Dream move up in WNBA draft, now poised to make No. 1 pick

NEW YORK (AP) — The Atlanta Dream traded two spots for the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft in order to land the player they believe can help turn around the franchise, which has struggled in recent seasons.

The leading candidates are Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard and Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. And on Monday night, players, family and friends will attend the draft in person for the first time since 2019.

“Rhyne is a professional. She is a game changer. She is an elite talent,” said ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson. “When you look at all the different things she can do on the basketball court, she can shoot from 3, she has a game of pull-ups, she can get to the hoop. There’s really nothing more from a scoring point of view that you could ask for.”

Atlanta went 8-24 last season and has missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons. The franchise gained new owners last year, hired a new coach in Tanisha Wright and has a new general manager in Dan Padover.

The Dream had the top pick in 2009 and used it to recruit Angel McCoughtry.

“We’re in a rebuild right now, and we’re also looking to add pieces that can be with us for a long time,” Padover said. “I think by having the No. 1 pick in 2022, our hope is that this person comes in with fresh energy and sparks something under our franchise that we need right now, and also embraces the city of Atlanta.”

Whichever the Dream doesn’t take first between Howard and Smith will likely be drafted second by Indiana. The Fever haven’t had much of a draft history in recent seasons; none of his first-round picks in the last three seasons are still on the list. Indiana hired Lin Dunn as interim general manager to bring stability to the franchise. Dunn has four picks (2, 4, 6, 10) in the first round to build a roster.

“In our particular situation, we need a lot,” Dunn said. “We need help inside. We need help outside. It’s a little easier for us to identify our needs because they are obvious. But we’re essentially in that first round with 2, 4, 6 and 10 looking for the best player available.”

Washington received the third pick of the Dream and coach Mike Thibault feels comfortable that he will be able to add a good player to an already strong team.

“We’re a little bit different than the other two teams in that we have some players coming back to our team, with Elena Delle Donne, Alysha Clark, even Myisha Hines-Allen, who missed a good chunk of last year, coming up next. in healthy. We are a different team, we are a veteran team,” said Thibault, also the general manager of the Mystics. “So whoever we select, they’re not expected to play 25 to 30 minutes.”

Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard (10) is guarded by LSU’s Khayla Pointer (3) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the women’s Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee . Howard is expected to be drafted high in the WNBA draft on Monday, April 11, 2022.

  • Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith (1) shoots against Hawaii forward Amy Atwell (25) during the first half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Waco, Texas, on Friday, March 18, 2022. Smith is expected to be selected high in the WNBA draft on Monday, April 11, 2022.

Some other things to know about the three-round draft:

TRADE NUMBER 1

This is the second year in a row that the No. 1 pick has been traded before the draft. Last year, New York traded it to the Seattle Storm, who then dealt it to the Dallas Wings. Dallas drafted Charli Collier first overall in 2021. With players who could potentially change the course of the franchise in upcoming drafts, starting with South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston next season and Paige Bueckers and Caitlyn Clark the following year, the Odds are the first pick wins. t change hands next year.

BUILDING A TEAM

It’s incredibly difficult for recruits to make a WNBA roster with only 144 spots potentially available on all 12 teams. It’s usually less, though, because of salary-cap issues and because some teams only have 11 players. Fewer than half of the 36 picks in last year’s draft are currently on WNBA rosters.

WOLVERINE SETTING A RECORD

Naz Hillmon had a historic career at Michigan by leading the Wolverines to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. The senior forward could be the first player from the program drafted since Tabitha Pool was selected by the New York Liberty in the second round of the 2005 draft.

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