2023 WNBA Mock Draft Mach 2
With a few top talents staying in school, the WNBA Draft is more unpredictable than ever
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It feels like the college basketball season just ended. Because it did. The WNBA Draft happening a weekend after the NCAA Championship is an unfortunate aspect of the league’s summer schedule. But that doesn’t change the excitement around the WNBA draft. It’s always special to see a new crop of players join the best women’s basketball league in the world.
Let’s not lie to each other, though. This draft does not feature the strongest or deepest class of players. A number of possible high selections used their extra year granted due to COVID’s impact to return to school. Still, there are plenty of top talents coming into the league and intriguing prospects available throughout the first round. As always, this mock draft only reflects my opinion and is based on what I would do as the GM of each team making a pick rather than any intel from teams or predictions.
1. Indiana Fever: Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
Coming into this season, Boston had a resume comparable only to the greatest players in college basketball history. Then, she led her team to an undefeated season capped with an SEC Championship and a number-one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Losing POY awards to Caitlin Clark and a Final Four game to Iowa doesn’t change her accomplishments or her position in the draft.
Still, reasonable questions remain about Boston’s potential in the WNBA. She’ll likely struggle early on with the speed of guards on the perimeter in the WNBA when they attack her in pick-and-rolls. The biggest questions come on the offensive end where Boston has not shown a deep scoring skill set (partly because she didn’t need to). She got a lot of buckets in college simply by being bigger than her opponents, which will happen less often in the W. She will have more space to work in the post in the WNBA and she has developed driving skills from the pinch post.
While she may not be an offensive machine like A’ja Wilson early on, Boston could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate very soon. She has the highest defensive ceiling for a center since Teaira McCowan came out of Mississippi State, and Boston is already better on the perimeter than her. She is just a player who will figure out how to help her team win. She played out of position for long stretches this season and still was a top-two talent in college basketball. As I said in Mock Draft Mach 1, “I’d bet that Boston will figure out any hurdles thrown her way.”
2. Minnesota Lynx: Diamond Miller, Maryland
In Mock Draft 1.0, I said that Miller’s “ultimate draft position will rest on her health and shooting this season.” Seems that I was half correct. Miller played in all but one game and led the Terrapins to the Elite Eight. Her shooting fell off another cliff this year, as she ranked 2042th (9th percentile) in 3-point percentage (21.1%). She’ll end up around 30% from deep for her career, so don’t expect her to shoot threes at a high level in the WNBA.
What Miller added to her ballhandling and playmaking this year makes up for her shooting. She’s put up career bests in free throw rate (25.3%), assist rate (20.6%), and turnover rate (15.4%). She got to the rim more than in previous years by driving from the wings and off touches at the nail. She’ll need to convert more rim attempts, but her athleticism is evident and bodes well for her figuring out how to finish. Defensively, Miller is sturdy and can conceivably guard 1 through 4 in the WNBA. She seems like she has even more room to grow and can develop into a starter (or more) in the right situation. Minnesota goes with the best player available and someone who could fit into Aerial Powers’s role well after her contract expires this season.
3. Dallas Wings (from ATL): Maddy Siegrist, Villanova
The third pick is where the draft starts getting weird. The next three players are in the same tier for me, but I could see any number of players going third to Dallas. They go with Siegrist here to help make up for the losses of Allisha Gray and Marina Mabrey. Siegrist was one of the two best scorers in college basketball alongside Caitlin Clark this season. She can pour it in from anywhere and in many ways. When she has a smaller player on her, she can drag them down to the low block (particularly on the left side) and show them why she ranks in the 89th percentile in points per play in those situations, according to Synergy Sports. If she has a bigger/slower player on her, she can rise over them for an off-the-bounce jumper or come off screens for a catch-and-shoot opportunity. She’s deadly in both areas.
The concern for Siegrist is two-fold. She’s not very athletic on the WNBA level and will struggle to defend speedy wings, which is where she should play at the next level. She’s smart enough to play within a good defensive system, but it’d be surprising if she becomes a plus defender. The second issue is finding a place for Siegrist in the offense. Most teams don’t want a subpar defender just sitting in the corner and shooting. She’ll need to find a role where she can spot up and have opportunities to create her own shot. That may not happen for Siegrist as a rookie, but she has the goods to develop into a scoring machine in the W.
