There was a major shake-up in the 2022 WNBA Draft on Wednesday as the Atlanta Dream acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Washington Mystics in a blockbuster trade.
In exchange, the Mystics will receive the Nos. 3 and 14 picks in this year's draft, and will have the right to swap its own first-round pick in 2023 with the first-round pick the Dream received from the Los Angeles Sparks in the Chennedy Carter trade earlier this year.
We landed this year's No. 1 overall WNBA Draft pick in a trade with Washington 💪— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) April 6, 2022
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Atlanta now has the No. 1 overall pick for the second time in franchise history. Back in 2009, the Dream took Angel McCoughtry, who was named one of the WNBA's 25 greatest players last year and made five All-Star Games, six All-WNBA teams and eight All-Defensive teams during her time with the club. If their pick this time around is even half as good as McCoughtry, this will be a terrific trade.
The 2022 WNBA Draft is set for Monday, April 11 at 7 p.m. ET. As we wait to see who the Dream will select, let's grade the trade.
- No. 1 overall pick in 2022 WNBA Draft
Most analysts have seen a very clear top-two in this draft class for some time now, and it seems the Dream viewed things the same way as they made a move to jump from No. 3 to No. 1. And in truth, they really didn't have to give up that much to do so. Most second-round picks don't end up making rosters, and unless the Sparks are a complete disaster this season, they won't lose much value with that pick swap.
The question now, is who will the Dream take at No. 1: Rhyne Howard or NaLyssa Smith? Howard is a big wing who can score at all three levels, defends multiple positions and should be able to make a smooth transition to the pros. Smith, meanwhile, is a super athletic big who excels defensively, and on the glass, and has continued to improve her offensive game.
After a disastrous season on and off the court, the Dream cleaned house this winter. They hired Tanisha Wright as the new head coach and Dan Padover as the new general manager. Likewise, most of the roster has turned over, and there are few long-term pieces in place. Padover spoke of building the organization from the "ground up," and he'll have a chance to set his foundation with the No. 1 pick.
There are no guarantees in the draft, of course, but this is the kind of bold, forward-thinking leadership the Dream have been lacking for so long. This is an encouraging start to the Padover era in Atlanta.
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- No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft
- No. 14 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft
- Right to swap their 2023 first-round pick with the 2023 first-round pick the Dream acquired from the Sparks
The Mystics were only in the lottery due to some absolutely horrid injury luck last season, and the fact that they lost a tiebreaker with the New York Liberty for the final playoff spot. Good luck finally came their way in the lottery, though, as they got the No. 1 pick despite having the second-worst odds.
Most teams that get the No. 1 pick are in rebuilding mode, but that's not the case for the Mystics, who hope to jump back into the mix at the top of the standings if the likes of Elena Delle Donne and Alysha Clark return and are able to stay healthy all season. Adding a potential franchise player like Howard or Smith to that situation would have helped them both now and in the future.
Head coach and GM Mike Thibault is not one to follow the consensus, though, and decided to trade back to pick up extra draft capital. The most likely explanation is that he doesn't see as much separation between the top prospects as everyone else, and felt he could get someone at No. 3 who was just as good while adding some more picks.
Ole Miss big Shakira Austin is widely seen as the third-best prospect and she does have a ton of upside. However, the Mystics only got an extra second-round pick and a pick swap. The track record of second-round picks succeeding in the WNBA is not great, and there are no guarantees that there's much value in the swap.
You can understand the thought process here, but just taking the No. 1 pick would have been the safer route.