The 2021 WNBA Draft started as expected on Thursday night, as the Dallas Wings used the first two picks in the draft to select Charli Collier and Awak Kuier. Next up, the Atlanta Dream picked Aari McDonald, who jumped into the lottery thanks to a stunning performance in the NCAA Women's Tournament.
After that, however, things got a little wild. Most notably, the Indiana Fever rounded out the lottery by selecting West Virginia guard Kysre Gondrezick with the No. 4 overall pick. Almost every projection had her going in the second, or even third round, but there she was, off the board ahead of a number of big-name college stars.
With the draft now complete, let's get to know the Fever's surprise selection.
Who is Gondrezick?
- 5-9 guard
- Highest draft pick in West Virginia women's basketball history
- 2020-21 stats: 19.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.7 steals on 42.1/36.4/77.5 shooting splits
- Two-time All-Big 12 selection
- 2021 AP All-American Honorable Mention
- Father Grant played in the NBA, mother Lisa won the national championship with Louisiana Tech in 1988
Why was the Fever picking her such a surprise?
Gondrezick has some WNBA-caliber skills, and everyone knew she was going to be drafted. It's just that no one thought it would be so early. Most mocks had her as a second or third-round pick, and the league didn't include her among the select group of players they set up with live feeds and interviews. Even Gondrezick herself seemed a little stunned judging by the reaction video posted on social media.
Then there's the fact that she plays the same position as the Fever's best player, Kelsey Mitchell. And while Indiana needs help just about everywhere at this point, the backcourt is arguably the one area where things were looking OK. Mitchell is coming off a historic shooting season, Tiffany Mitchell is a solid role player, Julie Allemand made the All-Rookie Team last season, Victoria Vivians has shown promise when healthy and they signed Danielle Robinson in free agency.
Reaching for a guard when you already have so many on the roster just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Especially when the two best wings in the draft were still on the board.
How can she help the Fever?
Now that some of the initial shock has subsided, it's time to look at how Gondrezick can help the Fever when the WNBA's 25th season begins next month.
This is the area where Gondrezick should be able to make an immediate impact. The Fever finished seventh in 3-point percentage last season (34.5) and eighth in attempts (20 per game). Decent numbers that put them in the middle of the pack in the league, but almost all of the responsibility fell to Kelsey Mitchell and Juliie Allemand. Those two combined for 100 of the Fever's 152 made 3s last season, or just under two-thirds.
It's great to have two strong shooters in the backcourt, but when they're really your only threat from outside it puts a huge burden on their shoulders and makes it easy for opponents to put together defensive schemes. If one of them had a bad night, the Fever often lost. For example, they were 2-10 when Mitchell made two or fewer 3s, and 4-6 when she hit three or more from downtown.
Gondrezick is another high-volume 3-point shooter who will help space the floor. She made 36.4 percent of her 6.3 attempts per game as a senior at West Virginia, and scored 1.106 points per possession in catch and shoot opportunities per Synergy Sports. One cause for slight concern is that she doesn't have the quickest release, but if she's open it's usually going in.
Gondrezick made her name in college as a scorer, and that's going to be her primary skill in the WNBA as well. But she's a versatile guard who can run an offense and has some playmaking skills. It will be interesting to see how the Fever stagger their backcourt rotations, but her ability to play on and off the ball will give them a lot of flexibility.
As a senior at West Virgina, Gondrezick dished out 4.5 assists per game, and took good care of the ball. Her 1.65 assist-to-turnover ration ranked in the 92nd percentile in the country, per CBB Analytics, and she assisted on 25 percent of the Mountaineer's possessions when she was on the floor.
She isn't the type of player that's going to wow you with her passing, but she has a good feel for the game. Whether she's running a pick-and-roll or simply creating off the dribble, she knows how to probe the defense and make the right decisions.
"We came into tonight really focused on we need scorers and we need championship-type caliber players in our organization," Fever GM Tamika Catchings said. "One of the qualities we really focused on was the championship mentality. That's what she has."
This was already apparent to some extent with her playmaking, but another reason the Fever drafted Gondrezick is because of her high basketball IQ and understanding of the game. You obviously need talent when you're going through a rebuild, that's not enough on its own. You need players who really know what's going on out on the floor, are willing to work hard and can help keep everyone on the same page.
"Very versatile. I'm not limited" Gondrezick said. "Having a high IQ and being crafty. I'm not the most athletic, but very skilled and fundamentally sound. To use my basketball heritage to just have a knack for the ball, whether it's on the offensive or defensive end."