Storm, Sun, Wings dominate the WNBA draft

Emotional Talia Walton thrilled to be in the WNBA (1:03)

The Los Angeles Sparks select Washington's Talia Walton No. 29 overall, with tears in her eyes she expresses her gratitude and tells Holly Rowe her plan moving forward. (1:03)

The 2016 WNBA draft is in the books, and there wasn't any enormous or surprising drama. The first round featured the most expected picks, and those players are the ones who have the best chances of making an impact as rookies.

Here are five takeaways from the draft. (Editor's note: For draft day interviews, please click on each player's name below.)

1. Looking into the crystal ball

As quickly as you can say 1-2-3 -- the WNBA draft order for UConn's three senior standouts -- you had to start thinking about this question: Which of them will be the first to win a WNBA title?

As expected, Breanna Stewart (Seattle), Moriah Jefferson (San Antonio) and Morgan Tuck (Connecticut) were the top three selections Thursday. It was yet another way that this group has set itself apart; even mighty UConn had never before filled the first three slots in the draft.

This trio's biggest accomplishment so far, of course, was winning four NCAA titles for the Huskies.

Now, each goes to a WNBA team that wasn't in the playoffs last season. They'll all be trying to make an immediate impact, of course, but which of their respective teams looks closest to making a jump into championship territory?

Let's go out on a limb and pick ... Connecticut. Crazy, you say? Admittedly, the changes in the WNBA playoffs -- which no longer are set up so there is a guarantee of a finalist from each conference -- make this even harder to predict.

Here's why we'll go with the Sun, even though they have missed the playoffs the past three seasons. Actually, it's kind of because of that. The good part of losing is lottery picks, which the Sun have used to draft young talent or trade for it.

On Thursday, along with Tuck, Connecticut got No. 4 overall pick Rachel Banham, the scoring machine out of Minnesota; George Washington center Jonquel Jones, the No. 6 pick whom the Sun obtained in a trade; Oregon State guard Jamie Weisner (No. 17 overall); and St. John's guard Aliyyah Handford.

They'll all try to make the squad that includes former top pick Chiney Ogwumike, who's coming back from injury, center Kelsey Bone and guard Alex Bentley. New coach Curt Miller has a chance to put his imprint on this team, and Tuck brings championship experience.

The Sun got as far as the WNBA Finals twice -- in 2004 and 2005 -- and they were particularly disappointed to fall short of the Finals in 2012 after finishing first in the Eastern Conference that year.

Mike Thibault was let go as coach after that season and moved on to Washington. Anne Donovan had three years with a losing record with the Sun, and now it's Miller's turn.

Admittedly, we're not talking about Connecticut winning a title this year, or probably even next year. But perhaps Tuck is the one to bring enough of the UConn magic dust with her to the Sun.

As for the knee injuries that forced her to miss most of one season and bothered her for a few games this year, Tuck said there are no worries.

"I played, felt great, and I still feel great," she said. "So I plan on feeling great the whole WNBA season."

2. Stewie in Seattle

On the day the women's basketball world found out it had lost a legendary player from the early days, her "equivalent" was celebrated as the WNBA's top draft pick.

Nera White died Wednesday at the age of 80; her death was officially announced Thursday. White was one of the preeminent players in the era in which there was no formal women's college basketball, but there was AAU competition.

From 1955 to 1969, White was an AAU All-American and helped Nashville Business College win eight consecutive national championships. White was a 6-foot-1 do-it-all player whom you might think of as the Stewie of her day.

Stewart, born 59 years after White, has had opportunities that players of the 1950s and '60s couldn't have imagined. There will be a lot of demands on Stewart's time as she goes to Seattle to help boost that franchise and also try to make the Olympic team. But if anybody appears prepared for all this summer will throw at her, it's Stewart. And now the time has come for her to take it on.

"I've been trying to make sure I stay in the moment," Stewart said, "which is hard when you have so many things to look ahead to."

Oh, and if you're saying Stewart is the most likely of the three Huskies seniors to win a WNBA title, that is understandable. She joins former UConn teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and last year's No. 1 pick, Jewell Loyd, with the Storm.

