The 2021 WNBA Draft is near! Just as it was last year, the 2021 Draft will be held virtually, with expanded coverage on ESPN and the league’s official app adding a greater social dimension to the event.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted college basketball players an extra year of eligibility, and many of them took advantage. Unlike in previous drafts, every player — not just draft-eligible juniors — had to opt-in by contacting the WNBA, and the result was only 52 NCAA players announcing their intent to play professionally. That total increased to 57 on Wednesday.
It’s hard to fault those who decided to stay in school. As usual, only a handful of draftees will end up making a WNBA roster, with the league’s new collective bargaining agreement earning many of its veterans more money — and thus further tightening team salary caps. It also gives seniors looking to further polish their games or get one more chance at collegiate team success before turning pro an opportunity to do so.
Because of this, we may see more international players drafted in 2021 as WNBA teams attempt to still get value from draft picks they’d essentially be unable to use otherwise. There’s also the ever-present possibility of draft-day trades; teams like Dallas and Indiana, for example, have far more picks than they’ll be able to roster in 2021, so they may choose to kick the can down the road by swapping them for future assets.
These possibilities make the 2021 WNBA Draft interesting in spite of the reduced number of NCAA draftees. What the Wings do with their surplus of picks will take center stage, but keep an eye on how championship contenders such as Las Vegas, Chicago and Minnesota bolster their depth and what Atlanta and Indiana do with their lottery picks.
Coverage of the draft will begin at 7 p.m. ET on April 15, with ESPN hosting for two hours. In the meantime, here is Swish Appeal’s 2021 WNBA Mock Draft, featuring predictions and analysis for all 36 draft picks.
While Collier is only a junior, she’s draft-eligible, and it was assumed by many that she’d be the No. 1 overall pick if she decided to go pro. Collier announced her decision in early March, undoubtedly making the Wings very happy in doing so. She finished her junior season leading the nation in total offensive rebounds and ranking fifth in free throws attempted while also showing peeks of a developing 3-point shot. It would be a surprise if Dallas doesn’t draft her.
2. Dallas Wings: Awak Kuier (Finland)
The first of several big-name international players in the class, Kuier burst onto the scene in 2018, averaging 14.3 points and 12.4 rebounds per game in the FIBA U18 European Championship. At 6-foot-4, Kuier moves and handles the ball like a guard, making her an enticing talent for any team. Even if the Wings take Collier at No. 1, they may not be able to resist Kuier’s skillset at No. 2.
3. Atlanta Dream: Rennia Davis (Tennessee)
An imposing 6-foot-2 perimeter player with fluid athleticism, Davis has a combination of size and defensive potential unlike that of any other wing in the class. She can score, too, making tough fadeaway jumpshots look easy with her effortless elevation. The Dream have plenty of ball handlers and spent a lot of money on bigs in free agency, so it would make sense for them to round things out with a player like Davis.
Guirantes is a gifted three-level scorer whose upper body strength and smooth footwork allow her to get her shot off against almost any defender. As with most perimeter players hailing from Rutgers, Guriantes can also get after it defensively, making her an appealing two-way prospect whose impact as a pro will be felt immediately. Such versatility would make her a good fit on the Fever, who are currently lacking size on the perimeter and could also use another shot creator to pair with Kelsey Mitchell.
5. Dallas Wings: Aari McDonald (Arizona)
If the Wings draft bigs with picks Nos. 1 and 2, they’ll probably look elsewhere at No. 5. McDonald’s fit in Dallas may not seem ideal at first glance, but given how she performed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, this is a case in which the Wings should just take the best player available and figure the rest out later. There aren’t many guards faster than McDonald in the open court, and she’s one of the best point of attack defenders in the country as well.
6. New York Liberty: Natasha Mack (Oklahoma State)
The long-armed Mack (6-foot-11 wingspan) transferred to Oklahoma State after dominating the JuCo circuit for Angelina College. As a Cowgirl, she continued to post enormous lines, averaging 19.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and four blocks per game in her senior season. Mack’s frame and disruptiveness on defense should allow her to play in multiple defensive schemes as a pro. The Liberty ranked 11th in the WNBA in forcing turnovers last season, and while they’ve already added former Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard, drafting Mack would give New York even more defensive playmaking in its frontcourt and ensure the team can play aggressively on defense for a full 40 minutes.
