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WNBA Draft preview: Can Dallas add any more young players?

The Wings have been stockpiling draftees for years and might be out of room.

Dallas Wings v Seattle Storm Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Dallas Wings have been on a steady uphill climb in recent years, executing a fairly successful rebuild after their two all-WNBA stars asked out in 2019 and 2020. The Wings recouped a bundle of draft assets in a series of trades over the past few offseasons and have built an impressive young core that made it to the playoffs a year ago.

That young core is talented and deep, headlined by Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally, but also including Bella Alarie, Charli Collier, Chelsea Dungee, Ty Harris, Awak Kuier, Marina Mabrey, and the newly-acquired Teaira McCowan all still on rookie contracts. Dallas has varying degrees of investment in all of those players, and Alarie has already opted out of the 2022 season for personal reasons, but that leaves at least seven Wings with a good chance of making the final roster.

Dallas also has four veterans on protected contracts: Allisha Gray, Isabelle Harrison, Moriah Jefferson, and Kayla Thornton. Of that crew, perhaps only Jefferson isn’t a part of the Wings’ long-term plans. Therefore, even if a player makes gets onto the Dallas roster, there will be quite the logjam ahead for minutes.


Picks: 7, 30, 31

The Wings used their no. 6 pick along with the no. 4 pick acquired from Los Angeles in the Jasmine Walker trade as part of the trade package for McCowan, which caused Dallas to move down to no. 7 in this year’s proceedings. The team doesn’t have any pressing needs, given that the Wings are returning everyone from last year’s playoff squad but Alarie, so best player available should be the modus operandi in the draft; however, there is one notable exception to this premise.

The seventh-best player on the draft board I am most fond of, Em Adler’s at The Next, is Nyara Sabally. Although the idea of pairing the Sabally sisters is tantalizing, the fit of the younger doesn’t make as much sense in Dallas now that the team has McCowan. Nyara Sabally is a post scorer who occupies the same real estate as the erstwhile Indiana center, and the two both have to play center defensively given their size. If the Wings are invested in McCowan — and the draft capital they parted with to get her suggests they are — there isn’t a future for both bigs in Dallas.

The position that the Wings could target is point guard. Jefferson and Harris are the true point guards on this roster, but neither really brought out the best in Ogunbowale, Sabally, and Gray. Dallas had its best point differential when Mabrey played the 1, even though she isn’t a natural distributor. It’s perfectly fine for the Wings to pursue a lineup without a true playmaker, given that all of their wings and Sabally can handle the ball and create. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to go after a point guard, especially with Jefferson headed into free agency and Harris yet to dazzle in her two seasons.

Veronica Burton would thus be a good fit in Dallas, a lead ball-handler who, at 5’9, could still play next to Ogunbowale thanks to her defensive prowess. Christyn Williams and Nia Clouden feel a little redundant with the Marike duo already in place, but the Wings have shown a willingness to acquire talent and sort out the fit later.

Dallas has already signed Destiny Walker, Unique Thompson, and Morgan Bertsch to training camp deals, so it doesn’t make sense to focus on the two third-round picks when those players are unlikely to ever suit up for the Wings, preseason or otherwise.

This will likely be one of the youngest rosters in the WNBA yet again, but don’t mistake Dallas’ youth for lack of competitiveness. The rebuild continues, but in a forward direction. The first round of the playoffs is merely a baseline for what Ogunbowale and the Wings hope to achieve this season, even if the team doesn’t make any more impactful additions this offseason, as she told Swish Appeal in an interview in February.

“We’re in a different position than a lot of teams,” Ogunbowale said. “We’ve drafted and traded and done a lot of things in the last three years I’ve been there to get to this point. So I wouldn’t really say we’re in a rebuilding year.

“We have a lot of pieces that we need and we have a lot of talent, so we just gotta put it together. And we’re a young core too, and this is only really going to be our second year playing together all together. So I’m excited for it. It’s not really necessary to just sign people to training camp (deals) if it’s really hard to make a team.... So it’s no reason to just invite a whole bunch of people. So you know, we’ll see what happens. It’s still time but right now, I’m pretty comfortable.”