March 18, 2022 

Who’s Next — The Next’s Draft Board v1.0

Which prospects project best at the WNBA level?

Welcome to The Next’s 2022 draft board! With the first round of the NCAA tournament soon to begin, it’s only fitting we get familiar with the names that will be the next generation of pros to affect the WNBA.

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We’ve got a couple can’t-miss prospects atop the class, another player who profiles solidly, and then a lot of uncertainty. It’s most certainly not a good class for teams needing off-ball guards or combo forwards; but if you find yourself in need of a wing or defensive big, there are bound to be diamonds in the rough here.

Since tiering off prospects is important, we’re going to use the baseball approach: “future value,” on a scale of 20-80. These numbers translate to: 30 — reserve; 40 — bench; 50 — average rotation player; 60 — All-Star caliber; 70 — All-WNBA caliber; 80 — MVP candidate. Having a 45 FV is nothing to scoff at — an average outcome as an average player is real good, given what a crapshoot most of the draft is.

Players’ tiers say nothing about their ceilings or floors, just what I think their average outcome is likely to be.

A couple notes before we get to the list:

  • I like players with clearly definable roles. Women who do a lot of things fairly well are a lot harder to give minutes to than ones who are great at a handful of things.
  • I find prospects’ floors more important among top picks — this isn’t a league that you can win big in while whiffing on picks — but there’s got to be upside there. While Naz Hillmon and Destanni Henderson have high floors, I’m not spending a high pick on a solid bench piece.
  • At a certain point in the draft, though, all that’s left is longshot upside. So there’s a heck of a lot more value in hitting on Taylor Robertson than hitting on Khayla Pointer, just given what those possibilities look like.
  • Between folks like Shakira Austin, Emily Engstler, Kierstan Bell, etc., there’s a lot of unique skillsets in this class, and each is a differently level of difficulty to judge. Austin defends like a five and scores like a four, so her fit in a W lineup isn’t too tough; Engstler does just about everything except run pick-and-rolls, post-up, and defend posts, making her an intriguing tweener; Bell moves and attacks like a guard, but not efficiently. The mid-first-round prospects are basically Rorschach tests for scouts.
  • Positions listed aren’t what prospects play right now, but what I expect them to play in the pros. For example: Ashley Joens plays wing for Iowa State, but since I don’t see her on-ball creation translating to the next level, I see her as an off-ball guard in the W.

(Offensive and defensive styles are per Basketball Index)

65 FV

1. Rhyne Howard, wing, Kentucky

Age: 21

Height: 6’2

Wingspan: 6’2

Offensive style: Secondary ball-handler

Defensive style: Helper

60 FV

2. NaLyssa Smith, big, Baylor

Age: 21

Height: 6’4

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Versatile big

Defensive style: Mobile big

50 FV

3. Shakira Austin, big, Ole Miss

Age: 21

Height: 6’5

Wingspan: 6’7

Offensive style: Versatile big

Defensive style: Anchor big

40 FV

4. Emily Engstler, big wing, Louisville

Age: 21

Height: 6’1

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Playmaking versatile big

Defensive style: Mobile big/helper

5. Veronica Burton, point guard, Northwestern

Age: 21

Height: 5’9

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Primary ball-handler

Defensive style: Helper

6. Nyara Sabally, center, Oregon

Age: 22

Height: 6’5

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Post scorer

Defensive style: Anchor big

7. Kierstan Bell, big wing, FGCU

Age: 22

Height: 6’1

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Shot creator

Defensive style: Wing stopper

8. Christyn Williams, off-ball guard, UConn

Age: 21

Height: 5’11

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Secondary ball-handler

Defensive style: Point of attack

9. Nia Clouden, off-ball guard, Michigan State

Age: 21

Height: 5’8

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Shot creator/stationary shooter

Defensive style: Low activity

35 FV

10. Lorela Cubaj, big, Georgia Tech

Age: 23

Height: 6’4

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Roll & cut big/short-roll playmaker

Defensive style: Mobile big

11. Ashley Joens, off-ball guard, Iowa State

Age: 22

Height: 6’1

Wingspan: 6′

Offensive style: Movement shooter

Defensive style: Low activity

12. Elissa Cunane, center, N.C. State

Age: 21

Height: 6’5

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Post scorer

Defensive style: Anchor big

13. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, center, UConn

Age: 21

Height: 6’5

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Roll & cut big

Defensive style: Anchor big

14. Madi Williams, wing, Oklahoma

Age: 21+

Height: 5’11

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Shot creator

Defensive style: Chaser

15. Mya Hollingshead, big, Colorado

Age: 22

Height: 6’3

Wingspan: 

Offensive style: Versatile big

Defensive style: Mobile big/helper

16. Naz Hillmon, big, Michigan

Age: 21

Height: 6’2

Wingspan: 6’7

Offensive style: Post scorer

Defensive style: Low activity

17. Destanni Henderson, point guard, South Carolina

Age: 23

Height: 5’7

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Primary ball-handler

Defensive style: Chaser

30 FV

18. Aisha Sheppard, off-ball guard, Virginia Tech

Age: 23

Height: 5’9

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Off-screen shooter/secondary ball-handler

Defensive style: Point of attack

19. Taylor Robertson, off-ball guard, Oklahoma

Age: 21+

Height: 5’11

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Off-screen shooter

Defensive style: Helper/low activity

20. Kayla Jones, combo forward, N.C. State

Age: 22+

Height: 6’1

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Athletic finisher/stationary shooter

Defensive style: Wing stopper

21. Rae Burrell, off-ball guard, Tennessee

Age: 21

Height: 6’1

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Slasher

Defensive style: Wing stopper

22. Lexie Hull, wing, Stanford

Age: 22

Height: 6’1

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Stationary shooter

Defensive style: Chaser/helper

25 FV

23. Evina Westbrook, wing, UConn

Age: 23

Height: 6’0

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Off-screen shooter

Defensive style: Chaser

24. Amber Ramirez, off-ball guard, Arkansas

Age: 24

Height: 5’9

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Movement shooter

Defensive style: Chaser

25. Khayla Pointer, point guard, LSU

Age: 22+

Height: 5’7

Wingspan: N/A

Offensive style: Primary ball-handler

Defensive style: Chaser

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the Seattle Storm and college basketball for The Next, while also writing for The Chronicle, Duke's independent student paper

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