Perhaps the most athletic player in the class, Onyenwere will likely have to make the transition from undersized power forward to small forward in the WNBA. While Onyenwere’s skills are still developing, her strength and explosiveness are not in question, and her tenacity on the glass (13.3 percent total rebounding rate or better in each of her four collegiate seasons) will translate immediately. Given how crowded Dallas will be after this draft, the Wings would be able to be patient with Onyenwere (if they don’t trade the pick, that is), and Kayla Thornton would serve as a great mentor.
8. Chicago Sky: Dana Evans (Louisville)
Chicago has been in need of a backup point guard for several years now, and if Evans falls to No. 8, she’d be a good fit on the Sky. The two-time ACC Player of the Year has a quick release and can shoot it from far beyond the 3-point line. Even if the Sky decide that she’s not a full-time point guard, Evans’ scoring ability can still be maximized playing off the ball alongside playmakers like Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker.
9. Minnesota Lynx: Jasmine Walker (Alabama)
Walker made it a personal goal to become a WNBA-caliber player, and the work Alabama’s star forward put in to reach that level will surely be rewarded. Walker shot 39.8 percent on 3-pointers as a senior while pulling down 9.4 rebounds per game, and being able to operate both on the perimeter and down low at 6-foot-3 should make her appealing to the Lynx, who embraced smaller lineups with great success in 2020.
10. Los Angeles Sparks: Chelsea Dungee (Arkansas)
One of the country’s most dangerous perimeter players attacking the rim, Dungee led the SEC in scoring (22.3 points per game) and made 177 free throws as a senior, ranking second in Division I. Her dribble drive game and downhill scoring ability would give the Sparks another scorer behind Erica Wheeler and Kristi Toliver, as well as add a needed offensive dimension to a backcourt that is currently mostly a jumpshooting one.
11. Seattle Storm: Kiana Williams (Stanford)
Seattle’s roster is going to look considerably different this season after the loss of Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark, and chances are the contract Sue Bird signed in March will be her last. With that in mind, it’s time for the Storm to start reloading; Williams’ impressive basketball pedigree includes a 2021 national championship with Stanford, and her balanced offensive game and even-keeled demeanor would make her a good fit in Seattle both on and off the court.
12. Las Vegas Aces: Iliana Rupert (France)
Named the EuroLeague Young Player of the Year in 2019-20, Rupert was a key component of French club Bourges Basket and figures to be a fixture for the French national team for years to come. Rupert has size at 6-foot-4 and a solid low-post game for a player of her age (19 years old). While the Aces don’t need much frontcourt help at the moment, a player like Rupert could stick around and develop into something special for them long-term.
13. Dallas Wings: Shyla Heal (Australia)
Australia is no stranger to sending its best talent to the WNBA, and Heal will be the country’s next prized export. While she won’t turn 20 until this September, Heal already has extensive professional experience, highlighted by an impressive performance in the FIBA 2018 U17 World Cup. More recently, Heal competed against WNBA talent such as Leilani Mitchell and Elizabeth Cambage in the WNBL, proving herself to be one of Australia’s brightest young stars. Dallas won’t have the room to immediately roster this pick, so drafting Heal would allow the Wings to let her develop overseas for the time being.
After suffering a knee injury while at Stanford, Carrington reinvented her game with the Lady Bears, coming off the bench for Baylor as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country. Per Synergy Sports, Carrington forced a turnover on 22.5 percent of pick and rolls she defended, and her 4.2 percent steal rate was among tops in the country. As a big guard who should be able to defend right away, she’d be right at home playing for Bill Laimbeer and the Aces.
Despite being somewhat undersized at center (6-foot-2), Thompson’s rebounding numbers were routinely among the best in the country: She grabbed at least 4.2 offensive rebounds per game in each of her four seasons at Auburn, her 5.4 offensive rebounds as a senior leading all of Division I. There’s a chance that she would earn a reserve role with the Dream if Atlanta drafts her.
16. Chicago Sky: Chelsey Perry (UT Martin)
Perry has won back-to-back Player of the Year awards in the OVC, scoring better than 22 points per game in both seasons and knocking down 82 3-pointers in that span. The question, of course, will be how WNBA GMs weigh her dominance of mid-major competition against players from Power Five conferences. Regardless, there’s no doubt that Perry can put the ball in the hoop, and perhaps her skill as a scoring forward can flourish on a team like the Sky when she’s not the center of attention.
