2019 WNBA Draft Best Fits

Approaching the culmination of the best WNBA season yet, a hoops connoisseur like myself can’t help but ponder towards the future. With just under a week left in the season, this is the first in a collection of conscionable chunks of conception that envision an even brighter future for the league.

The 2018 rookie class came out swinging & has proven worthy of all the early acclaim. That same excitement towards the potential of all 12 teams getting talent that fills a need should remain with nothing more than a peek at the prospects for the upcoming WNBA Draft Class.

Finessing the list to 12 first round caliber prospects --as there could be as many as 16 available-- took savvy, nerve & a keen eye. Ne’ertheless, here’s some insight into the cognitive dissonance that is the basketball quadrant of my existence. 

Note: The upcoming WNBA offseason provides so much intrigue & potential for change that this will be a blip in hindsight. But for now?

Let’s boogie!

    Indiana Fever

Te’Aira McCowan
6’7” | Pivot | MS State

Affectionally labeled Goof Troop during the early days in Starkvegas by critical fans, McCowan has done the work to shed the label, become a realistic All-America candidate with a ceiling unlike anything the SEC has produced since Candace Parker. The Fever, meanwhile, have struggled to chalk up wins that match the effort & chemistry that ooze from this young, tight unit. Moe Johnson missing the entirety of the season should make for an even more confident return but exacerbated said growing pains. Cappie Pondexter’s addition helped but the reality from my purview is that the Fever have an all star four masquerading as a five. McCowan’s unlimited potential & unteachable size will prove insatiable to a franchise that has been historically small. It also brings full circle [I love circles!] the selection of Victoria Vivians ahead of Maria Vadeeva in this year’s draft once Mike Thibault rightfully drafted a ridiculously overlooked Ariel Atkins. It also frees Candice Dupree to bring her rested, renewed efficiency back to a familiar place... I’ll stop here.

New York Liberty

Kalani Brown
6’7" | Pivot | Baylor

The late addition of Marissa Coleman likely was the cherry on top of a team too talented for an already distracted first year Katie Smith. Per 2018 league standards, effort & attention to detail never waned but too many lulls & defensive breakdowns led to a season everyone involved would like to forget. Nurse, Boyd, Hartley, Rodgers & Zahui B showed they can contribute consistently. Liberty fans may need to start parting with the idea of Epiphanny Prince if winning is important. Adding Brown completely changes the dynamic of the post rotation while allowing the talent on the perimeter another year to figure it out. Maybe some Tina at the three in the future? Either way, as we march towards paying these women better & expansion, it's absolutely vital that this original franchise remains. 

   Chicago Sky

Asia Durr

5’10” | Combo | Louisville

Another confident shot creator to add to a talented group that flourished the second half of the seasons. Durr has the chops to handle the one as Stocks & crew patiently await the return of Jameirra Faulkner in which case Durr can learn the ropes from Allie & Sloot. A guard rotation of Durr, Diamond, Allie, Sloot, Linnae Harper & Kahleah Copper sounds delicious for any coaching staff.

  Las Vegas Aces

Napheesa Collier
6’1” | Wing | Connecticut

Let it be known, many players make sacrifices when entering the UConn modus operandi but Phees’ best years are ahead of her. Pure Sweat legend Alex Bazzell has been getting her right & finetuning skills you may not see regularly until after the NCAA season finishes. Regardless, she could slide into a starting spot for an Aces team that will absolutely need to snag a 2019 playoff spot to continue the momentum they’ve built this season while also securing next year’s All Star game.

   Dallas Wings

Arike Ogunbowale
5’8” | Combo | Notre Dame

Aerial Powers lost favor for reasons unknown. Tayler Hill was headed towards All Star weekend before pregnancy & a torn ACL sidelined her but Fred Williams still refuses to sit a frigid Allisha Gray, who brings plenty intangibles but has struggled to adjust to pro ball in a second year that included no overseas ball. Enter the biggest name in college basketball last season. Hopefully the ties, the comfort level, the confidence will translate to a new starting backcourt that dynamically plays off each other. If Sky returns that is. The same could be said for Coach Fred Williams who has struggled despite adding Azura Stevens & Liz Cambage for absolutely no work except showing up each day. Consider that Dggins-Smith is from Indiana & the franchise is void a star, there could [& should be] major changes on the horizon barring a late flash in the pan. Jenny Boucek would be a perfect fit but may not be interested.

