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2019 WNBA Draft Analysis: In wake of Stewart injury, Seattle Storm draft picks may be thrust into spotlight

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Following Breanna Stewart’s offseason injury, the development of the Storm’s 2019 draft picks may become a higher priority.

Basketball - Commonwealth Games Day 9
Seattle Storm first-round pick Ezi Magbegor is a raw talent that could compete for minutes this season.
Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images

The 2018 WNBA champion Seattle Storm drafted for the future last week. But with WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart ruled out for the upcoming season following her injury suffered in the EuroLeague Women final, the Storm’s bench and draft picks may be more of a factor this season than originally expected.

The Storm’s first pick at No. 12 was Ezi Magbegor out of the WNBL, the Australian professional league. She was named the 2018 WNBL Rookie of the Year, averaging 6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. This past season, Magbegor averaged 8.7 points and 4.3 rebounds. She also played for Australia’s national team in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, where she averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, and in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

At 19 and 6-foot-4, Magbegor’s play is impressive. While she has a lot of development still to do, her size and ability may well see her earn playing time this season.

Anriel Howard, the Storm’s second pick at No. 24, played three years at Texas A&M before wrapping her college basketball career as a graduate student transfer at Mississippi State. At A&M, she set the career and season records for rebounds, becoming the first Aggie with over 1,000 career rebounds. She registered 43 career double-doubles between the two schools, 32 of which came at A&M, which was another school record.

In Howard’s junior year, she added the three-point shot to her game. She shot 30 percent from three-point distance and improved that mark to 33 percent in her senior season. In her final season, Howard averaged 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals while also adding 18 blocks.

Howard is a good fit for the Storm. With her addition, the Storm list 11 forwards and centers on its roster. With Stewart likely out of the lineup, Howard has a chance to contribute to the team.

Macy Miller of South Dakota State was the final pick of the draft. She is just the second Jackrabbit to be drafted in the WNBA following Megan Vogel’s selection in the 2007 draft.

Miller is an excellent fit for what the Storm do as a team. She averaged 18.2 points, shot 44 percent from beyond the arc and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.1 in her final season. She was named the Summit League Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019.

Even if Miller does not land with the Storm this season, she has the skills needed to play in the WNBA.

The roster and team will take on a different form without Breanna Stewart. And there will be plenty of competition in training camp for roster spots as the start of the regular season approaches.

The incoming draft class has a chance to impress and earn playing time this season, especially in the case of Magbegor and Howard. Without Stewart, the front court will have to be “by committee” for the Storm to have success this season. Under the guidance of veteran point guard Sue Bird and the emerging talents of Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada, Macy Miller has a great opportunity to learn how to play at the pro level.

The Storm will likely transition to more of a guard-oriented offense, which may give Miller some playing time in an effort to spread out the additional offensive load among the guards. That said, the Storm likely face a quick playoff exit.