January 24, 2024 

What does Iliana Rupert’s decision to sit out upcoming WNBA season mean for Dream?

Rupert to miss WNBA season in preparation for 2024 Olympics

The Atlanta Dream announced on Wednesday that French center Iliana Rupert will sit out the upcoming WNBA season to focus on the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. 

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Rupert, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA draft, was signed by the Dream on a waiver claim on Feb. 6, 2023, and made her debut with the team on July 12 in a win over the Seattle Storm

Last season, she appeared in 20 games and averaged 1.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.5 assists on 35.3% shooting from the field.

Despite her decision to forgo the 2024 season, Rupert remains pivotal in Atlanta’s young core. The 22-year-old is younger than some top frontcourt prospects in the 2024 draft, such as South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson and Utah’s Alissa Pili

“[Rupert] is viewed as a long-term asset and we really enjoyed having her in Atlanta this past season,” general manager Dan Padover told The Next in December.

With backup forward Monique Billings potentially on the move in unrestricted free agency and Rupert set to miss the upcoming season, the Dream will pursue options to strengthen its frontcourt depth in free agency.

Last season, the Dream’s bench ranked No. 11 in defensive rating (43.1) and No. 9 in true shooting (50.2%), according to WNBA.com.

SNY’s Khristina Williams reported on Tuesday that Atlanta is one of five teams expressing interest in Dallas Wings center Kalani Brown, a top available center in free agency.

Across 32 games with the Wings last season, she averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds on 62.9% shooting from the field in 16.4 minutes of action. 

At 26 years old, Brown would fit Atlanta’s timeline, and her 6’7 stature is something Atlanta lacks on its roster. 

Outside of Brown, the 6’3 Kiah Stokes is one of the top available centers, after back-to-back WNBA championships with the Las Vegas Aces. The 30-year-old could command more money in free agency rather than returning to Las Vegas, which owes over 90 percent of its salary cap to five players on guaranteed contracts — A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Alysha Clark, per HerHoopStats.

Stokes started in 22 of 40 games for the Aces last season, averaging 2.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 19.8 minutes per game.

If the Dream doesn’t address its center needs in free agency, it could pursue LSU’s Angel Reese and Cardoso, among other prospects, with the No. 8* overall pick in the 2024 draft. However, Cardoso is unlikely to fall to No. 8 – though it’s not impossible – depending on the draft decisions for UConn’s Paige Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, and Stanford’s Cameron Brink.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Dream had the ninth pick. They have the eighth pick. The Next apologizes for this error.

Written by Hunter Cruse

Hunter Cruse covers the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Draft for The Next.

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