WNBA draft 2022: Dream select Kentucky's Rhyne Howard with No. 1 overall pick
The Atlanta Dream made Kentucky's Rhyne Howard the first overall pick in the 2022 WNBA draft on Monday night. Howard and Baylor's NaLyssa Smith led mock drafts all season.
The Dream acquired the pick in a trade with the Washington Mystics last Wednesday. The Mystics, which received the No. 3 pick and the No. 14 pick as part of the deal, won the draft lottery in December even though the Indiana Fever held the best odds at 44%. The Fever have four picks in the first round.
The draft was held eight days after South Carolina won its second national championship in program history at Target Center in Minneapolis. Held at Spring Studios in the Tribeca section of New York City, it is the first in-person draft since 2019.
A total of 108 collegiate players renounced the rest of their NCAA eligibility to enter the draft, but only 36 players are drafted every year. Roster spots are scarce in the WNBA with only 12 maximum allowed per team, but many trimmed to the minimum of 11 because of the salary cap. Those drafted outside of the first round are long shots to make rosters for 2022.
Players will report for training camps that begin April 17. The 26th season tips off on Friday, May 6, with a longer 36-game schedule for each team with the Finals wrapping up before the 2022 FIBA World Cup scheduled for September. The WNBA released more details of its TV schedule last week that includes games on ABC, CBS and Prime.
2022 WNBA draft order
1. Atlanta Dream (from Washington) — Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
Howard, a 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 20.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Wildcats this season. Kentucky shocked eventual champion South Carolina in the SEC tournament championship game, but took an early exit from the NCAA tournament. Over four years at Kentucky, Howard was 44% from the field and 38.2% from 3-point range. The Chattanooga, Tennessee, native is a two-time SEC Player of the Year selection and only the ninth player to be a three-time Associated Press All-America first team pick.
2. Indiana Fever — NaLyssa Smith, Baylor
Smith, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 22.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for the Bears in 2021-22. She shot 55% from the field. Under first-year Baylor head coach Nicki Collen, formerly of the Atlanta Dream, Smith expanded her shot to beyond the arc. The Texas native won the Wade Trophy as the nation’s best player last season and added a second Katrina McClain Award this year as the best power forward in Division I. Smith had the second-highest win share (12.8) behind South Carolina’s Naismith winner Aliyah Boston.
3. Washington Mystics (from Atlanta) — Shakira Austin, Ole Miss
Austin, a 6-foot-5 center, averaged 15.2 points, nine rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in her second season with Ole Miss. The Fredericksburg, Virginia, native was an all-ACC player with Maryland and transferred to Ole mIss before the 2020-21 season. The program went 7-23 before her arrival and 23-7 this year to make it back to the tournament for the first time since 2007.
4. Indiana Fever (from Los Angeles) — Emily Engstler, Louisville
Engstler is a tenacious defender who did a little of everything for the Cardinals and kept them in their Final Four matchup against South Carolina. The 6-foot-1 wing averaged 11.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.7 steals, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks as a senior after transferring from Syracuse. The Queens native was a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and is an All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team selection. She won co-Sixth Player of the Year honors while with Syracuse as a junior.
5. New York Liberty — Nyara Sabally, Oregon
Sabally, a 6-foot-5 center/forward, averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, both leading the Oregon team. She is the younger sister of Satou Sabally, the Dallas Wings’ No. 2 overall pick in 2020, and plays internationally for her home country of Germany. Sabally has missed extensive time due to knee injuries, but has tremendous upside and has long been considered potentially more talented than her older sister.
6. Indiana Fever (from Dallas) — Lexie Hull, Stanford
Hull is a surprise pick at No. 6 for Indiana after a big NCAA tournament showing. She came into the Final Four as the tournament's leading scorer thanks in large part to the 36-point outburst in the second round against Kansas. Hull was 14 of 21 (66.7%) and 6 of 11 (54.5%) from 3-point range. It marked career highs in points, field-goals made, 3-pointers attempted and steals. Hull has a high basketball IQ and ended her collegiate career with the best 3-point shooting of any of her four years.
