Kategoriler: Sports

WNBA Draft grades: Fever earn A for picking Clark, Sky receive C+ even with Angel Reese


The most anticipated WNBA Draft in recent memory has come and gone. Once again, it was a franchise-changing day for the Indiana Fever, who drafted Caitlin Clark. Meanwhile, several teams made meaningful investments in their futures while others fine-tuned in their pursuit of a championship in the near term.

Let’s take a look at how well each team accomplished its goals in the 2024 WNBA Draft. The grades are a little bit higher across the board than last year, but this was a better pool of players. I’m allowing for some optimism.

Nyadiew Puoch (12), Isabel Borlase (20), Matilde Villa (32)

YAZI ARASI REKLAM ALANI

The Dream made three international selections, all of whom are 19 years old, and none of whom project to play in the WNBA during the 2024 season. As such, it’s hard to say if Atlanta addressed any of its needs because by the time these players come over, the roster could look dramatically different. Big picture, Puoch and Borlase were rated as first-round talents by the general managers The Athletic surveyed, so to pick up both with only one first-round pick is good value. But the Dream have a chance to get better right now with Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray rating among the better perimeter duos in the league, and they punted on a chance for immediate improvement, even if this trio of selections makes an impact down the line.


Kamilla Cardoso (3), Angel Reese (7), Brynna Maxwell (13)

On the one hand, I love the players Chicago selected. Cardoso and Reese could be a dominant frontcourt for the foreseeable future, and they complement each other well. Maxwell is an outstanding shooter who made 42.7 percent of her 3-pointers and 91 percent of her foul shots during her five-year college career. She was ninth in the country in points per play (1.17) this past season.

But I can’t lose sight of what the Sky abandoned to move up one spot in the draft. They surrendered a second-round pick in 2025, which will be a deep draft because all of the seniors using their pandemic bonus years have to come out. They gave up on Sika Kone, a promising young player. And, they allowed Minnesota to swap first-round picks with them in 2026 — if the rebuild doesn’t go quickly for Chicago, the front office could come to regret that decision. The Sky did receive the rights to Nikolina Milić, but she’s already 30 years old and isn’t playing this season.

The haul Chicago acquired doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the Sky surrendered valuable assets to get here.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1780030088840691965?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw


Connecticut Sun: B-

Leïla Lacan (10), Taiyanna Jackson (19), Helena Pueyo (22), Abbey Hsu (34)

The Sun’s frontcourt is pretty well spoken for with Alyssa Thomas, Bri Jones and DeWanna Bonner all returning. What the Sun needed was reinforcements in the backcourt, and they took some swings to make that happen. Lacan is a high-ceiling prospect, only 19 and excelling in France. However, the domestic league schedule makes it challenging for French players to come to the WNBA, so it’s unclear when Lacan will debut for the Sun.

However, Connecticut found value later in the draft. Pueyo is a dogged defender who can shoot the ball at a decent clip from 3-point range. Hsu’s size at 5-11 is helpful for the position, and she’s a pretty solid first step. Taiyanna Jackson seems a little duplicative of Olivia Nelson-Ododa, but she was an outstanding defensive center at Kansas and should at least provide some training camp competition.

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Jacy Sheldon (5), Carla Leite (9), Ashley Owusu (33)

Can you tell the Dallas Wings needed guards? Nevertheless, even while honing in on a positional need, the Wings still managed to select players with significant upside. Sheldon is a 3-and-D archetype who excels in transition, making her a natural fit for Dallas, which likes to play up-tempo. Leite turns 20 on Tuesday, and she already shows the ability to run a pro offense while being an individual scoring threat. Even Ashley Owusu has promise. She was the best shooting guard in the country as a sophomore, so the talent is there if she can find a proper workout regimen and regain her motor.

https://twitter.com/B1Gwbball/status/1780026198560547172?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw


Indiana Fever: A

Caitlin Clark (1), Celeste Taylor (15), Leilani Correa (27)

Of course, anyone in Indiana’s position would have taken Caitlin Clark, but who cares? The Fever made themselves an attractive destination for Clark, providing her with the motivation to declare from the draft, and did the obvious thing once she declared. If you pick a generational talent, the draft grade is going to be an A.

Beyond Clark, I like the selections of Taylor and Correa. Both are big guards, fitting with Lin Dunn’s philosophy (she drafted Grace Berger last year, after all). Correa can shoot a little, while also getting to the rim frequently, and Taylor is a nasty defender who can make things difficult on Clark in training camp and in practice. Indiana has its tentpoles in place — all of the decisions now should be to optimize Clark and Aliyah Boston. Taylor is someone who can play next to Clark and make her life easier, and Correa is a good flier to take at this point in the draft.

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Las Vegas Aces: B

Dyaisha Fair (16), Kate Martin (18), Elizabeth Kitley (24), Angel Jackson (36)

The Fair pick got most of the hype, considering she is the third-leading scorer in Division I women’s basketball history. However, I simply don’t see the need for another bucket-getter on a team that already has A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray. The Aces need role players who can fill in the gaps around their core four. That’s why their pick of Kate Martin intrigues me. Martin might not be a WNBA-level athlete, so this selection could be moot, but Martin absolutely knows how to amplify star talent. She hits open shots, she cuts hard, she sets good screens, and she plays bigger than she is on defense. Martin might be more skilled than Kierstan Bell, so why couldn’t she take that spot on the Aces’ roster?

