On Wednesday, we gave a rundown of the logistics around the 2018 WNBA Draft, which will be on April 12, 2018 in New York City. Today, we will go through a high-level breakdown of the prospects in this year’s draft. I broke them down into three categories: “Forget About It!,” “Reach and Realistic Targets,” and International Prospects.
So, let’s get right to it.
Forget About It!
These are players the Mystics would certainly want, but it’s unrealistic to see them pick these players with the seventh pick. In fact, they are probably gone in the top-4. I’ll still mention these players in case Washington pulls off a big trade. But such a trade would be nothing short of a shocker.
- A’ja Wilson, 6’5, C South Carolina - Wilson is the consensus number one draft pick for the defending national champions. She’s averaging nearly 23 points and 12 rebounds — and can make some college range threes. Moving on.
- Kelsey Mitchell, 5’8 G, Ohio State - Mitchell is expected to be a lottery pick, so she’ll be picked up before the Mystics get a chance to pick her. Mitchell has also averaged over 20 points a game in all four of her college seasons while making over 40 percent of her shots from the field.
- Diamond DeShields, 6’1 F, Cukurova, Turkish KBSL - DeShields played at Tennessee but went pro after the 2016-17 NCAA season. She will also probably be a lottery pick this spring.
Reach and Realistic Targets
Some of these players are reaches, because they’ll probably be picked before the seventh spot. But perhaps one of these players will be available when it’s Washington’s time to pick.
- Gabby Williams, 5’11 F, UConn - Was the 2017 WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year. Averages 10.6 and 7.55 rebounds this season for the Huskies as they head into the NCAA tournament. I like her game and efficiency, but the Mystics already have Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Natasha Cloud who play similar roles. Also, Williams isn’t much of a three point shooter. She’s probably taken before #7, but I don’t think she’s a fit for the Mystics if they still intend on keeping TRP and Cloud.
- Lexie Brown, 5’9 G, Duke - Brown is one of the top point guards in the college game. She’s a strong three point shooter and passer, but she’s a reach at #7. If she’s available, I’d like to draft her.
- Jordin Canada, 5’6 G , UCLA - Canada is also one of the top point guards in this draft. Keep an eye on her assist to turnover efficiency, because it’s well over 2 to 1, which is very strong for a college point guard. Canada has also improved her shooting over the years, especially from deep Her name does not imply her nationality though. She’s actually from L.A.!
- Victoria Vivians, 6’1 G, Mississippi State - The AP listed Vivians as the Mystics’ pick in a February mock draft. She has been the star for the Bulldogs since she arrived in the 2014-15 season and played a key role getting Mississippi State to its first NCAA championship game appearance last year. This season, she’s averaging nearly 20 points a game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. If she’s selected, don’t accuse Mike Thibault for picking a player that his daughter Carly coached. Vivians is the real deal, plain and simple.
- Azura Stevens, 6’6 C/F UConn - Stevens can go pro this year because she is four years out of high school. She played her first two seasons at Duke (2014-16) where she was the Blue Devils’ top scoring option in 2015-16. At UConn, Stevens is averaging 14.8 points and 7.56 rebounds while averaging just 21.3 minutes a game. Stevens also only started eight games this season, but I don’t think that will go against her.
The WNBA has seen fewer and fewer non-American players join its ranks in recent years. But this year, a couple non-Americans may be first round picks. They could be drafted in the first round by a team who’s willing to take a chance -- or they may wait and see until the second round.
After all, non-Americans skip parts of the WNBA season if their teams make continental tournaments every odd numbered year. And they generally skip the WNBA season before the Olympics in those years.
- Maria Vadeeva, 6’3 F/C Dynamo Kursk, Russian PBL - The Russian national has been listed in several mock drafts as a first round pick. In fact, some think she could be a lottery pick. The 20 year old Vadeeva is one of Kursk’s key cogs along with Angel McCoughtry and Nneka Ogwumike. And Vadeeva was even the leading scorer for Spartak a few years ago when Emma Meesseman was her teammate. If the WNBA was in an environment like the NBA, Vadeeva could be the number one pick. FIBA’s Paul Nilsen certainly thinks so. But the reality of international play makes that unrealistic. Vadeeva could be a young version of Emma Meesseman on the Mystics, or any other team. But I’d wait until the second round before seriously considering her because of international play commitments.
- Kia Nurse, 6’0 G, UConn - Nurse has been a consistent starter for the Huskies over four years, even if she never was the “number one star” any single year. Nurse comes from Hamilton, Ontario, which isn’t far from Toronto. Nurse already has a lot of international experience where she played for Canada in the 2014 FIBA Women’s World Championships before her freshman year and the 2016 Olympics. She also competed in the Women’s AmeriCup last summer, which Canada won. Nurse, like many Canadians, may be more committed to the WNBA than a European player. But her international commitments are still a red flag until the league makes changes. I’d consider drafting Nurse at #7 if she was an American, but I would rather take a player who will not have international commitments. That said, Nurse is probably getting picked up before the second round.