WNBA mock draft 2022, version 5.0: Will Baylor's NaLyssa Smith or Kentucky's Rhyne Howard go No. 1?

ByMechelle Voepel ESPN logo
Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Less than a week before the 2022 WNBA draft, the No. 1 overall pick has traded hands. The Atlanta Dream now own it after making a deal Wednesday with the Washington Mystics, who won the draft lottery in December. Atlanta will call out the first name Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the draft in New York.

The Dream are under new management -- owners, general manager and coach all coming in last year -- after missing the playoffs four of the past five seasons. Atlanta, which had the No. 3 pick, swaps that with Washington. The Mystics also get the No. 14 pick in the second round, along with the right to switch 2023 first-round picks with Los Angeles, as the Dream have the rights to that pick.

The top two picks have seemed set for several months, but there's still some debate whether the Baylor Bears' NaLyssa Smith or the Kentucky Wildcats' Rhyne Howard will go No. 1 overall.

The Indiana Fever have four first-round picks, and how new general manager Lin Dunn and the Fever opt to use their selections will have a big impact on the rest of the first round.

Most of the seniors who were expected to be first-round picks declared for the draft, although the Iowa State Cyclones' Ashley Joens and South Carolina Gamecocks' Victaria Saxton -- who was projected to go in the second round -- opted to stay for a fifth college season. We have two draft-eligible juniors projected to go in the first round.

With just 12 WNBA teams and 144 roster spots, even being a first-round pick doesn't guarantee a player will make a roster. It's harder for second-round picks, and harder still for those in the third round. But at least on Monday night, they all can experience the excitement of being drafted.

First round

1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard

Kentucky | guard | 6-foot-2 | senior

Howard finished the season averaging 20.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG. At 6-foot-2 with 284 career 3-pointers, she has a chance to be a really difficult matchup with her size on the perimeter. Howard has gone back and forth between No. 1 and No. 2 in draft projections. The Dream clearly made the deal they did because they wanted someone specifically. And if it's Howard, then she has the chance to be a pillar for the Dream to build around.

2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith

Baylor | forward | 6-foot-4 | senior

The Fever are looking to get better on defense, and they might load up on posts with their top picks. Smith, who averaged 22.1 PPG and 11.5 RPG this season, is a forward who has scored most of her points in the paint, but working with coach Marianne Stanley should help her stretch her game to being more positionless. Smith's motor is always running high, another plus defensively.

3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin

Ole Miss | center | 6-foot-5 | senior

Austin averaged 15.2 PPG and 9.0 RPG this season. It seems the Mystics made the trade to move down from No. 1 because they were comfortable with any of the top three projected players. Austin has the capacity to be a low-block star of the future but also expand her game. Playing alongside the likes of Elena Delle Donne and for coach Mike Thibault will help with that.

4. Indiana Fever: Nyara Sabally

Oregon | center/forward | 6-foot-5 | redshirt junior

Because of injuries, Sabally played just 47 career games with the Ducks, averaging 14.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG. But the potential she has at 6-5 to be a big influence on the Fever's offense and defense -- both of which could use a boost -- might be enough for Indiana to take the chance on her as a lottery pick despite the injury concerns.

5. New York Liberty: Elissa Cunane

NC State | center | 6-foot-5 | senior

Cunane finished her Wolfpack career averaging 14.8 PPG and 7.9 RPG. She also made 112 3-pointers, shooting 41.1% from behind the arc. The Liberty went for a center in free agency, getting Stefanie Dolson, 30, who is coming off a championship season with Chicago. But adding more size with Cunane, who has shown offensive versatility, makes sense, too.

6. Indiana Fever: Emily Engstler

Louisville | forward | 6-foot-1 | senior

Engstler made a big impact in her one season at Louisville, helping lead the Cardinals to the program's fourth Final Four. She averaged 11.9 PPG and 9.4 RPG and plays bigger than 6-1. Her constant energy, ability to disrupt the passing lanes and defensive grit should make her appealing to Fever general manager Dunn, who wants better defense.

7. Dallas Wings: Rae Burrell

Tennessee | guard/forward | 6-foot-1 | senior

An early-season injury impacted Burrell's season, but she still averaged 12.3 PPG and 3.9 RPG. Last season, Burrell's numbers were 16.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG, and she shot just over 40% from 3-point range. The Wings have good size inside at center and power forward, with Arike Ogunbowale leading their guard corps. Burrell could give them more size and depth at wing.

8. Minnesota Lynx: Sika Kone

Mali | center | 6-foot-3

Kone is just 19, and it could help her to spend a season with all-time great Sylvia Fowles, who is retiring after the 2022 season. Kone would be a pick based on her promising potential, which could be enough for the Lynx to take her over any of the remaining college players.

9. Los Angeles Sparks: Kierstan Bell

Florida Gulf Coast | guard | 6-foot-1 | junior

Bell, an Ohio State transfer, averaged 23.6 PPG and 9.4 RPG in two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast, while making 143 3-pointers. The strong guard could help the Sparks' perimeter offense.

10. Indiana Fever: Destanni Henderson

South Carolina | guard | 5-foot-7 | senior

If Henderson is still available, the Fever will be happy to add her as both a defensive spark plug and someone who can be a game-changer on offense. We saw evidence of both at the Final Four, as Henderson helped keep UConn's Paige Bueckers in check while leading the Gamecocks in scoring.

11. Las Vegas Aces: Naz Hillmon

Michigan| forward | 6-foot-2 | senior

Concern over Hillmon's lack of shooting range might prevent her from going higher, but her relentless rebounding and work ethic could be a boost to the Aces, who can benefit from some more depth at forward.

12. Connecticut Sun: Christyn Williams

UConn | guard | 5-foot-11 | senior

Williams struggled against South Carolina's defense in the national championship game -- going 1-of-7 from the field for two points -- but she averaged 14.2 PPG this season and might find her best days ahead as a professional.

Second round

13. Minnesota Lynx: Evina Westbrook, G, UConn

14. Washington Mystics: Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern

15. Atlanta Dream: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, UConn

16. Los Angeles Sparks: Lorela Cubaj, F, Georgia Tech

17. Seattle Storm: Nia Clouden, G, Michigan State

18. Seattle Storm: Jade Melbourne, G, Australia

19. Los Angeles Sparks: Queen Egbo, C, Baylor

20. Indiana Fever: Jenna Staiti, C, Georgia

21. Seattle Storm: Lexie Hull, G, Stanford

22. Minnesota Lynx: Maya Dodson, F, Notre Dame

23. Las Vegas Aces: Khayla Pointer, G, LSU

24. Connecticut Sun: Mya Hollingshed, F, Colorado

Third round

25. Indiana Fever: Jordan Lewis, G, Baylor

26. Phoenix Mercury: Ameshya Williams-Holliday, C, Jackson State

27. Los Angeles Sparks: Kianna Smith, G, Louisville

28. Minnesota Lynx: Reka Dombai, G, Hungary

29. New York Liberty: Chloe Bibby, F, Maryland

30. Dallas Wings: Vivian Gray, F, Texas Tech

31. Dallas Wings: Joanne Allen-Taylor, G, Texas

32. Phoenix Mercury: Jasmine Dickey, F, Delaware

33. Seattle Storm: Hannah Sjerven, F, South Dakota

34. Indiana Fever: Aisha Sheppard, G, Virginia Tech

35. Las Vegas Aces: Macee Williams, F, IUPUI

36. Connecticut Sun: Kayla Wells, G, Texas A&M

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