Mystics earn top pick in 2022 WNBA draft; here are the prospects to watch

The WNBA draft lottery has happened, and we finally know which team will be picking first in April.

No, it's not the Indiana Fever, who have posted a league-worst record of 40-116 since Tamika Catchings retired in 2016. It's the Washington Mystics, who lost 20 games this season. The Fever, the WNBA's worst team this season with a 6-26 record, will pick second.

Rounding out the top four is the Atlanta Dream at No. 3 for the third consecutive year, and the Dallas Wings at No. 4. That pick is from the Los Angeles Sparks, and the Wings will also be picking at No. 6. A pick from the Minnesota Lynx gives the Fever a selection at No. 10, as well.

2022 WNBA draft lottery odds

The four teams that do not make the playoffs are put in the lottery and odds are based on records over the past two regular seasons. The Fever came in with the best chances after a cumulative 12-42 record in the 2019-20 and '20-21 seasons. Their chances were 442 out of 1,000 (44%) and they were guaranteed at least the No. 3 pick. The franchise, which played its first season in 2000, has never had a No. 1 pick.

The Dream had the second-best odds (276) with a 15-39 record and are in overhaul mode. The Mystics had the third-best (178) with a 21-33 record and the Wings had the worst odds (104). They were part of the lottery after trading with the Los Angeles Sparks for the first-round pick in April.

Who is the 2022 No. 1 WNBA draft pick?

Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard brings the ball down court.
Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard is one of the top prospects in the 2022 WNBA draft. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

The 2022 draft class should be a more talented all-around group than in 2021, but WNBA front offices already have an eye on a big class coming in the next couple of years. To complicate things, any senior can opt to stay another year in college on the NCAA's COVID-19 eligibility waiver rules. And what's expected to be a massive free-agency period will change what teams are looking for in the draft.

These are the big names that could be lottery picks in 2022.

Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky — The 6-foot-2 senior guard has consistently been in national player of the year conversations since her sophomore season. She's averaging 18.3 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game, but the concern is her ability to show up in big games. Against Louisville last weekend, Howard seemed to disappear. She was 3. for 13 (23%) and failed to crack double-digit scoring for the first time this season.

NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor — The 6-foot-4 senior forward leads the nation in rebounding (13.2 rpg) and is top-20 in scoring (20.4 ppg). She's improving in her midrange game and from 3-point range under former Dream head coach Nicki Collen, which could be a boost for the Bears star.

Shakira Austin, C, Ole Miss — The 6-foot-5 senior is averaging 17.3 ppg and 9.1 rpg over her two seasons at Ole Miss after transferring from Maryland. The Rebels have played an easy schedule so far; Austin's chances as a lottery pick will be determined by her performance against the SEC schedule, including No. 1 South Carolina on Jan. 2.

Elissa Cunane, C, N.C. State — Cunane (13.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 41% 3FG) was in early foul trouble against No. 17 Georgia on Thursday night and sat for all but four minutes of the first half. Immediately upon re-entering, she brought No. 2 N.C. State back into a tighter contest and kept them there. The Wolfpack suffered an OT upset, but the 6-foot-5 senior's impact was clear.

Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan — Hillmon is known for putting up massive double-doubles every game, but she largely does it near the basket. The 6-foot-2 senior is top-15 in the nation in scoring (20.7 ppg) shooting nearly 60% this season and adds 8.5 rpg.

Others to keep an eye out for as the season progresses: The improvement of Louisville forward Emily Engstler through the years, first at Syracuse, has been phenomenal, and she's impressed for the No. 6 Cardinals. Evina Westbrook has the benefit of playing at UConn and will be able to improve her stock with Paige Bueckers out an extended period. Same for guard Christyn Williams, who will need to be more consistent in big moments. Iowa State's Ashley Joens is an elite scorer nearing 2,000 career points. Tennessee's Rae Burrell hasn't played since the season opener due to injury, so she could drop in the draft but has the talent to succeed. South Carolina's Destanni Henderson is also injured, but showed early she's a quick, talented scoring point guard for the top team in the nation. Northwestern's Veronica Burton is arguably the Big Ten's best defender (3.6 spg).

Full 2022 WNBA draft order

The draft order is based on lottery results for the first four picks and regular-season standings for teams Nos. 5-12. The Sky won the title, but will pick at No. 7. (Team's 2021 record in parentheses.)

1. Washington Mystics (12-20)

2. Indiana Fever (6-26)

3. Atlanta Dream (8-24)

4. Dallas Wings (14-18)

5. New York Liberty (12-20)

6. Dallas Wings (14-18)

7. Chicago Sky (16-16)

8. Minnesota Lynx from Phoenix (19-13), via New York and Seattle

9. Seattle Storm (21-11)

10. Indiana from Minnesota (22-10)

11. Las Vegas Aces (24-8)

12. Connecticut Sun (26-6)