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2019 WNBA Draft Analysis: Connecticut Sun adds frontcourt depth

The Sun enter the 2019 season as favorites to be one of the WNBA’s top teams. Despite not having a particularly favorable position in last week’s draft, the Sun was still able to snag some talented players.

The Sun drafted California forward/center Kristine Anigwe with the No. 9 overall pick.
Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS via Getty Images

Headed into the draft, it wasn’t obvious what the Connecticut Sun were going to do. They’re a young, deep team. And with their first draft pick coming at No. 9 overall, it was likely their course of action would depend mostly upon what the teams ahead of them did.

For the Sun, that’s exactly how the 2019 WNBA Draft played out. They were able to draft a couple of players who fell further than expected, as well as make a mid-draft trade, swapping reserve point guards with Minnesota.

Anigwe, Carleton fall into the Sun’s rays

The first of the Sun’s 2019 draft picks, the 6-foot-4 Anigwe, is the perfect example of a highly-rated player falling to a team that simply couldn’t pass on her. With wing players like Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier already off the board, Connecticut decided to bolster its frontcourt by picking the athletic center.

With All-Star talents Chiney Ogwumike and Jonquel Jones getting the lion’s share of the Sun’s minutes at center — and Alyssa Thomas functioning more as a power forward than a small forward — there isn’t an immediately apparent fit on this roster for Anigwe. The NCAA’s rebounding leader (16.2 rebounds per game and 26.5 percent total rebounding rate, per Her Hoop Stats) will likely find herself on the bench as the season opens. But this will give her the opportunity to adjust to defending WNBA-level ball screen action and the overall speed of the professional game.

Even so, Anigwe’s physical tools and potential made her a must-draft player at No. 9. But it’s going to be difficult for the Sun to keep all of the aforementioned players (as well as forward Morgan Tuck), as the next wave of free agency hits. And, in a worst-case scenario, Anigwe could be an immediate in-house replacement. For this season, however, expect Sun head coach Curt Miller to bring Anigwe along slowly.

Carleton, meanwhile, was described by Miller as “the ultimate team player.” She, too, was projected by most to be drafted much higher than where the Sun drafted her at No. 21.

Carleton, who won the 2019 Cheryl Miller Award as the nation’s top small forward, won’t have an easy path to making the Sun roster. But that’s nothing against her talents. Connecticut will be bringing back three-point specialists Shekinna Stricklen and Rachel Banham, and Bria Holmes is expected to make her Sun debut after taking the 2018 season off (pregnancy). If Carleton does make the roster, however, it could be at the expense of center Brionna Jones, who is currently buried on the depth chart beneath Ogwumike, Jonquel Jones and Anigwe.

Sun trades Brown to Minnesota, draft Magarity

Lexie Brown was drafted by Connecticut just a year ago, but she’s already out. After struggling to get consistent playing time behind guards Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams (and. later, Layshia Clarendon), Brown entered the offseason as a question mark.

Midway through the draft, the Sun traded Brown to Minnesota in exchange for the draft rights to guard Natisha Hiedeman, who the Lynx drafted at No. 18. This will probably turn out to be a good career move for Brown, because she apparently wasn’t in the Sun’s future plans. As for Hiedeman, the 5-foot-8 point guard will likely face challenges similar to Brown’s. Specifically, it’s going to be tough for her to make the Sun roster, though the team might have a little incentive to keep her if they don’t want to make it look like they lost Brown for nothing.

Finally, the Sun drafted Regan Magarity at No. 33 overall, which was their last pick in the draft. The 6-foot-3 forward from Virginia Tech flew under the radar somewhat, ranking third in the country in defensive rebounds per game as a senior but not garnering nearly as much discussion as most of the other frontcourt players in this class. Despite Magarity’s strong senior campaign, though, she’ll be a long shot to make the Sun roster.