The 2017 WNBA Draft is over, and it’s time to discuss some of the winners and more surprising things that went down in New York on Thursday night.
If you need a refresher, here’s the draft order from the first round:
1. San Antonio – Kelsey Plum
2. Chicago – Alaina Coates
3. Dallas – Evelyn Akhator
4. Dallas – Allisha Gray
5. San Antonio – Nia Coffey
6. Washington – Shatori Walker-Kimbrough
7. Atlanta – Brittney Sykes
8. Connecticut – Brionna Jones
9. Chicago – Tori Jankoksa
10. Dallas – Kaela Davis
11. Los Angeles – Sydney Wiese
12. Minnesota – Alexis Jones
Obviously, the big winners here at first glance are both Texas teams. Breaking down San Antonio’s two picks, the Stars decided to stick with two high-octane scorers in Washington’s Kelsey Plum and Northwestern’s Nia Coffey.
Plum was pretty much the consensus overall number one pick, especially among Swish Appeal staffers. Yes, the Stars just drafted Moriah Jefferson last year, but Plum is the all-time leading scorer in the history of NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball, and the Stars need that kind of help after going 7-27 last season.
San Antonio stuck with that scoring theme with picking Coffey, who averaged 20 points and just over 10 rebounds for the Wildcats this past season. She showed remarkable consistency as a scorer from her freshman year on, when she averaged a career-low 15.3 points.
To compete in the hyper-competitive Western Conference it’s clear that the Stars needed some help on the offensive end, and in Plum and Coffey they got two players who can contribute right away.
In fact, there were plenty rumors swirling that Coffey could go higher than five, so it’s practically a bargain that she was still available for the Stars.
Moving on to Dallas, who came away perhaps the second biggest winners for me. They were just above the Stars in the Western Conference standings, only winning 11 games in 2016.
There was some surprise as they went with Evelyn Akhator at the No. 3 pick, but again, rumors were swirling online that she would go in the first round even though she wasn’t at the draft.
Akhator is a big body at 6’3” and she finished her senior season averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds for Kentucky. She is someone who can do the dirty work down low for Dallas while still contributing on offense.
To round out their first round picks, the Wings picked two players whose stock rose the most in the NCAA tournament: Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis.
Dallas fans should be excited given how well these two play together, and how much they stepped up in the wake of Alaina Coates’ injury. Both Gray and Davis offer a toughness that is intangible. While I think Gray, Davis and Akhator will need some time to develop, they all have the natural abilities and instinct that are hard to teach.
On top of their three first round picks, their other notable selection was UConn’s Saniya Chong in the third round. Chong is obviously someone who knows how to win, after all she only lost two games in her college career. While Dallas is set at point guard position with Skylar Diggins-Smith as their starter, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chong contribute as a role player.
And now, on to the team that has had possibly the most discussion during this off-season: the Chicago Sky.
The Sky came away with Alaina Coates at the No. 2 pick. Coates is a player who has the ability to make an impact as soon as she is integrated into the offense. I think the gamble for Chicago here is how soon/well her ankle will heal following surgery. If all goes according to plan, they will have one of the most effective high-low players the game has to offer.
Another surprise came when the Sky drafted Michigan State guard Tori Jankoska at nine. With Cappie Pondexter, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot on the roster, it’s unclear to me how effective Jankoska will be immediately.
Another questionable pick for me came when they drafted Chantel Osahor in the second round. Osahor dropped a lot further than I thought, (I legitimately thought she had a chance to go in the first round based on her 15.3 rpg average) but with Coates as well as Stefanie Dolson, it's unclear how Osahor will fit on this team; in fact, it might be a struggle for her to make the roster given that the other centers on the team are a lot quicker than her in the full court.
My last big observation of the night comes from the Washington Mystics first round pick. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is a steal for them in the six spot. There were times this season when I thought Walker-Kimbrough could go as high as two.
With the additions of Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, I have written about the type of basketball Washington is looking to play: fast. Walker-Kimbrough fits the bill. Maryland loved to get out in transition and run with her at the helm.
Walker-Kimbrough wasn’t their primary point guard, but she has the mentality of one as far as knowing how all the moving parts work and pushing the offense to move as fast as possible while still being effective. She also knows how to score the ball and averaged 19 ppg in her final season.
Walker-Kimbrough will also have the added benefit of learning from Toliver and Tayler Hill about what it takes to be a successful guard at the next level. Basketball fans in the DMV area should be glad that they will get to watch SWK develop in her professional career.
Finally some stray observations:
-It was a good move for the Sparks to draft Sydney Wiese at 11. The Sparks will need some help when it comes to three-pointers now that Toliver is gone, and Wiese averaged 41 percent.
-With the addition Maryland’s Brionna Jones, the Connecticut Sun will now have three talented young post players (the other two being Jonquel Jones and Chiney Ogwumike). I was surprised Jones was still around at eight, but she will be a welcome addition on the offensive end for the Sun.