SI:AM | What Happened at the WNBA Draft After Caitlin Clark Went No. 1

Everyone knew who was going off the board first. Then things got interesting.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m going to spend the rest of the day trying to wrap my head around the tiebreakers for the final spot in the NHL playoffs.

In today’s SI:AM: 

🌟 ​​The star-studded WNBA draft

🎙️ A legendary announcer says goodbye

🏒 History in the NHL

So much star power

Everyone has known who the first pick in this year’s WNBA draft would be ever since Caitlin Clark said in late February that she’d be going pro. And indeed, the Indiana Fever took Clark first at last night’s draft in Brooklyn. But the rest of the draft was less predictable. Let’s look at some of the most noteworthy selections.

The Sparks bolster their frontcourt

The Los Angeles Sparks held the No. 2 and No. 4 picks last night and used them to add two excellent forwards. They took Stanford’s Cameron Brink with the second pick and Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson two picks later.

The 6'4" Brink was second in the nation this season with 11.9 rebounds per game, while Jackson, at 6'2", is a tremendous scoring threat at either small forward or power forward. She averaged 19.6 points per game over her final two seasons at Tennessee. Brink and Jackson will help fill the void in the Los Angeles frontcourt left by the departure of veteran power forward Nneka Ogwumike, who signed as a free agent with the Seattle Storm.

Two college stars go to the Sky

The Chicago Sky also had two first-round picks and also used them to take a pair of outstanding frontcourt players. They took Kamilla Cardoso, the 6'7" South Carolina center, with the third pick and LSU’s Angel Reese at No. 7.

Cardoso’s talent is undeniable, even though this was her first season as a starter for the Gamecocks. Her size makes her extremely difficult to contend with on both sides of the floor, but her biggest challenge will come when she faces players her own size. Cardoso always had a height advantage in college but is now entering a league with players like Jonquel Jones (6'6") and Brittney Griner (6'9").

It’ll also be interesting to see how Reese adjusts to the next level. She was as famous as any college player over the past two seasons but she wasn’t seen as a top draft pick, mostly due to concerns about her offensive skills. However, she’s an elite rebounder (second in the nation with 13.4 per game this season) and plays with the sort of tenacity that any team would be happy to have.

“She is an absolutely relentless competitor. She pursues the ball better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Chicago general manager Jeff Pagliocca said of Reese, according to The Athletic. “She’s a winner, another player from an incredibly winning program, another great coach, and a player that fits the narrative that our coach wants to play with. Relentless energy, toughness, grit, and she’s a fighter. We’re looking for people that are going to come in here and fight.”

A few intriguing picks by the defending champs

The Las Vegas Aces, winners of the last two WNBA Finals, didn’t have a pick in the first round this year but made three very interesting picks in the second round, taking Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair, Iowa guard Kate Martin and Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley.

Fair was one of the greatest scorers in NCAA history, finishing third on the career points leaderboard with 3,403 (with the caveat that she played five seasons). Martin is a do-it-all player who became the first in Iowa program history to have at least 900 points, 400 assists, 120 steals and 60 blocks in her career. She was in the building in Brooklyn to support Clark and got a pleasant surprise when she heard her name called with the 18th pick. Kitley would have been taken much earlier in the draft if not for a serious injury she sustained late in the season. The three-time ACC player of the year tore her ACL in the Hokies’ final game of the regular season. She’ll miss this WNBA season, but it’s not like the Aces are in need of immediate reinforcements anyway.

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The top five…

… things I saw last night: 

5. Sami Zayn’s entrance for his match on Monday Night Raw in his hometown of Montreal.

4. The A’s security guard who got in the way of the Cardinals’ dugout, preventing St. Louis from challenging a call.

3. The Mets announcers’ tribute to the retiring John Sterling.

2. Angels announcer Wayne Randazzo’s call of Mike Trout’s home run, echoing Sterling’s classic call. (Randazzo also worked in New York calling Mets games on the radio.)

1. This diving grab by Cedric Mullins on a line drive in the gap.


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Dan Gartland

DAN GARTLAND

Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).