Furthermore, getting Kitley at the end of the second round is a heist. Although she can’t play this season as she recovers from an ACL injury, perhaps it’s better for Kitley to be a stash. In that scenario, she can wait out Candace Parker’s eventual retirement to fill that frontcourt hole in the roster. There are concerns about Kitley’s footspeed, but she’s a three-time ACC Player of the Year who consistently figures out a way to produce. If she can expand her range — and this is where being on the same roster as Megan Gustafson could really pay dividends — Kitley has a future in this league.


Los Angeles Sparks: A

Cameron Brink (2), Rickea Jackson (4), McKenzie Forbes (28)

This was a home run of a draft for Los Angeles. The Sparks got the national defensive player of the year in Brink, someone whose defensive metrics alone made her a lottery pick. But Brink is also an outstanding playmaker and interior scorer with a burgeoning perimeter game once L.A. lets her stretch her wings. At No. 4, the Sparks selected the second-best scorer in the draft, someone who can score from anywhere on the court and demonstrated the capacity to get her shot off against Team USA in a November exhibition. Brink and Jackson are an enticing forward combination that can scale up if L.A. goes small but also can play with another big, whether that’s Dearica Hamby or someone else the Sparks acquire down the line.

Selecting Forbes in the third round is just good business. USC coach Lindsey Gottlieb has been touting Forbes as a first-round pick all year. Even if she didn’t rate that highly for WNBA teams, she still is a prolific shot-maker who reads the floor well, takes care of the ball and will bring the growing Trojans fan base with her to Crypto.com Arena, only two miles away from where USC plays its home games.

https://twitter.com/KylenMills/status/1780026795426754627?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw


Minnesota Lynx: A

Alissa Pili (8), Kiki Jefferson (31)

It almost doesn’t matter who the Lynx took at No. 8 — the fruits of the trade they made with Chicago would have earned them a high grade regardless. However, Minnesota ended up with Pili, one of the most unguardable players in the country. Maybe we don’t know what position Pili will defend, but opponents will have to defend her, and that doesn’t seem pleasant. I feel a lot better about Pili’s WNBA future knowing she is under the tutelage of a seasoned and successful head coach like Cheryl Reeve.

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Marquesha Davis (11), Esmery Martinez (17), Jessika Carter (23), Kaitlyn Davis (35)

Realistically, the Liberty have at most one available roster spot, and the only need they have is a defensive-minded guard. I would have preferred Nika Mühl in this spot because she is a phenomenal defender and also could have learned the point guard position from Courtney Vandersloot as a succession plan. Davis is a better athlete and perhaps a more versatile defender — her steal percentage is astounding — but Mühl is a better shooter and playmaker and covers the point of attack just as well. With a team like New York that is contending right away, I’d prefer a more well-rounded player.

Martinez and Carter are interesting training camp players, both have a physicality that the Liberty didn’t always play with in 2023. New York announced that Kaitlyn Davis will be competing for the 2025 roster, so she appears to be a domestic draft-and-stash, much like fellow USC product Okako Adika, who New York drafted in 2023.

https://twitter.com/RichardBazil/status/1780050443722256895?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw


Charisma Osborne (25), Jaz Shelley (29)

The Mercury have roster spots for the taking, and they addressed that by selecting two fifth-year seniors who could realistically contribute as rookies. Osborne was among the 15 invitees to the draft; she has the pedigree of a higher pick and should be ready to defend at the very least. Shelley also gets after it defensively and plays with moxie; she’s always willing to take big shots and shoots a high volume of 3s. Phoenix is always in need of more perimeter defense so long as Diana Taurasi occupies one of the other guard spots, and neither of these rookies will be intimidated by the personalities on the Mercury roster.

https://twitter.com/UCLAWBB/status/1780047906395029991?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw


Nika Mühl (14), Mackenzie Holmes (26)

Seattle is another team that needs bench contributors, and Mühl might already be the fourth-best guard on the roster. She can chip in as a backup point guard and play next to the other Storm ballhandlers, just as she did with KK Arnold and Paige Bueckers at UConn. After playing in three Final Fours, Mühl shouldn’t be fazed by the pressure of being on a team that wants to win right now. There’s a strong tradition of Huskies excelling in Seattle, so perhaps Mühl is the latest in that line. Holmes already announced that she will undergo surgery to address some lingering injuries and will not play in 2024.


Aaliyah Edwards (6), Kaylynne Truong (21), Nastja Claessens (30)

There isn’t really anything wrong with the Mystics’ draft. They took two players who rate well statistically in Edwards and Truong, but I had hoped a franchise at this point in team-building would have taken a more aggressive approach. Washington has Shakira Austin as a focal point, but it needs another star, and I’m not sure any of the players it selected have the upside of an all-WNBA player. Admittedly, that’s a high bar. But it’s also what’s required of the best teams in the league.

https://twitter.com/UConnWBB/status/1780029772900225119?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

(Photos of Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Rickea Jackson: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)




Source: nytimes.com

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