The WNBA offseason has a reputation for inaction, but teams didn’t get the memo this year, and another trade last week changes the face of this year’s draft.
The Dallas Wings (nee Tulsa Shock nee Detroit Shock) traded Riquna Williams and the sixth pick in the 2016 draft for Erin Phillips, the fifth pick in the 2016 draft and the Sparks’ first-round pick in 2017.
Short summary: the teams exchanged undersized gunners—Williams younger and with the better season last year, Phillips with more accuracy though a down year in 2015. For the right to do so, the Sparks allowed the Wings to move up a slot in 2016 and add a first rounder in 2017, all of which should allow them to build around returning superstar Skylar Diggins.
The interesting part of this trade in terms of the upcoming draft is this: just what did Dallas see in the draft that made moving to fifth so significant?
Allow me to put forward an Imani Boyette theory.
Boyette is the uber-talented center for Texas, a blocked shot and rebounding machine with range out to the three-point line who ranked fourth in the nation in DRating among players with at least 700 minutes played this season. A WNBA coach recently pointed out to me how fundamentally unsound her technique was—straight up and down—which suggests further growth is possible for the game of someone who is already 6’7 and succeeding.
This is a strong draft for bigs, but let’s be clear: no one has the opportunity to be better among that group than Boyette. (Obviously, Breanna Stewart, for purposes of this conversation, is not a big, she is a hydra-skilled basketball machine about to unleash terror on the rest of the WNBA.)
So I will leave you with two thoughts concerning the Wings and the Sparks: Boyette’s played at UT just a few hours from Dallas, where the Wings are building a fan base in a new city. And Boyette’s childhood home and family can be found in Los Angeles. So both teams had reasons beyond basketball to see Boyette as a fit.
Accordingly, despite a late-season fade in her stats, Boyette moves up this week. From this view, it’s hard to see many players beyond the generational talents at 1-2 who should be picked before her.
Who else moved up and down in a tumultuous conference tournament week? To the draft board!
1) Seattle – Breanna Stewart, C, Connecticut
2) San Antonio – Moriah Jefferson, PG, Connecticut
3) Connecticut – Rachel Banham, G, Minnesota
4) Connecticut (from Atlanta) – Morgan Tuck, F, Connecticut
5) Dallas – Imani Boyette, C, Texas
6) Los Angeles – Aerial Powers, F, Michigan State
7) Washington – Tiffany Mitchell, SG, South Carolina
8) Phoenix – Jonquel Jones, C, George Washington
9) Indiana – Courtney Williams, G, South Florida
10) Chicago – Megan Podkowa, G/F, DePaul
11) Atlanta – (from Minnesota) Adut Bulgak, F/C, Florida State
12) New York – Temi Fagbenle, C, USC
13. Atlanta (from San Antonio) – Jamie Weisner, G, Oregon State
14. Minnesota (from Seattle) – Lexi Eaton, G, BYU
15. Connecticut – Sheeresha Richards, F, Albany
16. Atlanta – Ruth Hamblin, C, Oregon State
17. Los Angeles – Shacobia Barbee, G, Georgia
18. Dallas – Niya Johnson, PG, Baylor
19. Washington – Katie Hempen, G, Arizona State
20. Phoenix – Bria Holmes, G, West Virginia
21. Indiana – Jillian Alleyne, F, Oregon
22. Minnesota (from Chicago) – Ameryst Alston, G, Ohio State
23. Connecticut (from Minnesota) – Nicole Seekamp, PG, South Dakota
24. New York – Tabitha Richardson-Smith, F, Seton Hall
25. San Antonio – Bashaara Graves, F, Tennessee
26. Seattle – Brene Mosley, PG, Maryland
27. Connecticut – Rachel Hollivay, C, Rutgers
28. Atlanta – Madison Cable, G, Notre Dame
29. Los Angeles – Kyley Simmons, G, Illinois
30. Dallas – Kahleah Copper, G/F, Rutgers
31. Washington – Zahna Medley, G, TCU
32. Phoenix – Courtney Walker, F, Texas A&M
33. Indiana – Rachel Theriot, PG, Nebraska
34. Chicago – Nicole Bauman, G, Wisconsin
35. Minnesota – Jordan Jones, PG, Texas A&M
36. New York – Tori Jarosz, C, Marist