7. Dallas Wings (from Chicago) — Veronica Burton, Northwestern
Burton is one of only two to be named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times, joining current Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright (Penn State). The 5-9 point guard averaged 17.8 PPG and 6.4 APG. Burton’s late grandfather, Ron Burton, was the NFL New England Patriots’ first-ever draft pick.
8. Los Vegas Aces (from Phoenix) — Mya Hollingshed, Colorado
Hollingshed, a 6-3 forward, brings good size to the Aces. She averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in her final season at Colorado and also led the team in 3-point shooting (39.6 percent). A fifth-year senior, Hollingshed also was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection this past season.
9. Los Angeles Sparks (from Seattle) — Rae Burrell, Tennessee
Burrell, a 6-1 guard/forward, averaged 12.3 points and 3.9 rebounds over 22 games after missing time early in the season with a leg injury. As a junior she averaged 17 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 APG and shot 45.8% from the field, including 40.2% from 3-point range. She was named to the Wichita all-tournament team.
10. Indiana Fever (from Minnesota) — Queen Egbo, Baylor
Egbo, a 6-3 center, averaged 11 PPG and 8.4 RPG in 23.4 minutes per game for Baylor. She’s an All-Big 12 second team selection this past year and a former conference Sixth Player of the Year. Egbo wasn’t projected to go in the first round, but has the benefit of having played for a former WNBA head coach in Nicki Collen for a season before heading into the WNBA.
11. Las Vegas Aces — Kierstan Bell, FGCU
Bell averaged 23.5 points per game, ranking fourth in Division I, with 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game, a combination that had not been accomplished by any player since 2009-10, per Her Hoop Stats. Her usage rate (38%) is the highest of any player and she ranks top 10 in efficiency as the go-to scorer for the mid-major club that made noise as No. 12 seed in the tournament.
12. Connecticut Sun — Nia Clouden, Michigan State
Clouden charged into the best player conversation by dropping 50 points, a single-game program record, on Florida Gulf Coast in December. The 5-8 guard led the Spartans in scoring the past three years, averaging 20 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.2 APG and shooting 42.7%. A Baltimore native, Clouden started from the first game of her freshman season and is a two-time All-Big Ten first team selection.
13. Las Vegas Aces (from Indiana) — Khayla Pointer, LSU
14. Washington Mystics (from Atlanta) — Christyn Williams, UConn
15. Atlanta Dream (from Los Angeles) — Naz Hillmon, Michigan
16. Los Angeles Sparks (from Washington) — Kianna Smith, Louisville
17. Seattle Storm (from New York) — Elissa Cunane, North Carolina State
18. New York Liberty (from Seattle via Dallas) — Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech
19. Los Angeles Sparks (from Chicago) — Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn
20. Indiana Fever (from Phoenix) — Destanni Henderson, South Carolina
21. Seattle Storm — Evina Westbrook, UConn
22. Minnesota Lynx — Kayla Jones, North Carolina State
23. Las Vegas Aces — Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech
24. Connecticut Sun — Jordan Lewis, Baylor
25. Indiana Fever — Ameshya Williams-Holiday, Jackson State
26. Phoenix Mercury (from Atlanta) — Maya Dodson, Notre Dame
27. Los Angeles Sparks — Amy Atwell, Hawaii
28. Minnesota Lynx (from Washington) — Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota
29. New York Liberty — Sika Kone, Mali
30. Dallas Wings — Jasmine Dickey, Delaware
31. Dallas Wings (from Chicago) — Jazz Bond, North Florida
32. Phoenix Mercury — Macee Williams, IUPUI
33. Seattle Storm — Jade Melbourne, Australia
34. Indiana Fever (from Minnesota) — Ali Patberg, Indiana
35. Las Vegas Aces — Faustine Aifuwa, LSU
36. Connecticut Sun — Kiara Smith, Florida