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WNBA Draft Preview: Beyond the first round

Let’s take a look at the teams who don’t have a first-round pick in the WNBA Draft and break down their options.

2021 WNBA Playoffs - Phoenix Mercury v Seattle Storm Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA Draft ignites hope in all of us. All teams see opportunity and optimism with their draft picks, scouting reports, and a new season on the horizon.

Alas, that optimism is already tempered for a few teams with a lack of a first-round pick. And those teams are the Chicago Sky, Phoenix Mercury, and Seattle Storm. So while everyone is writing about the top prospects, and making elaborate mock drafts, today we are going to zag. We're going to look at the teams without a first-round pick and look at the draft from their perspective. What are their goals and options, and what will they be looking to accomplish on draft night?

Phoenix Mercury

The Mercury had a very successful 2021 campaign making it to WNBA Finals and falling short against the Chicago Sky. Although they don't have a top draft pick, they do have a couple of third-round picks that could prove helpful. Their first pick in this draft is 26th, and I think they should go for at least one big with their third-round options. Jenna Staiti from Georgia fits exactly what the Mercury could use: A scoring center with great rebounding ability. If she's available at 26, they should jump at the opportunity of drafting her.

Mercury's next and last pick is at 32, and this far down the draft, your options will be pretty limited. Despite having so many guards, I'd say you go for the best player and take a chance. Kianna Smith from Lousiville would be a nice pickup for Phoenix. She's an automatic bucket, a winner, and a veteran leader for Louisville, all things a team with championship aspirations could use.

Seattle Storm

Seattle might not have a first-round pick, but they stocked up on second-round options. They have three picks in the second, including two back-to-back selections and a third-round pick for good measure. So despite not having a top 12 selection, they'll have plenty of chances of drafting well from this year's pool. So, with the 17th pick, who will the Storm select?

How about Jade Melbourne? She's a 19-year-old guard from Australia with tremendous upside. She wouldn't be asked to carry the team or be a leader, as the Storm have plenty of that with Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, but she can grow and learn behind some of the best players in the game. Some mock drafts have her going in the first, and others have her as a low second, so it's uncertain if she'll be available at 17, but if she is, the Storm should strongly consider it.

The Storm also pick at 18, and as a bit of a zag from the guard options, what if the Storm draft Queen Egbo? She's a dominant defensive center from Baylor, and I think she's WNBA ready. She could immediately make an impact and help a team like the Storm that is trying to maximize the time they have left with Bird.

The next pick of the WNBA Draft the Storm have is at 21. Truly remarkable they were able to get so many picks bunched up together. Khayla Pointer from LSU should be available at 21. She averaged 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game for the Lady Tigers and has the athleticism and explosiveness to be effective in the W even if she lacks some size.

And finally, the last selection the Storm have is at 33. Aisha Sheppard from Virginia Tech should be available and her 13.3 points and her size at 5’9 makes her a nice guard prospect. The Storm might not have a top pick but four picks in a deep draft means they’ll have plenty of opportunities to draft an impactful player.

Chicago Sky

The defending champs are the only team in the WNBA with zero draft picks. So, they will just be observers in this draft unless they make a trade. Maybe they'll pick up someone undrafted later on, and you never know who gets cut and is made available in the future, but for now, the champs will be watching the draft like the rest of us on Monday evening.