Earlier this month, the Stanford Cardinal escaped with a one-point win over the Arizona Wildcats to claim the 2021 NCAA Women's Tournament championship. And now that the college season is over, it's officially time to turn our focus to the WNBA, which will tip off its 25th season on May 14.
Before we can get to the games, however, there's one major item on the agenda: the 2021 WNBA Draft on April 15. The Dallas Wings have the No. 1 overall pick, as well as the Nos. 2 and 5 selections, so they will control the night. It's looking like they'll take Charli Collier with the first pick, but after that, it's anyone's guess.
Ahead of the big night, here's a look at the biggest needs and possible fits for each team.
- Picks: 3, 15, 27
- Needs: Wing depth, defense
The Dream struggled through something of a lost season in 2020. A number of key players sat out, star rookie Chennedy Carter was limited to 16 games due to an ankle injury and they found themselves in the lottery yet again. But now, with Tiffany Hayes returning to action, and the arrival of Odyssey Sims, Cheyenne Parker and Tiana Hawkins in free agency, the Dream have their sights set on returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
And with the No. 3 overall pick, they'll hope to find a talented youngster who can help them achieve that goal. The most obvious areas of need are wing depth and just generally help on the defensive end after finishing 10th in defensive rating last season. There are a few wings that figure to go at the top of the draft, and Rennia Davis would be a perfect fit given her size and versatility on the defensive end.
Possible fits: Rennia Davis, Arella Guirantes
- Picks: 8, 16
- Needs: Point guard depth, defense
As was the case for many teams, the 2020 season didn't go to plan for the Sky. They flashed potential but were eventually just beaten down with injuries toward the end of the season, and crashed out of the playoffs in the first round. There shouldn't be any more first-round exits for them in the near future, however, as they made a huge splash in free agency by signing future Hall of Famer Candace Parker. The superstar forward wanted to return home to Chicago, and hopes to bring the Sky their first title in franchise history.
With Parker's arrival, and a veteran roster around her, the Sky are pretty much set for 2021. They don't have any glaring needs, and it's hard to imagine there will be much playing time for any rookies. Still, they do have the No. 8 pick and will have a chance to add some depth to the roster. In particular, they could look to add a point guard. They don't have a ton of depth behind Courtney Vandersloot, and will eventually need a point guard of the future anyway. Adding one now who can learn from a bunch of veterans would be a smart move. Lucky for them, there's a bunch of options in this class
Possible fits: Aari McDonald, Dana Evans, Kiana Williams
- Picks: 20, 21, 30
- Needs: 3-point shooting
Despite playing without Jonquel Jones, who sat out due to health concerns, and starting the season 0-5, the Sun made a surprise run to the semifinals last season. There, they came within a game of stunning the Aces and going to back-to-back Finals. Unfortunately, the good times didn't roll into the offseason. Star forward Alyssa Thomas suffered a torn Achilles tendon overseas, and there's simply no way for them to replace everything she brings to the team.
Making matters worse is they don't have a first-round pick this year due to previous trades. It's always possible they make a deal to move up, but this will likely be a quiet night for the Sun. Finding a shooter late in the draft will be a big boost, but almost every team can use more shooting, so they'll face competition on that front.
Possible fits: Kysre Gondrezick
- Picks: 1, 2, 5, 13
- Needs: Frontcourt depth, defense, 3-point shooting
The Wings are a very young team, and that was obvious last season in the bubble. There were flashes of their potential, but also a lot of growing pains, and they missed out on the playoffs yet again. For as rough as the past few years have been in Dallas, however, there are a lot of reasons for optimism. They have some high-level young talent in Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally, a new head coach in Vickie Johnson, and three of the top five picks in this year's draft.
So, what will they do with all those picks? One thing's for sure, they have some obvious areas of need. First and foremost, they need to address their frontcourt, which is quite thin. They also need help on the defensive end after finishing ranked No. 11 on that end of the floor last season, and they could use some shooting.
Possible fits: Charli Collier, Awak Kuier, Natasha Mack, Chelsea Dungee, Arella Guirantes
- Picks: 4, 19, 24, 26, 31, 33
- Needs: Everything
The Fever lost their first game by 25 points last season, and that was some pretty good foreshadowing of what was to come for them in 2020. They were absolutely awful on the defensive end, and finished with the second-worst record in the league at 6-16. Unfortunately for them, they didn't even get any lottery luck for their trouble, and wound up with the No. 4 pick. They added a few veterans in free agency, including Jantel Lavender and Danielle Robinson, but overall it was an uneventful winter in Indianapolis.
Without trying to be too glib, they enter the draft really just needing any help they can get. Save for perhaps Kelsey Mitchell, none of the young players they've drafted over the past few years have stood out, and there are a lot of questions about the present and future of the club. Since 2017, when their current playoff drought started, they've finished either 11th or 12th in defense, and never finished better than seventh in offense.
Possible fits: Aari McDonald, Rennia Davis, Arella Guirantes, Dana Evans
Las Vegas Aces
- Picks: 12, 14, 36
- Needs: 3-point shooting, frontcourt depth
Even without Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum, the Aces were one of the few teams to put together a successful 2020 season. A'ja Wilson won MVP, they finished in a tie with the Storm for the best record in the regular season and made it all the way to the Finals. Despite falling short of their first title in franchise history, they established themselves as one of the favorites for 2021. And that was before adding Chelsea Gray in free agency. The Aces are, without a doubt, one of the teams to watch this season.
But despite being one of the leading contenders, they do have a few areas of need. The Aces only took 11.5 3s per game last season, and lost their biggest outside threat, Kayla McBride, in free agency. Plum's return and the arrival of Riquna Williams should help them in that department, but another shooter would be useful. In addition, they need some frontcourt depth. They have the best big unit in the league in Wilson, Liz Cambage and Dearica Hamby, but it's all question marks behind them.