4. Washington Mystics (from LA via ATL): Jordan Horston, Tennessee
Horston might be the biggest boom or bust proposition in this year’s draft. At times, she’s absolutely electric on the ball. Her athleticism shines through when she explodes off screens to the rim or scoops up a loose ball to start a fast break. She has tremendous burst both in terms of speed and jumping ability. She also has the strength to muscle her way into the lane if necessary. Beyond her physical tools, her decision-making improved greatly this season as she logged the lowest turnover rate of her career by a wide margin. Her 2-point shooting and free throw shooting also peaked in her final season at Tennessee. She kept growing as a defensive playmaker with a steal rate and block rate in the 88th percentile, according to Her Hoop Stats.
Horston’s playmaking and athleticism land her in the lottery for me. But there are red flags with her that could scare off some teams. She’s inconsistent and can sometimes let bad plays linger, which leads to further mistakes and has affected her activity level. Inconsistency issues cropped up far less often this year than in previous years, so hopefully, she will move completely past them in the W. Her lateral quickness is not where you’d expect it to be given her athleticism and costs her on defense, particularly when trying to get around screens. The biggest issue is her lack of outside shooting. Horston will struggle to make an impact off the ball, at least initially. But she also doesn’t have the ball handling or vision to play point guard every night. Washington takes her for the upside and hopes that they can refine her skill set into a useful role, which seems like a good bet.
5. Dallas Wings (from PHX via CHI): Haley Jones, Stanford
After two-plus years of mentions next to Aliyah Boston, Jones falls to fifth in a pretty weak draft class. The biggest concern for Jones is her finishing. Last year, she shot an elite 69% at the rim on 115 attempts. She shot a pedestrian 55.1% on 136 rim attempts this year. Certainly, playing nearly every minute with a big (or two) in the post was not conducive to her scoring close to the basket. Unfortunately, that's all Jones can do offensively for now. She's abandoned three-pointers with only 33 attempts and three makes this season (9.1%). She has settled for more mid-rangers this year and has made the pull-ups on the left side at a good clip. But her shot doesn't inspire confidence.
On the bright side, Jones can probably get to the rim in the WNBA and will likely have more open looks with better spacing. She's a great passer and has elite feel for the game. Her athleticism is solid but not spectacular. If she develops more physically, she could be a giant point guard in the style of Alyssa Thomas. Even if she doesn’t, her understanding of the game could allow her to find a niche for herself.
6. Atlanta Dream (from NY via CT): Zia Cooke, South Carolina
I've been a big believer in Cooke for years. In her first two seasons, she shot almost 40% from three and seemed to make big plays every game for South Carolina. Her shooting numbers collapsed in what felt like a cruel joke from the basketball gods last year. But Cooke stuck with it, never wavered her defensive effort, and again came up with big plays all the time. This year, her shooting jumped back up to 36.9% on her highest volume of threes in college. Yet again, Cooke's defensive effort and nose for big plays remained evident. She's a gamer and helped prop up SC's tight offense into an elite unit.
There remain valid concerns about Cooke's play style. She takes a lot of contested twos and, while the Gamecocks' spacing forced her hand at times, many of those shots were forced. Her rim finishing is also a cause of concern. She's shooting 18% inside the restricted area, 9.1% lower than the D-I average for guards. Cooke has an extensive layup package, so some of her struggles can be attributed to the Gamecocks always having two bigs in the paint. But she also tries to do too much at times.
Cooke's future requires vision. She has already started cutting out the inefficient parts of her game, and it seems like South Carolina was asking her to do some of those things as the team’s best perimeter scorer. In the WNBA, she won’t be a team’s best perimeter scorer and will be free to take more spot-up threes while continuing to make winning plays. Like her teammate Aliyah Boston, Cooke is a hooper whom I’d bet on figuring it out.
7. Indiana Fever (from DAL): Taylor Mikesell, Ohio State
You can never have enough shooting in the modern era of basketball, and Mikesell will certainly bring you shooting. She’s the best shooter in the draft as she made 41.4% of the 280 threes she took this year. She was the only player in Division I to shoot over 40% on at least 250 three-point attempts in 2022-23. Her best work came in catch-and-shoot situations. She shot 42.9% on all catch-and-shoot attempts and a mind-boggling 49.2% on unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts. Her lightning-fast release should allow her to get those shots off in the WNBA just as well as she did in college. Teams will have to pay attention to her on the perimeter, especially with her knack for relocating into open spaces. She will provide gravity to any offense and that’s so valuable in the W.
On the flip side, Mikesell will struggle with the athleticism of WNBA players. She’s slow and doesn’t have great footwork. Offensively, this comes out when she has to attack hard closeouts. She often gets past the initial thrust of the defender only to find the defender back in front of her. To combat this, she has developed a decent floater that she can hit from the elbows and in the paint. Defensively, her lack of speed comes out kind of everywhere. She’s not a good screen navigator and teams will target her in pick-and-rolls. But she wants to play defense and understands what she’s supposed to do, which is important. The question will be whether she can bring enough offensively to overcome her defensive limitations.
