Last night, the 2019 WNBA Draft took place and there were a handful of teams that needed to execute the perfect strategy in order to resurrect their franchises.
Coming into draft night, the spotlight was on the Minnesota Lynx and how they would address the absence of Maya Moore. Another team that faced pressure — outside of the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever and Chicago Sky — was the Dallas Wings.
In 2018, the Dallas Wings clinched a berth in the WNBA Playoffs after finishing the season 15-19. After the season, franchise guard Skylar Diggins-Smith announced via social media that she was pregnant.
Obviously, welcoming a newborn into a family is an amazing gift and it will be life-changing for Diggins-Smith and her family. On the other hand, the absence of the franchise playmaker will drastically affect the makeup and direction of the franchise.
In early January, the Wings’ roster took another hit when star center Liz Cambage requested a trade. Without Diggins-Smith in the locker room, and Cambage most likely on her way out, new head coach Brian Agler has his work cut out for him.
Needless to say, last night’s draft redirected the Wings into a positive direction. Dallas entered the draft with four picks and selected Arike Ogunbowale (5th overall), Megan Gustafson (17th overall), Kennedy Burke (22nd overall) and Morgan Bertsch (29th overall).
Clearly, there are other teams that made out well on draft night, too, but the Dallas Wings are the winners of the 2019 WNBA Draft, for these reasons:
Bolstered backcourt depth
The selection of Ogunbowale and Burke added depth to a backcourt that has struggled to produce offensively at times (outside of Diggins-Smith).
For the last two NCAA Tournaments, Ogunbowale has constructed arguably two of the most clutch postseason performances ever. The Wings drafted a guard who is not afraid of the big lights, understands the game, plays on both ends of the floor and is truly hungry for more.
Ogunbowale finished her senior year averaging 21.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. The Notre Dame product will instantly impact this team with her ability to run the offense, score and run the fast break. Not to mention, both she and Diggins-Smith are two of the top scorers in Notre Dame history.
On the flip side, drafting Burke will help this team with scoring. Over the years, the UCLA product has continued to improve her offensive game.
Burke’s ability to get out on the break to catch and shoot will help this team tremendously. She is a durable player who can rebound at a high level at the guard position. The UCLA product does a great job of using her strength against smaller guards and she understands how to take advantage of mismatches.
Entering the draft, Burke averaged 15.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The 6-foot-1 guard is still developing but, assuming she makes the roster, she will be able to contribute to this team right away.
Both guard selections in the draft will help now and in the future, once Diggins-Smith returns. It’s safe to say that Ogunbowale and Diggins-Smith will be a lethal backcourt pair at some point.
Enter Megan Gustafson
The Wings’ selection of Gustafson was probably one of the most underrated picks during the draft. Dallas Wings general manager Greg Bibb deserves a pat on the back for his work last night.
At this point, Cambage could be traded at any moment. Of course, Dallas would welcome her with open arms if she decided to say. But the reality is that the franchise needed to draft for the future, and for security purposes.
Drafting Gustafson provides this team with immediate help in the frontcourt, a skilled forward that can dominate the glass, score and get her teammates involved.
Gustafson finished her amazing career at Iowa by averaging a double-double, (27.8 points and 13.4 rebounds) while winning the Naismith Women’s College Player of the Year award.
Throughout her senior season, the former Hawkeyes forward amazed the world with her solid footwork, soft touch around the rim and ability to lead her team.
Selecting the Iowa product will help restructure Dallas’ depleted frontcourt and, along with the other selections the team made, entice Cambage to stay (although the possibility would be small).
Either way, the addition of Gustafson will allow Dallas to move forward with another anchor down low and helped the franchise to possibly acquire another star when, or if, they trade Cambage.
Floor spacing is key
Another component that Dallas addressed during the draft was three-point shooting. With the Wings last pick in the draft, the franchise selected Morgan Bertsch out of UC Davis.
Bertsch is the first UC Davis player to be drafted by the WNBA which speaks to her raw talent and ability. However, she will have to compete for a roster spot, but will most likely make the team.
This selection helps the Wings with size, shooting and frontcourt depth. Teams want to emulate and copy the formula that the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm have with bigs that can stretch the floor and shoot the three.
Bertsch can flat-out score and will help this team pick up its offensive productivity. While playing against Sacramento State earlier in the season, the 6-foot-4 forward scored 40 points in a 109-60 win.
The California native will provide Dallas with another three-point option along with Ogunbowale (35.9 percent). At the end of her senior season, Bertsch shot 47.9 percent from three while averaging 23.6 points and 6 rebounds.
Ending the draft by selecting Bertsch was a smart move for the Wings as they look to bounce back from last season and prepare to play without both of their star players in Diggins-Smith and Cambage. All four selections will help this team move forward right now, while also allowing the franchise to build for the future.
In the 2019 WNBA Draft, Dallas addressed its needs for size, offense, speed and future franchise players. Although there are other teams that improved drastically last night, the picks by the Dallas Wings give their team a chance to truly soar.