(The above was penned prior to the post-game altercation & subsequent firing of Fred Williams. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a 2-time WNBA champion in her playing days, will complete the season in an interim role. While this doesn't change the pick, it does change the culture & it was what could be expected. Will be interesting to see if the Wings can clinch the final playoff spot or not. Here's Williams & Diggins-Smith's takes with TMZ.

  Phoenix Mercury

Jessica Shepard
6’4” | Pivot | Notre Dame

A championship pretender before Sancho Lyttle’s injury, the Mercury are another team that would benefit with replacing everyone that wasn’t a regular starter at some point. The bench is a consistent no-show & while Sandy is apparently Taurasi’s biggest champion, she’s run the same offensive sets since 2012 & players don’t have many opportunities to improve. Add in the fact that Phoenix trades away more great players than it creates historically, it’s time for a change. For the Big Three’s Sake. They all deserve better. Bonner fills a gaping hole in Indiana’s lineup in some nightmares also & has made it clear she'd like to be in the same city so that her twins have both parents as often as possible. Here's hoping for the best. 

   Minnesota Lynx

Brianna Turner
6’3” | Pivot | Notre Dame

Brianna Turner can’t be too disappointed with life right now. Natty Championship during her redshirt year with four starters returning, an improved, revamped bench & a spot in the starting lineup that she not only fits perfectly but [finally] allows her to play to her strengths more than ever before. Next up? Learning from the WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder/ring bearer. Oh yeah. Sylvia Fowles is there too. The Lynx will be trying on a new point guard for the first time but had they convinced their legend to retire when her game did, they might be in better shape. We are what we choose to eat however; & this Lynx unit may have bitten off more than they can chew for a repeat. 

   Connecticut Sun

Sophie Cunningham
6’1” | Wing | Missouri

A peer heard this idea & simply replied “that’s sick!” By golly, it is. That’s even considering Bria Holmes adding another layer to this team next season. Cunningham brings the ability to put the ball on the floor. Toughness. Grit. High IQ. In addition to three-point markswomanship. That’s definitely, definitely, sick. Curt Miller might still find a way to cut her or stick her on the bench but the potential for a perfect partnership is there. At least from this height. 

  Los Angeles Sparks

Katie Lou Samuelson
6’3” | Wing | Connecticut

Yes. Being very selfish. Lou is a personal fave & since she’s had to suffer with losing in heartbreaking fashion after not getting a chance to actually win her first ring as a freshman, here’s hoping that she gets the opportunity to play in front of her family in LA while also making sure the Sparks don’t screw Karlie over as they did to begin the season. Magic has ruined the Lakers. I pray the rosary & burn sage he stays far away from the Sparks & Lou’s drafting brings Kobe around more. A Kobe Bryant coached Sparks team is much more likeable & marketable, after Agler retires, of course!

  Washington Mystics

Eziyoda Magbegor
6’4” | Swing | Australia

The greatest enigma to the casual fan yet the prospect with the highest ceiling. The youngest player potentially in the draft, Magbegor took visits & considered coming Stateside this fall to play college ball; heavily leaning Connecticut, before signing with the Melbourne Boomers, prioritizing her basketball career, as she should. Expectations have now become that she’ll enter the draft next season after likely getting to show the world what she can do in the upcoming World Cup setting in addition to a second saddle of the WNBL season after winning WNBL Rookie of the Year honors in Canberra. 

   Atlanta Dream

Kitja Laksa
6’0” | Wing | South Florida

This might be another name that surprises versus those missing but Laksa is pro-ready & likely has been stymied some by the college setting/being a good teammate. At this next level, she’ll likely see more open shots than she ever has as the leader of the second best team in the AAC behind the team that’s been most dominant in women’s college hoops the last ten years. Courtney Williams passed her the torch & she hasn't missed much since. Wholly confident Nicki Collen would enjoy nothing more. 

   Seattle Storm

Marina Mabrey
5’11” | Combo | Notre Dame   

Another of glove-like fits. Marina gets a senior season to show the world that she’s a much more capable ball handler than was given credit prior to the natty champ run. Personally, Mabrey always struck me as a one so everything happens for a reason. Unwittingly adding a layer to her prospects for the professional level that likely doomed her sister --whose IQ & passing ability alone would warrant a spot on my expansion roster even to this day-- should turn out to be the best thing to happen to Mabrey as she closes the door of Fighting Irish Mabreys (Muffett missed & Dara was snatched up by a wary & talented Kenny Brooks). So, if anyone reading this doesn’t think Marina Mabrey is a WNBA player, Smoove challenges you to let him coach said team. Whatever team with her on it. We’ll go from there.