The WNBA Draft is now just eight days away where we will see the league’s newest rookies in New York City. The Mystics have the seventh pick in the first round, so who do people think Washington will pick?
Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press conducted a mock draft of WNBA coaches and general managers earlier this week. In the first round, the mock draft has the Mystics selecting Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians at number seven. Then in the second round, they are projected to pick Tennessee forward Jaime Nared.
In our previous high-level piece on the WNBA Draft, we already mentioned that several mock drafts were pegging Vivians at the seventh pick.
When mock drafts are rather consistent that a team is going to pick someone in the first round, let’s just say that there’s a very good chance that the Mystics will select that player. That said, we’ll also look at some other players whom the Mystics could select besides Vivians.
Who is Jaime Nared?
The mock draft goes into the second round, so let’s talk about Nared for a second. She played four years at Tennessee for the Lady Vols. This season, she averaged 16.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.2 steals a game. Nared was named to the All-SEC Coaches First Team for the Lady Vols, who made the second round of the NCAA Tournament this season.
Nared has some ties with the D.C. area though she’s from Portland, Oregon. Her father, Greg Nared was a guard for the Maryland Terrapins from 1985-1989 and started his senior season. He now works for the Dallas Mavericks as the Vice President of the Mavs Basketball Academy.
Nared has strong athleticism and has good scoring, rebounding, and passing ability — a jack of all trades. However, Nared is also an inefficient scorer (averaged 39 percent shooting in her college career) and hasn’t been a reliable three point shooter. These are things Nared has to work on at the pro level and for whatever team she ends up playing on.
Who are other players the Mystics could select?
The mock draft had A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Mitchell, Diamond DeShields, Azura Stevens, Jordin Canada, and Gabby Williams selected first through sixth. For the most part, I don’t expect the Mystics to get them, so let’s look at some of the other players whom Washington is “passing up on” in this particular scenario:
Maria Vadeeva, Dynamo Kursk (8th to Indiana fever in mock draft) - Vadeeva already is starting for one of the Russian PBL’s top teams and she was Emma Meesseman’s teammate at Sparta&k Vidnoje in 2014. She is basically a young and stronger version of Meesseman. If the international team schedule synced up better with the WNBA, Vadeeva would be a lottery pick in this draft — and she really should. But the Mystics shouldn’t exacerbate their international commitment issues more than they already have by committing to Meesseman.
And in the WNBA, commitment overrides talent and potential when it comes to non-Americans. Finally, the Fever have the 8th pick in the draft, and Head Coach Pokey Chatman coached in Russia, so she knows the landscape of international basketball more than most.
Vadeeva is going to be a first round pick barring stage fright from every team in the first round. If she’s available at number seven (which she probably will), Mike Thibault may be tempted to get her because she has a higher ceiling than most of the players in this deep draft. But at the same time, he’s taking a gamble in regard to international team commitments, and I don’t know if that’s something he should do at this point in time with this pick.
Kia Nurse, UConn (9th to Connecticut Sun in mock draft) - The Sun have the 9th pick and hypothetically draft Nurse. I’d say it’s for regional reasons because of my cynicism toward teams picking local players. But that aside, Nurse is a strong perimeter defender and an efficient shooter. She could be an upgrade over the Tierra Ruffin-Pratt/Natasha Cloud conundrum sooner rather than later if she came to D.C.
But as I mentioned with Vadeeva, Nurse isn’t an American. Do you want to see potential key players miss half a season during odd numbered years for continental tournaments and more during Olympic years? I wonder if Nurse’s passport dropped her a few spots as well. At any rate, she’s a legit first round pick and Nurse will be a great fit for whatever team she’s on.
Ariel Atkins, G, Texas (10th to New York Liberty in mock draft) - Atkins averaged 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists this past season. She shot 53.4 percent overall and 42 percent from three, though she made just 50 threes in 35 games. Atkins is another athletic guard who could provide depth for the Liberty.
But here’s the thing with New York. They already have Epiphanny Prince, Sugar Rodgers, Brittany Boyd, and just re-signed Bria Hartley to her sophomore deal. That will be an interesting situation to sort out if Atkins does in fact go to New York.
How did Azura Stevens affect the draft order?
Stevens went pro with one year of college eligibility left, but she isn’t going to change the Mystics’ plans that much. The top three picks: Wilson, Mitchell, and DeShields have remained consistent in mock drafts for awhile. Also, the Mystics aren’t desperate for a center with Krystal Thomas as their starter. But here’s what Stevens’ decision does for the Mystics: it opens up an opportunity for them to select someone who they otherwise thought was a reach, and that’s still not a bad thing.