Last year, the Lynx held the sixth and 16th picks in the WNBA draft. General Manager and coach Cheryl Reeve selected Napheesa Collier at No. 6.
Collier was not projected to be a starter, but more of a versatile depth player who could grow into something more. Because of injuries and her ability to adapt quickly to the pro game, Collier wound up starting on Day 1 and becoming the WNBA Rookie of the Year, and her success helped Reeve win the league’s Executive of the Year award.
Reeve took Jessica Shepard with the 16th pick, and she looked like a steal before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
On Friday, the Lynx again hold the sixth and 16th picks. Can they find players like Collier and Shepard again?
This draft features three pretty sure things — Oregon stars Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally and Baylor’s Lauren Cox. The Lynx will again need a blend of luck and insight to find a starting-caliber player.
Here’s my WNBA mock draft, offered more to characterize the Lynx’s options than to predict who they’ll take:
1. New York: Ionescu
Former Lynx assistant Walt Hopkins gets an ideal player around whom to build — a point guard who can handle, shoot, rebound and lead, in a market where star power is everything. Ionescu will have to prove she can defend quick point guards, which is the kind of sentiment you offer when you can’t find any major flaws in a player’s game.
2. Dallas: Sabally
A 6-4 wing who can shoot, drive and defend, Sabally is an easy choice here. The real question is what Dallas plans to do with all of its picks. The Wings have the second, fifth, seventh and ninth picks in the first round, meaning they could make any number of trade offers. Do they really want four or more rookies arriving at the same time?
3. Indiana: Cox
A 6-4 inside player who is a strong defender, Cox has hinted that she may be able to develop as an outside shooter. She’s the last consensus pick in this draft. Things begin to get interesting, for the Lynx and the league at …
4. Atlanta: Chennedy Carter
Some draft analysts have Carter falling to the Lynx, and the Lynx taking her. I’m not sure about either scenario. Texas A&M’s Carter is a productive, volume shooter. Can she become more efficient when she’s not a primary offensive option? This is a reminder that the WNBA is a 12-team league, meaning that a world of talent is packed into a limited number of rosters. Carter will have to earn her shots in this league.
5. Dallas: Megan Walker
Walker, the forward from Connecticut, was highly productive, scoring 20 points a game and making 45% of her three-point shots while displaying a strong all-around game. Again, does Dallas want to simply take the best player here, or will they package picks in a deal? And again, would the Lynx even take her if she fell to No. 6?
6. Lynx: Ruthy Hebard
I’m not sure if Oregon forward Hebard is the pick here but I think the Lynx will take a player like her.
Many national mock drafts have the Lynx taking a point guard, usually South Carolina’s Ty Harris or UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield.
Reeve has not tipped her hand in the past couple of weeks, but a lifetime of covering GMs has taught me this: Pay attention to what they say well before draft season arrives, not so much what they say when asked about their draft plans.
What Reeve said for months was that she wasn’t as concerned as outsiders about the point guard position. Yes, she misses Lindsay Whalen, but there is no Whalen in this draft after the first pick.
The Lynx have a variety of combo guards who can handle the ball. Reeve seems more interested in finding high-end talent than filling perceived needs. Hebard is a 6-4 power forward who scored and rebounded efficiently at Oregon.
Other possibilities: Princeton forward Bella Alarie, who has star skills but often played against lesser competition; Miami post Beatrice Mompremier, and South Carolina forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.
I think the Lynx will target a player whose skills and temperament will make her a long-term asset, rather than looking for a quick positional fix.
I think they will try to take another player like Collier.