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Three questions leading up to the 2018 WNBA Draft in New York City

Christopher Hanewinckel

On Thursday, the WNBA announced that 10 prospects will attend the 2018 WNBA Draft in New York City. South Carolina forward A’ja Wilson, who is projected to be the first overall pick to the Las Vegas Aces, headlines the group of 10 women who will attend.

Here is a list of the attending prospects:

  1. Monique Billings, F, UCLA
  2. Lexie Brown, G, Duke
  3. Jordin Canada, G, UCLA
  4. Diamond DeShields, G, Cukurova (Turkish KBSL)*
  5. Kelsey Mitchell, G, Ohio State
  6. Kia Nurse, G, Connecticut
  7. Azura Stevens, F, Connecticut
  8. Victoria Vivians, G, Mississippi State
  9. Gabby Williams, F, Connecticut
  10. A’ja Wilson, F, South Carolina

*DeShields played her college basketball at North Carolina (2013-14) and later at Tennessee (2014-17). She went pro in 2017, but was ruled ineligible for the WNBA last year.

The 2018 WNBA Draft will be on Thursday, April 18, 2018 at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the draft on ESPN2 for the first round while the second and third rounds will be on ESPNU starting at about 8 p.m. ET. The ESPN App will stream all rounds live.

The Nike New York Headquarters will host this draft. It opened last June and will take place at an indoor basketball court within the facility. If you’re wondering where it is, the Nike New York Headquarters is near Koreatown in Manhattan on 32nd Street and Broadway. But the event is closed to the public.

Now that we have the initial draft news out of the way, here are three questions to think about over the coming days as we head to the WNBA Draft itself:

How will Azura Stevens’ draft announcement affect the order?

Most WNBA mock drafts until this week didn’t include Stevens because she still had one year of college eligibility remaining. However, Stevens had a great redshirt junior season in Storrs and is on track to graduate this year. Therefore, it also makes sense for Stevens to go pro early from that perspective.

The mock drafts are trending toward Stevens being a lottery pick, though probably toward fourth. But I’m wondering if that’s only going to create an overload in the frontcourt. Stefanie Dolson is coming off a breakout season where she made an All-Star appearance, but Chicago also signed Alaina Coates, the 2nd pick of last year’s draft who also plays in the post.

Stevens could play alongside Dolson or Coates in big lineups, but it will be interesting to see how the post situation in Chicago plays itself out because Amber Harris, Cheyenne Parker, Adut Bulgak, and new acquisition Astou Ndour also play in the post.

Where will Maria Vadeeva get drafted?

There is a fair amount of of buzz around Vadeeva, a 20 year old Russian prodigy from Dynamo Kursk of the Russian PBL. At Dynamo, she regularly starts alongside Nneka Ogwumike and Angel McCoughtry. Vadeeva will not attend the draft, probably because they are playing in the PBL semifinals next week.

Vadeeva is not simply a passive bystander to Ogwumike and McCoughtry though. Here are video highlights of her 21 point performance in a EuroLeague Women group stage match against Turkish KBSL power Galatasaray:

Paul Nilsen of FIBA writes that Vadeeva is worthy of being the top pick in the WNBA Draft, but she probably won’t be picked that high. If there is a reason why WNBA General Managers are hesitant to pick Vadeeva, it is because of international team commitments that pop up for the World Cup and Olympics in even numbered years or continental tournaments in odd numbered years.

Russia is not in this year’s FIBA Women’s World Cup after they fizzled out in EuroBasket Women last year. Because of that, there is a higher chance that Vadeeva will test the WNBA waters, if she is drafted. Still, the mock drafts generally have her going in the second half of the first round, but they weren’t unanimous in the mock WNBA draft roundup which Linxlink posted on Thursday.

I find that unfortunate. The NBA is becoming a truly worldwide league. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis, and Rudy Gobert are just some of the many European stars in today’s NBA. But in the WNBA, Mystics forward Emma Meesseman is the only non-naturalized European player to play a major role on a team in the last few years. And Meesseman herself won’t be stateside this season because of the same international team issues that creep up all too regularly nowadays.

Will we see Nike’s WNBA uniforms on Draft Day?

WNBA Draft picks traditionally hold a jersey when their names are called. We are in Nike’s New York Headquarters. So it makes sense that we will see what the 12 teams’ uniforms will look like next week. Nike will outfit the WNBA’s uniforms starting this season.

That said, Nike was quite slow releasing the designs of NBA uniforms until last fall. The reason why was primarily because the NBA’s uniform contract officially changed last September. The WNBA uniforms are also part of that.

We got a sneak preview of the warm up and practice uniform (?) designs on Thursday when the WNBA released a video of Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith at a WNBA promotional video-shoot:

Ultimately, we don’t know what the uniforms themselves look like just yet, but I hope we see them next week when players are called. I also hope there is more variety in the designs than past years.

Now that the WNBA Draft is almost here, what are your thoughts on the event and the WNBA offseason? Let us know in the comments below.