Possible fits: Natasha Mack, Jasmine Walker, Iliana Rupert, Chelsey Perry
Los Angeles Sparks
- Picks: 7, 10, 22, 28, 34
- Needs: Backcourt and wing depth, 3-point shooting
Add the Sparks to the list of teams who had things go awry in 2020. They finished with the third-best record, but were dumped out of the playoffs early by the Sun for the second straight season. Then, Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray left in free agency, and a new era of basketball is underway in Los Angeles. They added Erica Wheeler and Amanda Zahui B in free agency, and both Kristi Toliver and Chiney Ogwumike will be back this season, so there's still some talent there, but things are going to look much different.
Heading into the draft, they have the No. 10 pick, a second-rounder and a couple of third-rounders. Not the best selections, but there's a possibility for them to add a helpful player. They're pretty much set in the frontcourt, but could use some depth in the backcourt and on the wing. Like most teams, they could also do with some 3-point shooting help. They already took fewer 3s than anyone but the Aces and Dream, and lost Riquna Williams in free agency.
Possible fits: Chelsea Dungee, Kiana Williams, Michaela Onyenwere
- Picks: 9
- Needs: Backcourt and frontcourt depth
The Lynx were one of the most surprising teams last season. Expectations weren't very high, especially after they lost Sylvia Fowles for most of the summer due to a calf injury. But Napheesa Collier continued her rise to stardom, Crystal Dangerfield won Rookie of the Year and they earned the No. 4 seed. Though they eventually got swept by the Storm in the semifinals, it was a strong showing. And after adding Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa in free agency, they only got better.
With just one pick in the draft, their night doesn't figure to be super busy, but the No. 9 overall pick gives them a chance to add another young player to this bunch. They finished in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating last season, and added two elite wings in free agency, so there aren't many glaring needs for Minnesota. Still, the Lynx could use some depth in the backcourt and frontcourt.
Possible fits: Kiana Williams, Dana Evans, Jasmine Walker, Natasha Mack
New York Liberty
- Picks: 6, 17, 25, 29
- Needs: Wing and frontcourt depth, 3-point shooting
No team had a worse 2020 than the Liberty. Asia Durr missed the entire season due to COVID-19, No. 1 overall pick and expected franchise savior Sabrina Ionescu was limited to three games because of an ankle injury and they finished with the worst record in the league at 2-20. There really weren't many major takeaways besides the fact that they needed to get better, and they certainly did that in the offseason. After winning the No. 1 pick again in the lottery, they swung some blockbuster trades to acquire Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb, and signed Betnijah Laney in free agency.
This is going to be a brand new team, and after a number of big acquisitions in the winter, they'll have a chance to add some more talent with their stash of picks. Still a young team even with their additions, they have some holes to fill, most notably wing and frontcourt depth. And given head coach Walt Hopkins' preferred style of play, more 3-point shooting will be vital. They shot the second-most 3s per game last season, but finished last in percentage.
Possible fits: Chelsea Dungee, Jasmine Walker, Iliana Rupert
- Picks: 32
- Needs: Frontcourt depth, perimeter defense
The Mercury struggled through a difficult 2020 season filled with injuries and off-court concerns. Bria Hartley tore her ACL, Diana Taurasi tweaked her back and Brittney Griner left the bubble for personal reasons. The result was a disjointed 13-9 finish, and a second-round playoff exit. Because of their salary cap situation, the Mercury didn't have many options in the offseason, but they did swing a trade with the Liberty for Kia Nurse and Megan Walker.
As a result of their maneuvering, the Mercury are one of the teams without a first-round pick this year. In fact, the only pick they have is No. 32 overall, and considering third-rounders rarely even make regular-season rosters, it figures to be a slow night in Phoenix. The Mercury could use some frontcourt depth, and need help on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the perimeter. But it's hard to imagine they find those answers so late in the draft.
Possible fits: Raquel Carrera, Janelle Bailey, Selena Lott
- Picks: 11, 18, 23, 35
- Needs: Point guard depth
Seattle was probably the only team to truly enjoy the bubble experience, and that's, of course, because they won the title. Breanna Stewart returned to play after her torn Achilles tendon, and they put together a dominant season in which they lost just three games the entire way. It turned out to be the last run for that core, however, as the Storm embarked on a truly wild offseason, which included them briefly holding the No. 1 overall pick. In the end, Natasha Howard, Alysha Clark and Sami Whitcomb went out, while Katie Lou Samuelson, Stephanie Talbot, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Candice Dupree came in.
The Storm got worse this offseason, there's no doubt about that, but they're still going to be very good, and they have a first-round pick at their disposal. Given their roster situation, and Sue Bird's impending retirement sometime in the next few years, it seems likely the Storm's main goal will be finding some point guard depth. The good news for them is there's plenty of point guards available this year.
Possible fits: Kiana Williams, Destiny Slocum, Shyla Heal
- Picks: None
- Needs: N/A
Again, the circumstances with COVID-19 and the bubble made 2020 the strangest season in WNBA history, and Washington basically showed up with its B-team. Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders all sat out, and the Mystics were lucky to even make the playoffs, where they were eliminated in the first round. Unfortunately, while 2021 will be better from a health and availability standpoint, they'll once again be shorthanded. If Emma Meesseman comes over at all, it will be after her international commitments, and free agent signing Alysha Clark will miss the season due to a foot injury. Meanwhile, Sanders retired, and Aerial Powers left in free agency.
The Mystics are going to be a contender again, but there are some definite question marks after the events of the past few months. They won't be addressing any of them in the draft, however, as they're the only team without a single pick.
Possible fits: N/A