Wings WNBA Draft Primer: Dallas Will Reload With Bundle Of Early Picks
DALLAS - The Dallas Wings have the opportunity to "own'' the upcoming WNBA Draft. On paper, no WNBA team’s fortune can change as dramatically as can the Wings', who currently hold picks No. 2, 5, 7 and 9 in the first round and picks No. 15 and 21 in the second round of the 2020 WNBA Draft.
I can’t wait until the draft,'' Moriah Jefferson, the Dallas Wings point guard, tells me. "There’s a lot of good talent coming out. We have a lot of potential and a good young core and with the draft we’ll be adding more potential.''
With these high picks, Dallas will officially turn the page on a season that featured one of the league’s youngest rosters - including a record four rookies – a 10-24 record (good for 10th overall and last in the West) and no postseason play. (The Wings ended up missing the playoffs by five games.) The 2019 season was the franchise’s worst since moving to Dallas from Tulsa in 2016.
But they look for a reversal of fortune Friday in a draft class that is heavy with record-setting collegiate superstars. Adding any of these collegiate players to an exciting young, developing roster, led by Arike Ogunbowale - the runner-up to Rookie of the Year and a unanimous All-Rookie Team selection -and other players like Isabelle Harrison (the AP Comeback Player of the Year), Allisha Gray (2018 WNBA Rookie of the Year), Kaela Davis and Kayla Thornton will assist a consistent core that saw some success last season and hopefully take them to the next level.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the draft on Friday, April 17, will be conducted "virtually,'' without players, guests, and media. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce the draft picks live on ESPN with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. CT, and top prospects will take part remotely. The draft will also be available on the ESPN App.
There will be three 12-pick rounds; The Dallas Wings have the most picks of any team in the draft, with six, including the aforementioned four in the first round.
During the draft, the WNBA will also honor Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester, who tragically passed away in a helicopter accident on Jan. 26. The WNBA also plans to honor the late Kobe Bryant, a passionate advocate of the league, at the draft and during the upcoming season.
The pandemic has also caused a delay in the start of the season. The League announced last week that it will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15 due to the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30. Training camps were scheduled to begin April 26.
Meanwhile the League and the nation are preparing for a virtual draft. Headlining the draft class is Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon, the two-time Wooden Award winner for outstanding collegiate basketball Player of the Year. She is the projected overall No. 1 pick who will likely go to the New York Liberty.
Her teammate Satou Sabally is projected to go second to the Dallas Wings, although speculation before the junior declared for the draft centered around Baylor forward Lauren Cox, the hometown Flower Mound product, possibly going second to the Wings. Cox would bring size and versatility to the team. If the Wings opt instead for Sabally, they will receive an effective player on the wing who has both size and speed. She averaged 16.2 points per game and shot 46 percent from the field for Oregon.
Numerous mock drafts have Wings picking at No. 5, South Carolina’s Tyasha Harris, a great defender and pass-first point guard who averaged 12 points per game and shot 38 percent from beyond the arc - both career highs.
The Wings could also take another home-town product in Mansfield's Chennedy Carter from Texas A&M if she doesn’t go to the Atlanta Dream at the No. 4 pick. Carter is a quick, speedy scorer who knows how to run an offense. At A&M the junior was the team’s leading scorer and owns the school’s top two single-season scoring averages at 23.3 in 2018-19 and 22.7 in 2017-18.
Draft predictors have discussed Sabally’s teammate from Oregon, Ruthy Hebard, at No. 7 for the Wings. She’s a traditional post player who can play both ends of the floor. She averaged 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game her senior year.
Princeton’s Bella Alarie could be the Wings No. 9 pick. She averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in the Ivy League and would bring scoring, defense, and length to the table.
Any of these players and more in the second round would fit well with a young team that I believe is one or two pieces away from contending in the League.
Wings Free Agency
The Wings had a busy free-agency period this year, re-signing Moriah Jefferson, Megan Gustafson and Harrison, the AP Comeback Player of the Year for 2019 who started 29 of 31 contests she appeared in last season, and averaged 8.6 points and a team high 5.8 rebounds per game. Imani McGee-Stafford, Karlie Samuelson and Morgan Bertsch also signed with the club but McGee-Stafford announced earlier this month that she was foregoing the next two years to go to law school.
The combination of free agent "gets'' and draft promise has Gustafson fired up.
"I am very excited for this year’s draft, especially because we get to add new faces to the mix and introduce them to Dallas,'' she said. "For me personally, I have always loved taking in younger players under my wing and help them out, so I would love to do the same with this group.''
Veteran leadership was lost with the trade of Skylar Diggins-Smith to the Mercury, and Glory Johnson, who signed with the Atlanta Dream after seven years with the Wings.
New additions to Dallas this season include Astou Ndour and Katie Lou Samuelson (Karlie’s sister) from the Chicago Sky, and Marina Mabrey from the Los Angeles Sparks, who was collegiate teammates with Ogunbowale. The duo appeared in two Final Fours and took home the 2018 NCAA Championship.
Playing games at the CollegePark Center in Arlington, Texas, the Wings have made the playoffs two of their four seasons in Dallas and look to push further during the 2020 season with coach Brian Agler at the helm. Agler is the 2010 WNBA Coach of the Year and a two-time WNBA Champion, guiding the Seattle Storm in 2010 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016 to championships.
Dallas has many moving parts to get in synch here. Next step: The WNBA Draft.
"There’s a lot of things we can do (on the floor),'' Jefferson said. "It will take time to get into the chemistry and all but I am excited for whoever we draft.''