The WNBA Draft provided plenty of surprises and a serious infusion of talent. Which teams and players found the best fits on draft night?
The 2023 WNBA was held on Monday, with the Indiana Fever using the No. 1 pick on South Carolina center Aliyah Boston. The second pick went the way most analysts expected as the Minnesota Lynx selected Maryland’s Diamond Miller. And then…things started to get weird, as the Dallas Wings ended up with the third, fourth and fifth picks after a trade with Washington for No. 4 pick Stephanie Soares’ draft rights.
With the draft behind us, let’s take a look at some winners and losers from Monday’s event.
WNBA Draft Winners:
There was one can’t-miss player in this draft. The Indiana Fever picked her first overall, something that’s essentially been preordained since the lottery.
Indiana’s had some rotten luck with the lottery. This was the sixth year in a row the Fever were in the lottery; it was the first time they landed the top pick. That’s five years of missing out on some really elite talent, something that essentially forced the Fever to do a second rebuild in the middle of a rebuild.
Adding Aliyah Boston gives the Fever a defensive anchor. The worst-case scenario for Boston still leads to her being an elite post-defender. She’ll need to get a little better at switching, but overall she’s ready to go in from Day 1 and defend the interior.
Offensively, Boston’s an efficient scorer who had to deal with some fairly poor spacing in college—which isn’t an insult to South Carolina, just the reality that the team ranked 351st in Division I in percentage of points from 3. Indiana has more shooters and second-year power forward NaLyssa Smith has started to develop a 3-point game, so Boston should have a lot more room to work.
The team also added some other talented players in Grace Berger, Taylor Mikesell and LaDazhia Williams.
The Lynx had the second-easiest job in this WNBA Draft, as they picked second and had a clear path to the second-best player, Diamond Miller. Minnesota needed a playmaking wing who can get buckets to help build around Napheesa Collier, and they got that. Miller has some concerns — she only shot 22 percent from 3 last season, for example — but she landed with a great coach who can help her development.
And then things got even better later on. The Lynx added Maia Hirsch, Dorka Juhasz and Taylor Soule but the big win IMO was Brea Beal falling to Minnesota at pick 24. Beal’s got some offensive concerns, but she’s a good defender who should have a good shot to make this roster and contribute off the bat.
There wasn’t really a consensus third-best player in this draft, but one name that popped up in that third spot in a lot of mocks was Tennessee’s Jordan Horston. But Horston ended up falling all the way down to ninth, where the Seattle Storm grabbed her.
Seattle had a lot of upheaval this offseason, but that means there’s a good shot that Horston not only makes the roster but that she ends up with a pretty key role. She can play multiple positions on the wing and while she has a lot of questions when it comes to her shooting, she can create as a secondary ball-handler and get buckets, even if she isn’t always going to threaten defenses when she’s behind the arc. She’s also going to be a good defender at the next level.
The Storm followed that up by taking Madi Williams 18th. Williams played in a really up-tempo system at Oklahoma, and this past season she averaged 15.7 points per game, a pretty big drop from her career-high of 20.0 back in the 2020-21 season. But Williams also had her most efficient season, and she’ll bring a lot of athleticism to the Storm. She could end up being a good bench scorer.
The Dream had one of my favorite drafts. With the sixth pick, they landed Stanford guard Haley Jones, who does almost everything well. She shot under 10 percent from 3 this year, but she can score inside, she can lead an offense, and she’s got the tools to be a plus-defender in the W. Yes, the shooting concerns me, but we’ve seen players like Alyssa Thomas succeed without a 3-ball. Jones can be a monster in transition.
Two picks later, the team grabbed Laeticia Amihere from South Carolina. Amihere has some great size and an impressive 6-foot-10 wingspan. Her athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions make her an ideal role player for this Dream squad, though she has the same issue that a lot of players in this class have: scoring outside the paint. It’s a little less important that she develop a jumper than it is for Jones, but it would still be useful if she did.
The team also added Leigha Brown at No. 15. Not a ton to say about Brown, just because I don’t know if she’ll make the roster, but she’s a good passer, averaging 5.8 assists per game this past season, the 16th-best mark in the country.
The Bulls have been one of my favorite teams to watch in college for a few years now. Once UConn left the American for the Big East, USF filled that hole atop the conference. The Bulls have become a tough team to beat, winning 19 or more games for 12 consecutive years. A handful of South Florida players were drafted during that time, but this was the first time two of them were taken in the same WNBA Draft, as Washington took Elena Tsineke at pick 20 and Seattle grabbed Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu one pick later.