3. Great day and good day

It goes without saying that with Stewart alone, this was a great day in Seattle. But we already knew that last fall when the Storm won the draft lottery. What other teams really helped themselves on Thursday?

Great day: Connecticut (mentioned above) and Dallas both seemed to fill needs with the players they wanted. The Wings, who have moved from Tulsa, where they were the Shock, needed a dynamic wing player and more size inside, and they got that with No. 5 pick Aerial Powers of Michigan State and No. 18 Ruth Hamblin of Oregon State.

Last year, the Wings made the playoffs in their final season in Tulsa as the Shock. Powers is particularly looking forward to playing with guards Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims with the Wings.

"I'm ready to get in there and prove myself but also learn a lot from them," Powers said. "They already played a couple seasons. I'm just happy to be here and finally know what where I'm going."

Good day: It didn't seem like Washington was looking for a lot in this draft, but the Mystics had to be pleased to land Rutgers guard/forward Kahleah Copper with the No. 7 pick. She has size and offensive ability and should fit in well as a defender for Washington.

Indiana has one more season with legendary player Tamika Catchings, and the Fever will have a lot to worry about next year, in regard to getting along without her. But in this draft, the Fever apparently were most concerned about bolstering the guard position, and they did that with No. 9 pick Tiffany Mitchell of South Carolina and No. 21 Brene Moseley of Maryland.

Phoenix has a lot of veteran talent and leadership and didn't need much from this draft. That gave the Mercury a chance to pick up a guard who should fit well in their system, No. 8 pick Courtney Williams of South Florida, and two post players: Oregon's Jillian Alleyne (who has an ACL injury and will miss the season), and UCLA guard Nirra Fields. They were picks Nos. 20 and 32.

New York also didn't have much in the way of needs and had the final pick in each round. The Liberty got a mobile post player in Florida State's Adut Bulgak (No. 12), a shooting guard with range in Ohio State's Ameryst Alston (No. 24) and a promising guard/forward who has to recover from injury in Georgia's Shacobia Barbee (No. 36).

Last in the good category is defending WNBA champion Minnesota, which got forward Bashaara Graves of Tennessee (No. 22) and Southern Cal center Temi Fagbenle (No. 35). The Lynx also obtained veteran guard Jia Perkins after sending James Madison's Jazmon Gwathmey (No. 14) to San Antonio in a trade.

4. OK day and meh day

OK day: The Stars got a very good point guard in Jefferson, all the more important with Danielle Robinson having had Achilles' surgery last month. San Antonio picked up another young guard in James Madison's Gwathmey, who was selected No. 14 by Minnesota and then traded to the Stars for veteran Perkins. The Stars also got Big 12 player of the year Brittney Martin of Oklahoma State with the first pick of the third round, but it seems San Antonio is still going to need more help inside.

Chicago went after two needs: more size and defense at the rim (No. 10 Imani Boyette of Texas) and another strong distributing guard (No. 34 pick Jordan Jones of Texas A&M). Those seem to be solid picks.

Atlanta selected two guards who were prolific college scorers in West Virginia's Bria Holmes (No. 11) and Texas A&M's Courtney Walker. The Dream got a defensive-minded center in Rutgers' Rachel Hollivay (No. 13) and the Big 12 all-time assists leader in Baylor's Niya Johnson (No. 28). That all sounds good, but we'll see how many of them make the roster.

Meh day: The Los Angeles Sparks took Jonquel Jones with the No. 6 pick, then traded her to Connecticut for point guard Chelsea Gray. There's no doubt the Sparks could use a point guard, but we'll have to see if Gray can be the answer there.

The Sparks also added Florida Gulf Coast's Whitney Knight (No. 15), Washington's Talia Walton (No. 29) and Syracuse's Brianna Butler (No. 23.) The big challenge for those three is to make the team.

5. Mock draft grade

OK, these things are kind of hard to do. Here at espnW, we had 11 of the 12 first-round players picked correctly but only the first five placed in the right order. We missed on West Virginia's Holmes being in the first round and had Oregan State's Weisner there instead.

So ... good enough for a B-minus? OK, maybe only a C-plus.