The 2022 WNBA draft still has one day left, but the play has already begun. In the blockbuster trade earlier this week, Atlanta Dream, number one from Washington Mystics. 1 Overall selection, no. 3 and 14 choices and in exchange for the future first-round Big Swap. In another trade, Minnesota Lynx is number one in 2023 in exchange for Aces’ first and second round choices. The 8th and 13th monks were sent to the Las Vegas Aces.
Atlanta will now have a first choice for the second time in franchise history and may be targeting Rhine Howard. The Kentucky Wing has established itself as the best player in this class, thanks to his size, athletic ability and ability to influence the game on both sides of the ball.
Other great opportunities include Baylor forward Nalisa Smith and Ole Miss Big Shakira Austin. All three seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the group, and then there is no guarantee. While this is widely seen as a deep draft, there is not a ton of division among many players, which should make Draft Night enjoyable.
Before the WNBA Draft on Monday, check out how the first round could go with our latest fake draft. As a reminder, it takes into account individual talent, team needs and fit.
For the best matches and possible matches for each team, go here.
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1. Atlanta Dream: Rhine Howard – G, Kentucky
Howard, recently becoming the ninth player to receive three first-team All-American honors, has long established himself as the best player in this class. He scores on all three levels, makes a real impact on the defensive end and has an easily adjustable level and playing ability with the WNBA. Dream advanced to No. 1 in the blockbuster business, and Howard is a player worth the price.
2. Indiana Fever: Nalisa Smith – F, Baylor
For now it’s a race for the top two players in the draft, and Howard is back again this season to happily take the board off the Fever Smith. He is an incredible athlete, he excels in transformation, is a strong rebounder and defender and a talented finisher around the basket. She has real stellar energy, especially if she continues to refine her attacking game.
3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin – F / C, Ole Miss
The Mystics were the surprise winners of the lottery, and then in even greater surprise, they traded the No. 1 pick to Dream. So who can they target under the group? Shakira Austin is a viable option because they can use some front court depth, and Ole Miss’s 6-foot-5 large is upside down just like anyone in this class. She is an impressive defender, with some intriguing energy at the end of the attack with her ability to move fluidly and face the ball and place it on the deck.
4. Indiana Fever: Kirsten Bell – G / F, Florida Gulf Coast
After taking Smith, it makes sense for the Fever to return to the perimeter through their second lottery pick. At 6-1, Bell is the type of big, athletic division where you have to build the team that wins in the modern game. He was one of the best scorers in the country (if he had missed time due to a knee injury he would have finished fourth with 23.5 points per game), smashing the glass well for his size and being able to play on multiple levels. See if she can improve 3-point shooting.
5. New York Liberty: Emily Engstler – F, Louisville
Engsler was partially transferred to Louisville because he wanted to play for a project that would help prepare him for the next stage. Thanks to his versatile and relentless work ethic, he raised draft boards and that result paid off in a big way. This season he has averaged 4.5 shares (Steels plus blocks), can defend multiple positions in the next level, will shoot well from the outside and does not need the ball. In short, the perfect fit for Liberty.
6. Indiana Fever: Nayara Saballi – F / C, Oregon
Nayara Sabbelli, sister of Dallas Wings forward Sado Sabbelli, has a history of traumatic injury highlighted by multiple ACL tears in her right knee. But as a 6-foot-5 big woman, she’s a paint striker and can move around the perimeter, so she’s a clear first-round talent. If she is healthy she will need all the help she can get and the risk of rebuilding the flu group with four to 10 choices is worth it.
7. Dallas Wings: Ray Burrell – G / F, Tennessee
Burrell was fantastic as a junior, but his role fell short after a disappointing season with a knee injury and some very inefficient scoring. The ability to be a wing scorer is obvious, however, as he showed off his best game of the season with several future pros against the Louisville team at Sweet 16. Dallas needs a wing to help them cope with some offensive pressure from Arike Okunpovale, and Burrell’s inversion is worth seeing her.
8. Las Vegas Aces: Testani Henderson – G, South Carolina
On Sunday, the Aces traded their first and second rounds of the 2023s to the Lynx on Monday nights at 8 and 13 p.m. In a related action earlier in the week, they dropped the Destiny Slogan. If so, could this be the landing place for Destiny Henderson? The South Carolina Guardian played in the first round of the NCAA National Championship game with incredible performance, and his defense, game and 3-point shooting made him a good fit. If you want to connect some points, fellow comedian Aja Wilson will give him a strong recommendation.
9. Los Angeles Sparks: Christine Williams – G, Yukon
With a large lockjum on the front court, the Sparks need some help around the perimeter, and Williams may be more suited to them. She struggled with consistency in college, but at one point she was number one in the class and there was little question about her talent. His 3-point shot was perfect, but he was a talented scorer due to his size and athleticism. The latter features also help her in defensive ending, which is something head coach Derek Fisher can appreciate.
10. Indiana Fever: With Nia Cloud – G, Michigan State
There are some conflicting opinions on where to go with Cloud because she is only 5-foot-9. But considering her agility and ability to make shots for herself and others, she deserves to be selected late in the first round. Only six other players in the country scored at least 20 points and four assists per game last season, and none of them shot better than Cloud with 3-point ground (39.6 percent).
11. Las Vegas Aces: Elisa Kunen – C, NC State
As Liz Cambage exited in the off-season, Ace needed some forecourt depth and could see Cunningham. Three times the All-American had to improve his fitness, but he was talented, could land on the ground and made some promises as a 3-point threat in limited attempts – 41.9 percent on one attempt per game as a senior. He will be very much in tune with the new style of new head coach Becky Hamman.
12. Connecticut Sun: Veronica Burton, Northwest
The Sun won’t have much time for any rookies this season, but after Brian leaves the free agency in January, it makes sense for them to look for some more depth in the back court – especially the defensive-minded one. Guard. No one fits that bill better than Burton, who has been named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times during his tenure in Northwest.