Aliyah Boston and Diamond Miller are expected to go one-two to the Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx, respectively, to kick off the 2023 WNBA Draft on Monday night in New York.
Beyond that, it’s wide open.
The Fever won the top pick in the draft lottery after finishing a franchise-worst 5-31 last season. They have missed the playoffs six years running and have reached double-digit wins only once in that span.
Picking Boston would provide Indiana with an infusion of star power. The 6-foot-5 forward/center was the centerpiece of a dominant South Carolina team the past four years; she was the consensus National Player of the Year in 2021-22 and won back-to-back Naismith Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Fever general manager Lin Dunn lauded Boston’s talent while keeping her team’s plans close to the vest.
“I think Aliyah Boston is a legitimate first pick option,” Dunn said in a pre-draft conference call. “I’ve watched her play very closely this year. Her size, her basketball IQ, her character, her leadership skills. She just brings an enormous amount to the table, and I really think she’s going to have — whether she’s picked first, second or third — she’s going to have an immediate impact on this league.”
Miller, a shooting guard, was an all-around star in her fourth year at Maryland, averaging 19.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
“(The Lynx) need a post, they need a point guard, and I think neither of those things matters when you pick second. You pick who is the best available,” ESPN basketball analyst Rebecca Lobo told reporters. “… Even if Minnesota doesn’t necessarily have the need for that position this year, I would expect that’s what they take.”
Lobo pointed out that Lynx shooting guards Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride are unrestricted free agents after 2023, which could create a path for Miller there.
The Dallas Wings have collected three first-rounders (Nos. 3, 5, 11), and some prominent mock drafts have the Wings selecting Maddy Siegrist at either No. 3 or 5. The Villanova forward had a 50-point game in February and became the fifth woman in Division I history to score 1,000 points in a season. Iowa’s Caitlyn Clark later increased the total to six.
Wings president Greg Bibb said Siegrist’s skill set could complement the core of his team’s roster.
“Certainly, she’s a proven offensive threat,” Bibb said. “I think she’s a little underestimated in terms of her defensive ability and her overall athleticism.”
The Washington Mystics pick fourth. The Atlanta Dream own the sixth and eighth picks, and Indiana gets a second first-rounder at No. 7. The Seattle Sounders, Los Angeles Sparks, Wings and Lynx sit at Nos. 9-12 to round out the first of three rounds (36 selections in all).
But when the regular season begins, a maximum of 144 players will be on active WNBA rosters. Each of the 12 teams’ rosters are capped at 12; they often carry only 11. Until the league expands, it’s especially difficult for rookies to stick.
Analysts say it isn’t a draft heavy on bigs, with Iowa State’s Stephanie Soares the only center likely to go in the first round. There’s more depth at shooting guard, like Stanford’s Haley Jones, Tennessee’s Jordan Horston, UConn’s Lou Lopez Senechal and Ohio State’s Taylor Mikesell.
LSU guard Alexis Morris improved her draft stock during the NCAA Tournament, averaging 23.0 points and 4.3 assists per game over the final three rounds as the Tigers won the national title.
“There’s several others that could (have an immediate impact), depending on fit,” ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said. “And that’s really what this draft is about, is getting to the right team and having an opportunity and what those team needs may be.”
–Field Level Media