17. New York Liberty: Kysre Gondrezick (West Virginia)
The 5-foot-9 Gondrezick has always been able to score, but she took her game to new heights as a senior, carrying West Virginia’s offense with her dynamic play. Gondrezick is a threat to pull up from just about anywhere on the court and can get to the foul line as well (20.1 percent free throw rate), making her a good choice for New York should head coach Walt Hopkins continue to emphasize 3-point shooting and transition offense.
18. Seattle Storm: Selena Lott (Marquette)
Lott’s main appeal as a prospect is her malleable skillset. Whichever team drafts her won’t be expecting star-level production, but rather a steady hand who can knock down open 3-point looks on offense and hold her own on defense. Seattle has plenty of stars already; if the Storm are seeking a solid role player who can complement those stars, Lott would be a good option for them at No. 18.
19. Indiana Fever: N’dea Jones (Texas A&M)
An energetic forward who excels at rebounding and running the floor, Jones averaged a double-double in both her junior and senior seasons at Texas A&M. She was an integral part of the Aggies’ defense during their first-ever SEC regular-season title run, and the principles she learned under Gary Blair would be a welcome addition to an Indiana frontcourt that struggled defensively in 2020.
20. Connecticut Sun: Destiny Slocum (Arkansas)
The Sun aren’t in an enviable drafting position. Alyssa Thomas suffered an Achilles injury over the offseason, but Connecticut had to re-sign her without suspending her contract, so the team will be tight on cap space in 2021 and must fill out its roster with minimum-level salaries. The Sun don’t have much depth in their backcourt at the moment, so Slocum would make for a good training camp addition with a chance to sneak onto the roster thanks to her ability to create shots.
21. Connecticut Sun: Jenna Staiti (Georgia)
Staiti’s presence in the paint was a major key for Georgia’s somewhat unexpected success in 2020-21. While she rebounds (24.2 percent defensive rebounding rate) and blocks shots (11 percent block rate) with the best of them, the real upside to Staiti’s game is her developing jumpshot; if the Sun believe Staiti can become a legitimate threat from the outside, she’d be worth a look at No. 21.
22. Los Angeles Sparks: Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse)
Mangakahia’s collegiate basketball career is full of inspiration. A breast cancer survivor, Mangakahia’s eye-popping assist numbers have been drawing attention for years; she averaged 9.8 assists per game as a freshman and came back to lead the Orange once again after being declared cancer-free. WNBA teams may consider Mangakahia to be too slight, but her court vision and passing ability can’t be taught, so she’ll get a chance to compete for a professional roster spot at the very least.
23. Seattle Storm: Stephanie Watts (North Carolina)
An athletic wing player with a solid build, Watts can attack the basket with speed while also being a threat from outside. Watts’ 3-point shot has been streaky over her collegiate career, but there’s no denying her playmaking ability on both sides of the ball; a player of her archetype should be able to compete in a WNBA camp right away, and while the Storm likely won’t be able to roster whoever they draft at No. 23, they may not be comfortable letting a physical talent like Watts pass them by.
24: Indiana Fever: Michaela Kelly (Central Michigan)
A high-octane scoring guard, Kelly led Central Michigan to the NCAA Tournament in 2021, scoring 23.9 points on an effective field goal percentage of 56.3 percent. Her efficiency as a high-usage player is impressive; Kelly made 255 threes during her four seasons at Central Michigan, and while she won’t be asked to carry an offense at the WNBA level, her ability to pull up from long range off the dribble will make her a tough cut from any training camp. If she finds herself in a fluid situation like Indiana’s, she may even be able to snag a roster spot.
25. New York Liberty: Jill Townsend (Gonzaga)
Townsend made a living shooting the basketball at Gonzaga, which should automatically put her on New York’s radar. She’s adept at both spotting up and coming off screens, shooting a combined 70-for-175 (40 percent) on threes in her upperclassman seasons. Townsend is also an attentive off-ball defender who, at 5-foot-11, has the size to defend against most WNBA perimeter players.
26. Indiana Fever: DiDi Richards (Baylor)
Richards was named the country’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, and for good reason: Her blend of lateral movement, instincts, and relentless effort made her an absolute terror to score against. Richards averaged 6.3 assists per game (9th in Division I) during her senior season as Baylor’s de facto point guard, and while her overall offensive game will be seen as a liability at the next level, she’ll be a great training camp addition for anyone looking to boost both their defense and their culture.
