WNBA
Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com 587d

UConn trio could lead the way in WNBA draft's first round

WNBA, Connecticut Huskies, Michigan State Spartans, Minnesota Golden Gophers

We're all sure about Nos. 1 and 2, but after that, there's a ton of speculation about which players will be picked in the first round. The WNBA draft is Thursday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, and here's a look at how it could go.

1. Seattle: Breanna Stewart, UConn, 6-4, F/C

As done a deal as can be done. She is a franchise player, and it seems serendipitous -- although a bit sad -- that soon after Lauren Jackson's retirement, Stewart will step in to fill that void. Jackson was a game-changing, versatile big woman who could do anything, and Stewie is in that same rare mold. She will make the Storm instantly better in multiple ways.


2. San Antonio: Moriah Jefferson, UConn, 5-7, G

Some might wonder if the Stars would consider trading her, perhaps to get an experienced post player. Doesn't seem likely. The Stars need her, and she's a very valuable addition. Point guards who can score efficiently, have the ability to run a pick-and-roll offense and defend against it, and aren't going to hurt you with turnovers are at a premium in pro ball. Jefferson fits that bill.


3. Connecticut: Morgan Tuck, UConn, 6-2, F

There might be concerns about her knees, since she dealt with that issue in college. And some will point out that part of her success is thanks to playing in UConn's perfect system while surrounded by a lot of talent, including the two names listed above. But give Tuck her due: She's mature beyond her years, a smart and physical defender, and she has expanded her game beyond the arc.


4. Connecticut: Rachel Banham, Minnesota, 5-9, G

We know that Banham can fill up the basket, at least at the college level, and everyone values a pure scorer. There are question marks: Will she get enough shots to be that kind of scorer in the WNBA? How will she defend in the pro game? Banham is also a good distributor, and we should see more of that now. While the Sun might go another direction (and mess up the rest of this already speculative mock draft), they would not be wrong to pick Banham.


5. Dallas: Aerial Powers, Michigan State, 6-0, F

The former Tulsa Shock are now the Dallas Wings, and they could use a wing player who can be a dynamic scorer. Seems like Powers, who had double-double potential every night at Michigan State, could be a very good fit. A redshirt junior, she opted to forgo her last year of college eligibility, and that seems a reasonable decision. She should be able to develop into a solid and versatile pro.


6. Los Angeles: Courtney Williams, South Florida, 5-8, G

Truth is, this pick could go in many different directions, and a lot depends on what the first five do. The Sparks traded for shooting guard Riquna Williams in March, then lost her to an Achilles injury. So they might want another guard with high-scoring potential, which Courtney Williams has. She earned praise from UConn's Geno Auriemma in South Florida's multiple battles with the Huskies, which gives her some cred at the pro level. Of course, the Sparks might also opt for more interior depth, even though it doesn't seem like they need that as much.


7. Washington: Jonquel Jones, George Washington, 6-6, F

Might Jones end up very close to where she played college ball? It's possible, if she is still available at this point when Washington picks. With the big women they already have, the Mystics don't have a strong need for size. But if Jones is deemed the best player available at this stage in the draft, Washington might take her and then figure out what to do with a surplus of interior players.


8. Phoenix: Kahleah Copper, Rutgers, 6-1, G/F

Especially with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor back this season, the Mercury don't have any real needs. But if they go for versatility on the perimeter, they have a chance to get size and athleticism in Copper. She seems like a combination of great players they already have, but that could allow Phoenix to develop her for the future.


9. Indiana: Imani Boyette, Texas, 6-7, C

Boyette might be gone before this. Dallas or Phoenix (in the market for a Brittney Griner backup?) are among the other teams that could take her. But she fits what the Fever need: an at-the-rim defender and good rebounder. Boyette is still trying to find consistency offensively, but the Fever have a history of bringing out players' best. And it could benefit any youngster to have one season with retiring legend Tamika Catchings.


10. Chicago: Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina, 5-9, G

The Sky could use another distributor who also can score. Mitchell never seemed as comfortable on offense her senior season as she was the previous two years. However, making that adjustment to A'ja Wilson as the primary threat with the Gamecocks actually might help Mitchell as she moves into the WNBA, particularly if she goes to Chicago, which is built around Elena Delle Donne.


11. Atlanta: Adut Bulgak, Florida State, 6-4, C

The Dream seemed like they should have been better than what their season ended up being last year, and the 2015 draft didn't help them. It might help this time if they can get a big player who can step in and contribute a little right away. Yes, there will be a steep learning curve for Bulgak, but she showed some versatility in being able to step outside the arc, and she's a solid rebounder.


12. New York: Jamie Weisner, Oregon State, 5-10, G

The Liberty were very disappointed not to make it to the WNBA Finals last year, and that will be the goal in 2016. Can they get a player at the end of the first round who can contribute to that quest? Maybe, maybe not. But Weisner has the toughness factor that coach Bill Laimbeer likes, and she was a very good 3-point shooter in college (253 treys). With Candice Wiggins' retirement, the Liberty might have a spot to fill.

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