April 16, 2024 

‘It all fell together for us’: Minnesota Lynx land Alissa Pili in 2024 WNBA Draft

Minnesota also adds guard Kiki Jefferson at No. 31 overall

When Minnesota Lynx coach and decision maker Cheryl Reeve made the decision to swap first-round picks in the 2024 WNBA Draft with the Chicago Sky on Sunday, moving down one spot to No. 8 on the eve of the draft, they did so with a clear plan in mind.

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That plan came to fruition when Reeve and the Lynx found themselves on the clock after seven picks in one of the most highly-anticipated drafts in league history. 

“Certainly, you don’t do those kinds of trades unless you feel really confident in how it’s going to go,” Reeve told the media moments after the Lynx made their final pick of the night. “At the time when we had No. 7, you know, being able to mock to seven. We felt really good, most teams around the league felt really good [about] which seven players were going to go in some order.”

After the top six picks went about as expected, the Sky’s well-known interest in LSU’s Angel Reese made it a quick decision at No. 7 and left the player Minnesota wanted all along available at No. 8 in Alissa Pili — the short but stalwart forward from Utah who was considered a fascinating WNBA prospect heading into the draft.

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Lynx fans won’t be able to fully evaluate the trade in its entirety for at least another two years, but Minnesota taking the seventh pick and turning it into Pili at No. 8, plus Sika Koné, a 2025 second-rounder, and a right to swap first-round picks in 2026 sure looks promising as of now.

“We discussed the merit of what possibilities there were for players at No. 7,” Reeve said. “Alissa Pili was not in anybody’s top seven. We knew that we would be at No. 8, the first team that would take her, so we were really confident. We were confident to make the trade. 

“In terms of being able to add, we needed to make sure we added a frontcourt player, that was a priority for us, and one with a different skill set than what we have, 3-point shooting. Then part of the value in the draft that we got was future assets. That’s the draft capital, which was also important to us overall value-wise. It all fell together for us.”

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As Reeve noted, Pili provides a much-needed flair for shooting from beyond the arc, but also brings physicality, versatility, maturity and experience to Minnesota’s young and talented frontcourt. 

“I’m super excited to come in and just learn from players like that,” Pili told media at the draft when asked about playing alongside an all-star like Napheesa Collier and for a Hall of Fame coach like Reeve. “I think that’s the fun part about it. We think we’ve been playing for so long, we know a lot about the game, but there’s so much more to learn. I’m just looking forward to that. I think that I bring versatility and just a physicality to the game of basketball, and so that’s what mostly they’ll be seeing from me.”

Pili’s college basketball career spanned five seasons in the Pac-12. The first three at USC, and the last two at Utah, where she developed into one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the country. Much has been made of her dazzling 37-point performance in an early-season loss to eventual national champion South Carolina, but Pili was the mark of offensive consistency all season long, converting on 55% of her field goal attempts, and shot north of 40% from 3-point range. 

Alissa Pili announced as the No. 8 overall pick at the Minnesota Lynx’s official draft party at the Target Center in Minneapolis | Photo Credit: John McClellan

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Pili averaged 21.1 points per game on 56.8% shooting from the field and 41.1% shooting from behind the 3-point line across 65 games in her two seasons at Utah.

“[She] is the most unique player in the draft,” Rebecca Lobo said on the ESPN set after the selection was announced. “She can score on any-sized defender. She can also really pass, which is something Cheryl Reeve covets from her bigs. One GM said she is the second-best offensive player in this draft to Caitlin Clark.”

Reeve didn’t go as far as name-dropping the No. 1 overall pick, but didn’t mince words on her offensive accolades that helped make her such a strong candidate for the No. 8 overall pick. 

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“Alissa is an exceptional scorer,” Reeve said. “I think that was something that was clear throughout the season for much of, at least half the season. Her true shooting percentage was just through the roof. And even her effective field goal percentage, so factoring in twos and threes, true shooting percentage and her ability to get to the free throw line. I think most of the talent evaluators found her to be one of the top offensive players in the draft.”

Pili is no stranger to the spotlight. A player of Native Alaskan (Inupiaq) and Samoan-American heritage, Pili hasn’t shied away from being a role model in the community and drew massive crowds throughout her college career. 

“A lot of Indigenous and Polynesian girls don’t get to see that role model,” Pili said to ESPN’s Holly Rowe on the draft stage. “I’m just so blessed that I can be in a position to be that for them.” 

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Pili wasn’t the only addition Reeve and the Lynx made to their ranks on Monday night. They also used the 31st overall pick on guard Kiki Jefferson out of Louisville by way of James Madison. 

“If you go back a little bit, if you’ve really been watching college basketball, she was really a quality player at James Madison and made a decision to transfer and finish her career at Louisville,” Reeve said. “I thought that her showing her game happened more frequently at James Madison.

“What we really enjoy about Kiki, in a very affectionate way, is [she has] kind of an old school game. The game is slow for her in how she processes things, and that’s a compliment. She impacts the game in a variety of ways. Anybody that knows us, being a productive player is something that we really value. In terms of a boxscore, she’s a player that understands how to affect multiple columns in the boxscore.” 

Pili and Jefferson join a Lynx roster with 17 names on it heading into training camp, which starts on April 28. 

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Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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