By Jeffrey Newholm
One shining moment sounds like a bit of a downer. What, only one moment? Thankfully for the 12 very talented young women taken in the WNBA draft first round, there’s plenty more shine coming. A very deep but not as top-heavy draft promises to give basketball fans needed entertainment while the Warriors bore again in the playoffs. (But the WNBA is good enough to stand on its own merits anyway). I’ll give a brief glimpse of how each woman will impact her team.
1. Jackie Young, Notre Dame: taken by Las Vegas Aces
Young was a scoring menace for a powerful Irish machine and left a year early to give a pro team a smooth scoring boost. However, according to the expert Twitter rumor mill, Young may be trade bait.
Yup. Same thing. https://t.co/zYlecWHdnc
— Aneela (@WHoopsBlogger) April 10, 2019
The Aces seem to have the cards in their favor with three straight top picks. And here they smartly take talent over need. The Aces will trade for an experienced player to boost a talented team ready to win in 2019.
2. Asia Durr, Louisville: New York Liberty
The Liberty went to lottery prison in a 2018 disaster. Unfortunately, the top players in this draft aren’t quite to the level of absolutely amazing top picks in previous years, such as Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker. So Durr here is a safe pick and certainly a skilled one. New York has a younger motor who will hopefully complement veterans’ turnaround under (mercifully) better ownership.
3. Teira McCown, Mississippi State: Indiana Fever
The Fever collapsed completely in ’17 and ’18, even clinching best lottery odds this year. The patient seemed to be nearly deceased after big post player Victoria Vivians’ season-ending injury. But thankfully McCown, a player of similar stature, is available in a win-now move. This roster has no clear leader but improves with a very skilled forward.
4. Katie Lou Samuelson, Connecticut: Chicago Sky
The Sky wisely weren’t deterred by “Lou”‘s down senior year. Samuelson is an elite three-point shooter who’s also quite determined. Thankfully, it appears certain Sky superfans appreciate the steal.
I AM SHOCKED. AND SUPER EXCITED. https://t.co/v2yPani9zz
— The Sky Show CHI (@TheSkyShowCHI) April 10, 2019
Chicago has three young stars who will finally allow the Sky to overcome the sting of talent lost to forced trades.
5. Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame: Dallas Wings
Wait: that must be a typo. You’re telling me the hero who beat the buzzer at the Final Four twice falls to fifth? Ogunbowale’s talent can’t be denied and will have an intriguing development opportunity in Dallas. The Wings will almost certainly struggle with Skylar Diggins-Smith out due to pregnancy and have been on the last playoff seed bubble for years. Then indeed they could use of the game’s all-time most clutch players.
6. Napheesa Collier, Connecticut: Minnesota Lynx
With Maya Moore sitting out 2019, the Lynx are in a very tough spot. “Phee” goes from a focus point to a smaller role to fulfill well. The wily and nimble forward will undoubtedly find a fit in Minnesota. But by herself, she won’t be enough to rescue a suddenly slipping franchise.
7. Kalani Brown, Baylor: Los Angeles Sparks
Brown was a post bully for the champion Baylor Bears and will fit in well for a talented, but underwhelming, Sparks franchise. And considering how LA is the preferred city for the discontented Dallas Wing Liz Cambage, the Sparks will either be unbeatable in the post or will join Las Vegas with a great trade piece.
8. Alanna Smith, Stanford: Phoenix Mercury
The Australian Smith conveniently played for the Mercury’s coach at the 2018 World Cup and will serve a smaller role with the veteran franchise. The Mercury will try to play more dominantly after mediocre regular seasons have thrice thwarted playoff runs. Smith will play a role, but Diana Taurasi is still the leader in experience and talent.
9. Kristine Anigwe, California: Connecticut Sun
Anigwe is a great pick by the Sun down at nine. A wave of young talent has propelled Connecticut into contention, and they add another promising young woman. Anigwe provides tremendous rebounding prowess and will greatly aid a franchise very close to great play.
10. Kiara Leslie, NC State: Washington Mystics
The defending WBA runner-ups don’t need much more to contend. There were no great options left at ten, but the Mystics do receive a well-rounded player from a rising program. Leslie won’t need to contribute much more to a team that could afford a small reach.
11. Brianna Turner, Notre Dame: Atlanta Dream (but traded to Phoenix)
The suddenly battling Dream traded Turner for the Mercury’s Marie Gulich. The Dream declares they have enough skill already and take a 6′ 5″ prospect who hasn’t played much. By contrast, Phoenix picks a pro-ready post player of underrated skill. The Dream makes a no-risk gamble while Phoenix adds even more talent ready to play immediately.
12. Ezi Magbegor, Australia: Seattle Storm
The 19-year old Aussie flyer may or may not be a key player for the mighty Storm. But as ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo observed, the Storm has no needs, just opportunities. So the Storm can easily take a chance on a little-known gem while assuming they have enough basketball acumen already.
While it’s a certainty the WNBA draft is deep and talented, who will take the baton from the Storm, or if anyone will steal it, is a great mystery. A massive redesign and rebrand allow an even better 2019. So “Make Way” for the ladies because the best era of WNBA basketball has just barely begun.