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WNBA Draft Preview: Atlanta Dream seek building blocks

With the stunning trade for the No. 1 pick, the Atlanta Dream are in a prime position to draft a franchise cornerstone.

WNBA: Tulsa Shock at Atlanta Dream
Aari McDonald shoots the ball
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Dream pulled off a blockbuster action five days before the draft, moving up to the No. 1 spot by trading their No. 3 and 14 picks as well as swap rights to a 2023 first-round pick to the Washington Mystics. 2022 is already set up to be a transitional year for the Atlanta Dream as they have hired a new head coach in Tanisha Wright, new general manager in Dan Padover and cut their leading scorer, Courtney Williams, as well as Crystal Bradford.

The Dream also traded their third-leading scorer, Chennedy Carter, to the Los Angeles Sparks, but did manage to re-sign Tiffany Hayes and Monique Billings to one-year deals. Atlanta is in a very interesting position as the Dream have the talent there for a reliable core, yet they still lack crucial pieces in order to truly contend. Picking No. 1 in the draft will give them the opportunity to draft a player that they can build around for the future.

Here are the players that the Dream could target with their two draft picks:

First Round: No. 1 pick

Rhyne Howard, Guard, Kentucky or NaLyssa Smith, Forward, Baylor

When it comes to who the Dream have in mind with the top overall pick, it’s really no question that it’s between the two who have been widely touted as the very best prospects in this year’s draft class.

Howard, with her volume scoring ability and explosiveness off the dribble, could make for a great combo with Tiffany Hayes and Erica Wheeler. Also, she is able to play at multiple positions due to her unique frame and the power that she has to dominate one-on-one matchups. I’m Howard, you have a player who could be a mainstay in Atlanta for years to come.

Smith would immediately help the Dream’s lack of size inside and can easily score once she’s in the paint. Not just down low, but she can shoot well from the mid-range and drive hard to the rim due to her seize and athleticism and has a better shot at being Atlanta’s long-term option on the wings.

Second Round: No. 15 pick

The Dream have a lot of cards that they can play with this pick that they acquired from the Sparks in the Chennedy Carter trade. They have a clear need for size on the inside and there are several options that could be available here.

One obvious choice is Georgia Tech forward Lorela Cubaj. She is already familiar with the city of Atlanta and as one of the top defensive players in the nation, will provide a bulwark in the post as a freak of nature who is fast and will never lose the player that she is guarding and make life difficult for them with her frame.

Another player from the state of Georgia who should be on their radar is Georgia center Jenna Staiti. She would give Atlanta the center that they need and the rim protector that they desperately need. Her passing and scoring in the low post is a plus as well.

If she is to fall to them, the Dream would be foolish to pass up on NC State center Elissa Cunane. As one of the most dominant bigs in the nation, she would come in and be an immediate lockdown post defender. Also, she can not only defend, but score inside as well as beyond the arc, making her especially difficult to defend.