The 2022 WNBA is in the draft books, and as expected the Atlanta Dream selected Rhine Howard from Kentucky, starting the night with the No. 1 overall selection. A big, athletic two-way wing, Howard is the best player in this class and will help jumpstart Dream’s restructuring.
Complete the lottery and number Nalisa Smith from Indiana Fever Baylor. Chosen at 2, Washington Mystics with Shakira Austin No. from Ole Miss. Went at 3, and Fever Louisville’s Emily Engstler No. Selected at 4. It went as expected, but then there were many surprises.
Now that all the activities are over, here are the full results with breaks and grades for each first round exam.
1. Atlanta Dream: Rhine Howard, G, Kentucky
As expected, the Dream Rhine Howard number. 1 selected in the overall exam. Howard is a big, athletic wing outside of Kentucky who can influence the game on both sides of the ball. He has an elite score, he can shoot from outside and go to the basket, and can defend many levels. The best player in the draft and a great hit for Dream when they start their restructuring.
2. Indiana Fever: Nalisa Smith, F, Baylor
Rebuild Fever has four first-round picks and uses the first one to oust Nalisa Smith from the Baylor. This should come as no surprise here as Smith is the best big opportunity in the draft. She is very athletic and excels at glass and defensive end. If he continues to refine his attacking game, he has a real chance of being a star in this league.
3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin, F / C, Ole Miss
Retreating into the Mystics Draft, the No. 1 overall pick traded heavily for Dream because they believed it was not a one- or two-player draft, but a three-player draft. The third athlete they trusted was Shakira Austin, Ole Miss’s 6-foot-5 big. Austin is a terrific defender, moving fluidly and having some interesting ability at the end of the attack.
4. Indiana Fever: Emily Engstler, F., Louisville
Indiana’s medieval GM Lynn Dunn talked endlessly about excelling on the defensive end, so it was amazing to see them target Emily Engsteller in the second lottery exam. Angsler raised the draft boards after a terrible season in Louisville, where he made a huge impact on the defensive end. He works very hard and has the size and athletic ability to defend multiple levels in the next level.
5. New York Liberty: Nayara Sabley, F / C, Oregon
Last season New York Liberty’s biggest weakness was at the front, and they tried to talk it out with Nayara Sapally in the draft. Given Sabali’s tragic injury history (two torn ACLs) there are some risks in this selection, but he is clearly a first-round talent if he can stay healthy. She’s big enough to hit the paint, but mobile enough to move around the perimeter.
6. Indiana Fever: Lexi Hull, G, Stanford
This was the first big shock of the night. With their third first-round pick, Fever decided to expel Lexi Halle from Stanford. He is a strong 3-point sniper and plays very hard on the defensive end, but there are questions as to whether he has the athletic ability to match the WNBA. It appears that the fever may have come to her later.
7. Dallas Wings: Veronica Burton, G, Northwest
The Dallas Wings were one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season and tried to solve that problem by expelling Veronica Burton from the Northwest. He has been named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times in his college career and will immediately improve their perimeter defense. They have a little locksmith in their backcourt now, however, so it will be interesting to see how their list goes out.
Grade: B +
8. Las Vegas Aces: Mia Hollingshed, F., Colorado
The Aces traded their first and second round choices in 2023 to finish 8th and 13th this year, and also targeted Mya Hollingshed from Colorado. He’s a versatile adult, he can come out and shoot the ball, and he has to adapt to the new head coach Becky Hamman’s modern attacking system. No one proposed her as a first-round pick, but I feel like she would have been later.
Grade: C +
9. Los Angeles Sparks: Ray Burrell, G, Tennessee
The Los Angeles Sparks needed some help on the wing, and the fact that Ray Burrell is still on the team is a huge win for them. He struggled in Tennessee this season, however it was due to a knee injury. If she is healthy, there is a clear path to WNBA success with her size and attacking skills.
10. Indiana Fever: Queen Expo, c. Baylor
Another big surprise from the flu. With their fourth and final first-round pick, they take on Queen Expo, who will reunite with her Baylor teammate Nalisa Smith. Fever was clearly looking for frontcourt players who could work hard and defend, but there were some real questions about how Expo was planning an attack. In addition, she had trouble getting out of trouble in college. Another choice, like getting a fever for a player who is available later.
11. Las Vegas Aces: Kirsten Bell, Florida Gulf Coast
After a big win in their first first round test, the Aces took Kirsten Bell off the coast of Florida to the No. 1 spot. Saw circumference at 11. It was a bit surprising that Bell was still on the team at this point, so it got a better one for the Aces. Bell can really hit the ball and is the big, athletic wing type you need to win in this league.
12. Connecticut Sun: With Nia Cloud, Michigan State
The Sun has lagged behind in the playoffs for the past few years as they struggle to create good looks and score when the game is slow. By signing Courtney Williams into the free agency and now taking Nia Cloud to the No. 12 pix from the state of Michigan, they have clearly moved on to solve that problem. She is a bit short, but very shifty and can score from all the courts.
Grade: B +
Second round results
13. Vegas Aces: Kyla Pointer, LSU
14. Washington Mystics: Christine Williams, Yukon
15. Atlanta Dream: Nass Hillman, Michigan
16. Los Angeles Sparks: Gianna Smith, Louisville
17. Seattle storm: Eliza Kunen, NC State
18. New York Liberty: Lorela Cubaz, Georgia Tech
19. Los Angeles Sparks: Olivia Nelson-Otoda, Yukon
20. Indiana Fever: Testani Henderson, South Carolina
21. Seattle storm: Evina Westbrook, Yukon
22. Minnesota Links: Kyla Jones, NC State
23. Vegas Aces: Ayesha Sheppard, Virginia Tech
24. Connecticut Sun: Jordan Lewis, Baylor
Third round results
25. Indiana Fever: Amaziah Williams-Holiday, Jackson State
26. Phoenix Mercury: Maya Dodson, Notre Dame
27. Los Angeles Sparks: Amy Atwell, Hawaii
28. Minnesota Links: Hannah Sjervon, South Dakota
29. New York Liberty: Chica Cone, Mali
30. Dallas Wings: Jasmine Tiki, Delaware
31. Dallas Wings: Jazz Bond, North Florida
32. Phoenix Mercury: Macy Williams, IUPUI
33. Seattle storm: Jade Melbourne, Australia
34. Indiana Fever: Ali Badberg, Indiana
35. Vegas Aces: Faustine Aifuwa, LSU
36. Connecticut Sun: Kiara Smith, Florida