8. Atlanta Dream (from WAS): Stephanie Soares, Iowa State
Here comes the homerun swing. Soares played just 294 minutes of NCAA Division I basketball in her career. After spending four years at The Master’s University in the NAIA, she transferred to Iowa State this season. For a brief moment in her stint with the Cyclones, Soares looked like an all-world, futuristic center who could bang down low in the post and hit from the perimeter. Then, she tore her ACL in her left knee. This was the second time she suffered the same injury on the same leg in three seasons. She’ll miss the entire 2023 WNBA season.
So why is she a first-round pick? For the same reason that gamblers place 14-part parlays. If it works out, the payoff is enormous. For a 6-foot-6 center, Soares has remarkable fluidity and nice touch. She also isn’t afraid to shoot from deep and cans them at a high enough clip to make defenses pay attention to her out there. Rim protection is probably her money skill for now, but there’s serious growth potential. Atlanta has a good team now, but its best days are ahead of them. Soares could be a piece of that bright future.
9. Seattle Storm: Taylor Soule, Virginia Tech
Soule may not have been on many people’s radars outside of the ACC coming into the year. But she should be now after a tremendous year with the Hokies. She’s one of the strongest and most athletic players in the draft. She’s listed at 5-foot-11 but honestly looks like she’s 6-foot-1, at least when you’re close to her. Her biggest contributions will come on the defensive end. She can definitely defend 1 through 4 at the next level, and I’d bet that she can defend a lot of centers as well. As a help defender, she seems to really understand where to be and how to make an impact.
Soule’s biggest negative is her shot. She’s not an outside threat and doesn’t figure to ever be a 3-point shooter. She’ll be able to get to the rim, which may be enough given her defensive value. But she has put a lot of work into her mid-range jumper, which has looked a lot better over the last two seasons. If she can shoot from 15-feet and do the things she’s great at, the Storm could be getting a steal here.
10. Los Angeles Sparks (from CT): Brea Beal, South Carolina
Beal is the third of four South Carolina “freshies” who have a chance to go in the first round. She projects as a wing at the next level and her length will give her an advantage over many of the league’s twos and threes. Her defense is the most lauded part of her game. She’s uber-aggressive on the ball and racks up blocks when guards try to drive on her. Caitlin Clark did expose some of her limitations as an on-ball defender, including screen navigation and defending too aggressively against faster players. Still, she’s a dynamite off-ball helper with great instincts that should make her a plus-defender.
Because of her defensive reputation, Beal’s offense might be a bit underrated. She hit 38 of her 100 three-point attempts during the regular season (I love when players take exactly 100 threes in a season). A lot of those attempts were open due to the attention that SC’s posts received. But it’s still impressive, especially in a draft where shooters with defensive skills are hard to find. She may not have the highest ceiling, but she seems like a great bet to contribute at the next level. Los Angeles needs wings and shooting, so Beal fits the bill.
11. Dallas Wings (from CHI via IND): Lou Lopez Sénéchal, UConn
Dallas may look for a draft-and-stash at this point. They’ll already have two rookies incoming from earlier in the first round. French big Maïa Hirsch seems like the best international prospect in this draft and might make sense for the Wings. However, the WNBA’s prioritization rules make the future murky for any international players, especially those in the French league that runs later into the WNBA season. It’d be a massive gamble to spend a first-rounder and development resources on a player who may be barred from playing in the WNBA within a few years.
The Wings grab Sénéchal here because she’s the best shooter available. She shot a ridiculous 44% from three on 175 attempts in her only season at UConn. She’s not fleet of foot or particularly strong, but she can probably do enough to find a role as a shooting specialist.
12. Minnesota Lynx (from LV): Elena Tsineke, South Florida
Honestly, you could throw a dart at a list of potential draftees, say that’s who the Lynx would draft, and I’d believe you. The aforementioned Hirsch, Laeticia Amihere, Grace Berger, Ashley Joens, or any number of players could make sense for Minnesota. They go with Tsineke here to get a lottery ticket at their biggest positional need: point guard.
She’s one of the best pick-and-roll operators in the draft. She can pull up from deep off screens as a 41.2% shooter on above-the-break threes this season. She’s also fast enough to burst to the rim and smart enough to find open shooters. She doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but she could be a capable point guard on both ends. At the end of the first round (especially this first round), that’s pretty much everything you could hope for.