourish without too much pressure.
The Washington Mystics use the third pick in the WNBA Draft to select Shakira Austin from Ole Miss.
Choice : 9. Rae Burrell, TN, SG; 16. Kianna Smith, Louisville, SG; 19. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn, C; 27. Amy Atwell, Hawaii, SF
The Sparks are coming off the disappointment of not making the playoffs last year. But they made some big offseason moves by getting Liz Cambage and Chennedy Carter, and potentially filling some needs with the draft. Burrell has good size and skill on the wing, and both Smith and Nelson-Ododa have Final Four experience.
Atwell, the Big West Player of the Year, is worth seeing at camp. They may not all make the roster, but the Sparks made the most of their draft spots.
Choice : 5. Nyara Sabally, Oregon, PF; 18. Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech, PF; 29. Sika Koné, Mali, C
The Liberty needed size and strength inside, and they got it. Sabally, if she can stay healthy, is a versatile addition that New York guards can take advantage of as another target.
Cubaj has been the anchor of Georgia Tech’s defense success. Kone left later than expected, but she’s only 19 and could be a player for Liberty’s future.
The Atlanta Dream selects Rhyne Howard of Kentucky with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.
Choice : 12. Nia Clouden, Michigan State, SG; 24. Jordan Lewis, Baylor, PG; 36. Kiara Smith, Florida, SG
Clouden is a good scorer and Lewis a very good distributor. It’s always a numbers game with the roster, but getting more youthful depth at guard is an advantage for the Sun. Smith is a choice for the future, as she suffered a season-ending knee injury during the SEC Tournament in March.
Choice : 7. Veronica Burton, Northwestern, PG; 30. Jasmine Dickey, Delaware, SG; 31. Jazz Bond, North Florida, PF
Considering all of the Wings’ draft picks from the past two years, they don’t have a lot of space on the roster. But they get high marks from Burton’s selection alone. The three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year adds perimeter toughness at that end of the field that the Wings need.
Dickey and Bond are the types of players you really wish you had more of a chance to figure out, but the troop crunch hurts.
Choice : 17. Elissa Cunane, NC State, C; 21. Evina Westbrook, UConn, PG; 33. Jade Melbourne, Australia, PG
Cunane is probably the best 3-point shooter from centers in the draft. Although she fell in the second round, she has a lot of potential to make her way into the WNBA if she can make the Storm roster.
Some thought Westbrook could go a little taller with his 6-foot height and ability to be a combo guard. She is a player who always plays hard, and that could make the difference. Melbourne is 19 and probably more of a choice going forward.
Choice : 8. Mya Hollingshed, Colorado, PF; 11. Kierstan Bell, Florida Gulf Coast, SG; 13. Khayla Pointer, LSU, PG; 23. Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech, SG; 35. Faustine Aifuwa, LSU, C
That rating might turn out to be a long way off, but it boils down to this: the Aces reached a deal Sunday with Minnesota to get the No. 8 and No. 13 picks; have they made the most of these selections? If Hollingshed turns out as good as the Aces think, then yes. If not, the note could be quite accurate.
Bell’s size on the perimeter should be a good pick-up. Hollingshed, Pointer, Sheppard and Aifuwa were all fifth-year seniors, so they bring maturity, although it’s unlikely to hold up.
Choice : 22. Kayla Jones, NC State, SF; 28. Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota, C
By trading picks No. 8 and 13 to the Aces for 2023 picks, the Lynx made it clear that this draft was not going to be a big factor for them. Makes sense, given their limited ceiling space. Both Jones and Sjerven are hardworking players who have had great college seasons, with NC State reaching the Elite Eight and South Dakota reaching the Sweet 16. Both are worth a look at camp, but it will be tough for one or the other to be part of the list.
Choice : 26. Maya Dodson, Notre Dame, PF; 32. Macee Williams, IUPUI, C
The Mercurys are in a similar situation to the Lynxes, not expecting much from this project. Both Phoenix selections were in the third round. With Brittney Griner detained indefinitely in Russia, he figured the Mercury would go for a big deal with their picks, and Dodson and Williams had great seasons. Again, places on the list will be scarce, but both could at least fill a need.