A little over a week after the LSU Tigers were crowned national champions, the WNBA will hold its annual draft Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App) as we find out where this season’s rookies will start their pro careers.
Because of the COVID-19 waiver from 2020-21, the seniors from this season and next can opt to play a fifth year in college. The combination of that, the limited jobs open in the 12-team WNBA and the potential for NIL compensation changed the personnel available in this draft. And it’s certain to do the same for 2024.
On Thursday, the WNBA released its list of players who will be in 2023’s final draft pool. ESPN analysts Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson spoke with the media Thursday on draft prospects, as did WNBA coaches and executives from the Atlanta Dream, Indiana Fever, Dallas Wings and Minnesota Lynx.
Here is the latest look at ESPN’s first-round projection, plus a look at the second and third rounds.
South Carolina Gamecocks | PF | 6-foot-5 | senior
Boston didn’t get a second national championship, but she will be motivated to change the fortunes of the Fever, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2016. She hasn’t budged from the No. 1 spot since the first mock draft in November. She averaged 13.0 PPG and 9.8 RPG this season. And as ESPN’s Lobo points out, Boston should have a chance to do more offensively in the pro game, where she won’t be triple-teamed.
“I am so excited to watch Aliyah Boston play with WNBA rules,” Lobo said. “For four years teams have been able to surround her defensively and collapse on her, and in the W you have defensive three seconds. You have a wider lane.”
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Maryland Terrapins | SG | 6-foot-3 | senior
There is speculation that Miller’s upside might be as high as that of anyone in this draft if she is able to expand her range and maximize her skills defensively. Her size and quickness could make her a very tough matchup. ESPN’s Robinson lauds Miller’s attack mindset on offense, her wingspan and her ability to play more than one position.
“If she can improve her handle against pressure and in traffic,” Robinson said, “I think that’s going to help her upside a lot.”
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Villanova Wildcats | PF | 6-foot-2 | senior
Siegrist moves up two spots from our most recent mock based on speculation the Wings might be worried that if they wait until No. 5, it would give the Washington Mystics a chance to take her. Siegrist led Division I with 29.2 PPG this season for the Wildcats, who reached the Sweet 16. She finished with a school-record 2,896 points, also adding 1,102 rebounds.
“She is flat-out one of the best players in the draft,” Wings president Greg Bibb said. “She has a skill set that translates well for a number of teams in the WNBA, including us.”
Iowa State Cyclones | C | 6-foot-6 | senior
This depends on whether the Mystics think Soares — who isn’t expected to play this season after suffering an ACL injury in January — is worth waiting for, and whether they have another potential lottery pick they value more. Washington already has 6-5 Shakira Austin, the No. 3 draft pick last season, but Soares has a lot of potential.
In her short time in Division I after four NAIA seasons, Soares impressed Lobo: “The first time I saw her I was blown away … incredible size, mobility, versatility. Nice touch on her shot. She can really pass. She can drive to the basket.”
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Tennessee Lady Vols | SG | 6-foot-2 | senior
Horston seems like a good fit for a Wings team expected to focus on defense under new coach Latricia Trammell. She plays hard and has the ability to guard multiple positions. Offensively, Horston has a lot of skill to work with, and she played well in the postseason and improved her draft stock.
Lynx coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve said Horston is, “A hungry player, very confident. She sees herself in this league, that kind of knowing that she belongs.”
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Stanford Cardinal | PG | 6-foot-1 | senior
Jones isn’t projected as a lottery pick, in part because of the concerns about her ability to become a 3-point shooter. That said, there is still a great deal to like about the way she plays with her size, instincts and court vision.
“They love how she pushes the ball with pace in the open floor, how she can find teammates,” Lobo said of how WNBA coaches and execs are evaluating Jones.
South Carolina Gamecocks | SG | 6-foot-1 | senior
Beal actually doesn’t fall into an easily defined position. We are listing her at shooting guard, but she’s probably more of an all-purpose wing who specialized on defense for South Carolina. But she has room to blossom offensively — she was a very good offensive player in high school — as she matures in the pro game. Fever general manager Lin Dunn could pick more than one South Carolina player in this draft.
“I think there’s a reason why Lin Dunn likes the Gamecocks, and it’s because of the style they play on the defensive end of the floor,” Lobo said.
South Carolina Gamecocks | PF | 6-foot-4 | senior
Like Beal, Amihere is versatile enough that she doesn’t necessarily fit into one position, and was selfless enough to fill in whatever role the Gamecocks needed from her. As a pro, she could blossom more offensively because she played everywhere from point guard to power forward while at college.
“She’s still sort of defining maybe who she’s going to be as a player,” said Reeve, who as U.S. national team coach has faced Amihere on Team Canada. “But at minimum, I’ve seen her change games with her ability to be aggressive. She has no fear. She’s ambitious in the way that she chooses to attack defenders and has a natural confidence there.”
Indiana Hoosiers | PG | 6-foot-0 | senior
Berger is the type of gritty, determined, highly motivated player coaches love. But she’s not just blue-collar good, she’s very skilled. Berger hasn’t shot the 3-ball as much as some other top guards, but she has the work ethic to add things to her game at the pro level. And she could help the Storm reshape their identity after Sue Bird’s retirement and Breanna Stewart’s departure in free agency.
“One of the things I love about Grace is her ability to play three positions,” Dunn said. “She can play the 2, the 1, the 3. She’s physically strong, tough.”
Iowa State Cyclones | SF | 6-foot-1 | senior
Joens was a three-time Cheryl Miller Award winner as the country’s top small forward and finished her Iowa State career with more than 3,000 points and 1,300 rebounds. She and Indiana’s Berger are similar in that both are naturally quiet players who don’t show much emotion but will do anything to help their teams.
“I’ve seen a lot of strides in her ballhandling ability. She’s already a great rebounder, just a tireless worker,” Robinson said of Joens. “She reminds me a lot of Penny Taylor, the WNBA great, because she can play inside and outside.”
UConn Huskies | SG | 6-foot-1 | senior
After four seasons at Fairfield, Lopez Sénéchal got onto the big stage at UConn and thrived in her one year with the Huskies. Things would have been much tougher for injury-plagued UConn without her. She was the Huskies’ best 3-point shooter (77 of 175, 44%), which is something that could help the Wings.
Lobo said the chance for Lopez Sénéchal to show her skills with the Huskies made an obvious difference for her draft stock: “She was able to showcase what she can do.”
UConn Huskies | F | 6-foot-5 | senior
Juhász is another player UConn relied upon a lot both this season and last after she transferred to join the Huskies. She averaged 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds. With Minnesota’s track record of success with UConn players, she might be the Lynx’s pick here — although they could go a few other directions, too.
“Being able to watch Dorka for the last two years, I think her skill set and what she brings to the table … she’s somebody who I would say probably changed a little bit,” Dream coach Tanisha Wright said of how Juhász adapted after going to UConn.
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13. Indiana Fever: SG Zia Cooke, South Carolina Gamecocks
15. Atlanta Dream: PG Alexis Morris, LSU Tigers
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16. Minnesota Lynx: C Maia Hirsch, France
24. Minnesota Lynx: PG Claudia Contell, Spain
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26. Los Angeles Sparks: PF Emily Kiser, Michigan Wolverines
29. Phoenix Mercury: PF LaDazhia Williams, LSU Tigers
31. Dallas Wings: SG Ana Llanusa, Oklahoma Sooners