WNBA mock draft 2022, version 1.0: Should Rhyne Howard or NaLyssa Smith go No. 1 overall?

ByMechelle Voepel ESPN logo
Thursday, December 16, 2021

The WNBA draft lottery on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App) will tell us which team gets to set the tone with the first pick in the 2022 draft.

The four teams in the lottery are the Indiana Fever, Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics and Dallas Wings.

Lottery odds are based on the cumulative records of the two most recent regular seasons (2020 and 2021). With a cumulative record of 12-42, the Fever will have the most chances to land the top pick (442 out of 1,000) and are guaranteed at least the third pick.

For now, our mock draft includes only seniors, although there are some draft-eligible juniors, such as Kansas State center Ayoka Lee and Florida Gulf Coast guard Kierstan Bell, who might enter the mix in subsequent updates.

The 2021 WNBA rookie class for the most part struggled to make an impact for a variety of reasons, including injuries and the fact that they need more time to develop as pro players.

This season, there are some prospects with high ceilings -- perhaps not a guaranteed franchise-changer like we saw with 2018 top pick A'ja Wilson, but players with the ability to make a difference in 2022.

Let's take a look at how the first round might shape up. We list the first four picks in order of their odds in the lottery.

First round

1. Indiana Fever: Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky

There is no question the 6-foot-2 senior has the skills. But does she have the mindset and consistency to become a franchise-changing player? The Fever have never had a No. 1 pick. Lauren Cox, Indiana's pick at No. 3 overall in 2020, was released last season and went to Los Angeles. Kysre Gondrezick, whom the Fever took at No. 4 in 2021, played in 19 games and then took a personal leave of absence.

2. Atlanta Dream: NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor

Her explosiveness around the basket is electric, as her double-double average (20.4 PPG, 13.2 RPG) shows. The question with Smith is her face-up game. But she has been working on that, including from 3-point range, where she is 3-of-10 this season. The Dream are under a new coach (Tanisha Wright) and general manager (Dan Padover) as the franchise tries to remake itself after a challenging past few years.

3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin, F/C, Ole Miss

Austin's scoring average (13.6 PPG) and shooting percentage (45.0) are down from last season, but that might reflect her efforts to expand her range. That's necessary for moving into the WNBA. At 6-5, she is also a very good defensive player, averaging 2.3 blocks and 2.3 steals per game.

4. Dallas Wings: Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan

Hillmon has become one of the more consistent scoring forwards in the college game, and she has shot 60.2% from the field during her career. But at 6-2, there are questions about how effective she will be with limited range. By the same token, the ability of Dallas' current guards to spread the floor could make Hillmon a good fit to join the Wings' post game.

5. New York Liberty: Elissa Cunane, C, NC State

Cunane is a strong presence on the low block who has shot 54% from the field and nearly 80% from the line in her career. And Cunane shoots the 3-pointer just enough -- she has made 36-of-88 (40.9%) in her career -- for that to be an asset at the next level, too. Cunane doesn't block many shots but is still a strong defensive player. She could give the Liberty size, strength and another target inside.

6. Dallas Wings: Rae Burrell, F, Tennessee

Burrell suffered a knee injury on Nov. 10 in the Lady Vols' season opener and hasn't played since. Tennessee said it isn't an ACL tear but has been vague about the exact nature of the injury. Coach Kellie Harper said there might be more clarity next week. Still, the 6-1 wing, who averaged 16.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season, has shown when healthy that she has WNBA-level talent.

7. Chicago Sky: Destanni Henderson, G, South Carolina

Henderson is also currently injured but is expected back. Her quickness, ability to run the point, get to the rim and shoot from behind the arc could make her a good candidate to join the defending WNBA champion Sky.

8. Minnesota Lynx: Evina Westbrook, G, UConn

At 6-0, Westbrook has good size for a true perimeter player and already has the maturity level of a pro. With all of UConn's injury woes, Westbrook has been the most consistent and calming presence. Her 10.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 4.1 APG show her ability to always find ways to help the Huskies. And players chosen from UConn have worked very well for the Lynx.

9. Seattle Storm: Ashley Joens, G, Iowa State

Joens is a flat-out scorer (20.2 PPG), and she also leads the Cyclones in rebounding (9.5). The obvious comparison for Joens is another former Cyclone, Bridget Carleton, who is also a 6-1 guard/forward who was the driving force in Iowa State's attack. Carleton didn't make much impact as a WNBA rookie in 2019 but found a niche the past two seasons with the Lynx.

10. Indiana Fever: Christyn Williams, G, UConn

The up-and-down nature of Williams' performance at UConn has been a frustration for her. But Williams at her best is a guard with speed and size who can play downhill. When she's also hitting 3-point shots and is engaged defensively, Williams is a game-changer. The Fever already have impactful guards, but if Williams is still available this late, they might not want to pass on her.

11. Las Vegas Aces: Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern

Coach Bill Laimbeer likes savvy, tough defensive guards, and Burton is a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year for the Wildcats. She has averaged 11.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.2 steals in her career and could be a good addition for an Aces team that fell short in the semifinals this past season.

12. Connecticut Sun: Lexie Hull, G, Stanford

The 6-1 Hull can do everything well -- score, pass, rebound, defend -- and she could give the Sun another 3-point option and big-guard threat.