Lisowa-Mbaka has been in the Belgian pro basketball pipeline for many years, most recently representing her country in the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2019, where she averaged 12.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She has also been competing professionally with Castors Braine, playing in both EuroLeague and EuroCup Women. If drafted, Lisowa-Mbaka may not be able to play in the WNBA right away due to Belgian national team obligations, but her potential as a versatile wing player — as well as her amount of professional experience at 19 years old — makes her a great candidate to be “stashed.”
28. Los Angeles Sparks: Jenn Wirth (Gonzaga)
Wirth’s game isn’t going to blow anyone away, but she’s the type of big who can contribute in almost any situation. She’s an excellent rebounder (24 percent defensive rebounding rate as a senior), sure, but she can also pass the ball with quiet effectiveness (20.1 percent assist rate), and her feel for the game is among the best of any of the traditional frontcourt players in the class. According to Synergy Sports, 21.2 percent of Wirth’s offensive possessions came on basket cuts.
29. New York Liberty: Laura Meldere (Latvia)
With so many potential WNBA prospects choosing to exercise their extra year of NCAA eligibility rather than enter the draft, WNBA teams may place a greater emphasis on drafting young international players and hanging onto their rights in the coming year rather than drafting an American player who they’ll just end up waiving. Meldere is one such player; the 6-foot-3 forward was highly impressive in the FIBA U19 World Cup, averaging 15 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, and she doesn’t turn 20 years old until June.
Carrera Quintana is another international player who may hear her name called later in the draft. If her numbers from the FIBA U20 European Championship are any indicator, she’ll turn into a player who can score efficiently (52.8 percent shooting) while drawing a lot of fouls (0.679 free throw rate) in the process. There’s no way the Sun can make better use of this pick (at least if they want the pick to contribute immediately) so Carrera Quintana may be the way to go here.
31. Indiana Fever: Ivana Raca (Wake Forest)
Raca may be a tad slender for a big, but she makes up for it with a throwback post game that emphasizes nifty footwork and a feathery-soft touch around the rim. Her senior season at Wake Forest was easily her best as a rebounder (22.1 percent defensive rebounding rate), and her overall skill level with the basketball suggests that a reliable 3-point shot is on the horizon as well.
32. Phoenix Mercury: Janelle Bailey (North Carolina)
The 2018 ACC Freshman of the Year, Bailey is a big, strong center who has been one of the country’s most consistent post players during her time at North Carolina. Bailey averaged better than 13 points and 8 rebounds per game in each of her four seasons as a Tar Heel, and her large frame will make her a valuable training camp addition to any team that needs frontcourt depth.
Unlike many of the rising international stars already listed, Fauthoux has yet to truly break out, so it’s more difficult to call her a can’t-miss international prospect. Regardless, she plays alongside Marine Johannès on a LDLC ASVEL Féminin team intent on developing homegrown talent, and she has some EuroLeague Women experience to her name as well. Indiana might as well take a flier on Fauthoux at No. 33 and keep her rights for the future.
34. Los Angeles Sparks: Aaliyah Wilson (Texas A&M)
The 5-foot-11 Wilson was often the Aggies’ go-to player in crunch time thanks to her ability to nail jumpshots off the dribble. WNBA teams will probably discourage that shot in favor of spot-up 3-pointers (Wilson shot 42 percent from distance as a senior) but the rest of her game — especially her defense — will make her a nuisance to compete against in training camp.
35. Seattle Storm: Aleah Goodman (Oregon State)
Goodman’s calling card has always been her 3-point shot — she shot 43.7 percent on long-distance shots at Oregon State, making 238 of them — but it’s the other areas of her game that will make or break her draft worthiness. Goodman spent significantly more time handling the basketball as a senior — over 39 percent of her possessions came in the pick and roll, according to Synergy Sports — but will she be able to carry that over to the WNBA level? If she can, she’ll turn out to be great value in the third round of the draft.
36. Las Vegas Aces: Que Morrison (Georgia)
The speedy Morrison pushed the tempo for Georgia all season long, recording 29.5 percent of her offensive possessions in transition. She also showed her chops in isolation, ranking in the 94th percentile in jumpers off the dribble. Even if she doesn’t make a team, Morrison should make whoever picks her later in the draft very happy with her aggressive play and ultra-competitive nature.