WNBA mock draft: Fever win lottery, all eyes on South Carolina’s Boston as No. 1 pick

WNBA mock draft: Fever win lottery, all eyes on South Carolina’s Boston as No. 1 pick

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    M.A. VoepelESPN.com


      M.A. Voepel covers the WNBA and women’s college basketball for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The lottery balls finally went their way, and there’s little doubt which player the Indiana Fever will select with the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick .

The Fever had the highest odds (44.2%) of getting the No. The Fever was the first pick in the draft, an opportunity that the organization had never had before. That changed Friday as the Fever won the WNBA draft lottery, followed by the Minnesota Lynx, the Atlanta Dream and the Washington Mystics.

Tamika catchings, the No. 3 pick in 2001, is the best player in Fever history and one of the all-time greats in women’s basketball. But Indiana hasn’t made the playoffs since Catchings retired following the 2016 season.

The Fever have had draft success in that stretch with Kelsey Mitchell (No. 2 in 2018), Victoria Vivians (No. 8 in 2018), NaLyssa Smith (No. 2 in 2022) and Queen Egbo (No. 10 in 2022). Indiana is still trying to be competitive. This year, the Fever had an early season coaching change and a young team finished 5-31.

Seniors still have the option of coming back for a fifth season because of the pandemic-affected 2020-21 academic year, so there is no guarantee all of these players will make themselves eligible for the draft. But with the information we have now, here is an early projection of the first round of the draft, which is scheduled to be April 10, 2023.

First Round


1. Indiana Fever: Aliyah Boston

South Carolina Gamecocks | forward | 6-foot-5 | senior

She is the player the Fever badly need. Boston is the sure thing in the draft, provided she doesn’t surprise us by choosing to stay for a fifth season at college. This is not what we expected. Boston was the national player-of-the-year last season and is expected to repeat her feat, as well as the Gamecocks as national champions. She is the most professional-ready college player with her elite finishing skills, footwork, defensive ability, and savvy. With a general manager and a new coach focused on defense, the Fever can get a rookie post in Boston who is already able to defend at an elite pro level.


2. Minnesota Lynx: Haley Jones

Stanford Cardinal | guard | 6-foot-1 | senior

The Lynx missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010, and they must adjust to life without retired center Sylvia Fowles. The Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 NCAA tournament, Jones could be an elite playmaker at the next level, along with becoming a more dynamic scorer than she has been at Stanford. It is unfair to compare Jones to Maya Moore or Seimone Augustus, who were both No. Minnesota picked Jones as one of the top picks. But Jones could be a big guard/wing who makes her own legacy with the Lynx.


3. Atlanta Dream: Rickea Jackson

Tennessee Lady Vols | forward | 6-foot-2 | senior

After taking big guard Rhyne Howard with the No. The Dream may be looking to add a dynamic post player after taking Rhyne Howard chi as their No. 1 pick. Jackson is currently in her first season at Tennessee. She will likely have a significant impact on how far the Lady Vols go. After two coaching changes, she was the SEC’s top scorer. In her time with the Bulldogs, she averaged 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals. If she can have similar numbers this season, it will be good for the Lady Vols and her draft stock.


4. Washington Mystics: Diamond Miller

Maryland Terps | guard | 6-foot-3 | senior

The Mystics might stay close to home with this pick and get Maryland’s big guard. She was injured in Monday’s Terps opener. She also had injuries last season. Miller could be a strong player in transition with Washington if she has a healthy season. She also has room to improve on defense. Her progress in defense is crucial as the Mystics were the WNBA’s top defensive rating team last season. Her injury status will be a big key, but Miller’s talent and potential are not in doubt.


5. Chicago Sky: Charisma Osborne

UCLA Bruins | guard | 5-foot-9 | senior

Osborne was somewhat out of the spotlight with the Bruins missing the NCAA tournament last season, although they advanced to the WNIT semifinals. A solid offensive player, Osborne led the Bruins at 16.4 PPG last season. But she’s even better on defense, and the Sky could see her as an important addition on the perimeter after a disappointing end to their 2022 season with a playoff loss to Connecticut.


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Jordan Horston gets the and-1 to fall


6. New York Liberty: Jordan Horston

Tennessee Lady Vols | guard | 6-foot-2 | senior

Horston had a very good junior year cut short by an elbow injury, and expectations are high for her and Tennessee. She is a big, strong wing player with great defensive instincts. This could make her valuable to the Liberty. While turnovers and shot selection have been issues for Horston, she averaged 16.2 points last season, along with 9.4 rebounds. She suffered a leg injury in Tennessee’s victory Thursday that forced her to leave that game, but she has since been evaluated as day-to-day.


7. Indiana Fever: Aijha Blackwell

Baylor Bears | forward/guard | 5-foot-11 | senior

Blackwell is an outstanding rebounder, averaging 13.0 last season and 10.2 in her three years at Missouri. She is strong, quick, and has excellent instincts both offensively as well as defensively. Can she adapt to playing on the perimeter as she will in the pro game? Having former WNBA coach Nicki Collen guiding her this season at Baylor should be good preparation.


8. Atlanta Dream: Elizabeth Kitley

Virginia Tech Hokies | center | 6-foot-6 | senior

There is no guarantee that true centers can make the transition from college to today’s WNBA. Kitley was named ACC Player of Year last season. Last season, she averaged 18.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks; she had four or more blocks on nine occasions. Kitley needs to improve her strength and agility to be a legitimate low block threat and rim protector in WNBA. However, she has been steadily improving with the Hokies.


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Jacy Sheldon makes a sweet dish


9. Seattle Storm: Jacy Sheldon

Ohio State Buckeyes | guard | 6-foot-2 | senior

Any guard in the same conference as Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is likely to be overshadowed. Sheldon is a fun guard with a fearless approach to the basket and a savvy defense. These things are much more difficult in the WNBA. But last season, she averaged 19.7 PPG while shooting 50.4% from the field and recorded almost two steals per game.


10. Connecticut Sun: Ashley Joens

Iowa State Cyclones | forward/guard | 6-foot-1 | senior

The fifth-year senior has won the Cheryl Miller Award the past two season and takes pride in being a hardworking player who will do anything to help her team. Iowa State has not had many alums succeed in the WNBA (defense is often an issue), although Joens’ former teammate, Bridget Carleton (Lynx), has found a spot. Joens played a lot of 3-on-3 over this summer, and what she learned there could help her transition to the pro game.


11. Dallas Wings: Madi Williams

Oklahoma Sooners | forward | 6-foot-0 | senior

The fifth-year senior flourished last season in the offensive system of new coach Jennie Baranczyk, averaging 18.0 points. Williams has been a strong offensive player throughout her career with the Sooners. She also has a great motor. Defense is neither her nor Oklahoma’s strength, but she is a dependable rebounder (7.5 RPG last season).


12. Minnesota Lynx: Celeste Taylor

Duke Blue Devils | guard | 5-foot-11 | senior

After spending her first two seasons at Texas, Taylor transferred and averaged 11.0 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Blue Devils. Vic Schaefer, Longhorns coach, helped Taylor learn defense and that’s something she brought with her to Duke. Taylor can improve in many areas as a senior, including reducing turnovers. If she does that, she could be in the first round.

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