The 2022 WNBA Draft is one day away, but the drama has already started. In a blockbuster trade earlier this week, the Atlanta Dream acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Washington Mystics in exchange for the Nos. 3 and 14 picks and a future first-round pick swap. In another trade, the Minnesota Lynx sent the Nos. 8 and 13 picks to the Las Vegas Aces in exchange for the Aces’ first and second round picks in 2023.
Atlanta will now have the first pick for just the second time in franchise history, and is likely targeting Rhyne Howard. The wing from Kentucky has established herself as the best player in this class, thanks to her size, athleticism and ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball.
Other top prospects include Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith and Ole Miss big Shakira Austin. Those three seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the group, and afterward there are no guarantees. While this is widely seen as a deep draft, there is not a ton 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 individual talent, team needs and fit into consideration.
For best fits and potential fits for each team, go here.
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1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard — G, Kentucky
Howard, who recently became just the ninth player to earn three First Team All-American honors, has long established herself 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 adjust to the WNBA. The Dream made a blockbuster trade to jump up to No. 1, and Howard is the type of player who’s worth the price.
2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith — F, Baylor
This has been a two-player race at the top of the draft for a while now, and with Howard off the board the Fever will gladly take Smith, who was one of just five players in the country to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season. She is an unbelievable athlete who excels in transition, a strong rebounder and defender and an efficient finisher around the basket. She has real star potential, especially if she continues to refine her offensive game.
3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin — F/C, Ole Miss
The Mystics were the surprise winners of the lottery, and then in an even bigger surprise, they traded the No. 1 pick to the Dream. So who might they be targeting lower down the board? Shakira Austin is one potential option, as they could use some frontcourt depth, and the 6-foot-5 big out of Ole Miss arguably has as much upside as anyone in this class. She’s an impactful defender, moves fluidly for her size and has some intriguing potential on the offensive end with her ability to face 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 toward the perimeter with their second lottery pick. At 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 ranked fourth if she didn’t miss time due to a knee injury), crashes the glass well for her size and should be able to play multiple positions. Watch out if she can improve her 3-point shooting.
5. New York Liberty: Emily Engstler — F, Louisville
Engstler transferred 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 major way as she’s surged up the draft boards, thanks to her versatility and relentless work ethic. She averaged 4.5 stocks (steals plus blocks) this season, will be able to guard multiple positions at the next level, shoots it well from outside and doesn’t need the ball. In short, a perfect fit for the Liberty.
6. Indiana Fever: Nyara Sabally — F/C, Oregon
Nyara Sabally, the younger sister of Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally, has a brutal injury history that’s highlighted by multiple ACL tears in her right knee. But as a 6-foot-5 big who can bang in the paint and is mobile enough to move around the perimeter, she is a clear first-round talent. Her upside if she stays healthy is well worth the risk for a rebuilding Fever team that needs all the help it can get and has four top-10 picks.
7. Dallas Wings: Rae Burrell — G/F, Tennessee
Burrell was awesome as a junior, but her stock has dropped after a disappointing season marred by a knee injury and some extremely inefficient scoring. The potential as a wing scorer is obvious, though, and she had her best game of the season in the Sweet 16 against a Louisville team featuring a number of future pros. Dallas needs a wing who can help take some of the offensive pressure off Arike Ogunbowale, and Burrell’s upside makes her worth a look.
8. Las Vegas Aces: Destanni Henderson — G, South Carolina
On Sunday, the Aces traded their first- and second-round picks in 2023 to the Lynx for the Nos. 8 and 13 picks on Monday night. In a corresponding move earlier in the week, they waived Destiny Slocum, suggesting they could be targeting a backcourt prospect to replace her. Assuming that is the case, could this be a landing spot for Destanni Henderson? The South Carolina guard played her way into the first round with an incredible performance in the NCAA national championship game, and her defense, playmaking and 3-point shooting would make her a good fit. And if you want to connect some dots, fellow Gamecock A’ja Wilson is likely giving her a strong recommendation.
9. Los Angeles Sparks: Christyn Williams — G, UConn
With a huge logjam in the frontcourt, the Sparks most clearly need some help on the perimeter, and Williams could be the best fit for them. She struggled with consistency in college but was once the top recruit in her class and there’s little question about her talent. Her 3-point shot was just OK, but she was an efficient scorer inside the arc due to 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 on where Clouden might go, in part because she’s only 5-foot-9. But given her quickness and ability to create shots for herself and others, she’s well worth a late first-round pick. Only six other players in the country put up at least 20 points and four assists per game last season, and none of them shot better than Clouden from 3-point land (39.6 percent).
11. Las Vegas Aces: Elissa Cunane — C, NC State
With Liz Cambage’s departure in the offseason, the Aces are in need of some frontcourt depth, and could look to Cunane. The three-time All-American needs to improve her physicality, but she’s skilled, can get up and down the floor and has shown some promise as a 3-point threat in limited attempts — 41.9 percent on one attempt per game as a senior. She could end up being a good fit for new head coach Becky Hammon’s more modern style.
12. Connecticut Sun: Veronica Burton, Northwestern
The Sun likely don’t have much playing time available for any rookies this season, but after Briann January’s departure in free agency, it would make sense for them to look for some extra depth in the backcourt — in particular, a defensive-minded guard. No one fits that billing better than Burton, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times during her tenure at Northwestern.