The 2020 WNBA Draft is in the books, and as expected, the New York Liberty made Sabrina Ionescu the No. 1 overall pick. A standout at the University of Oregon, Ionescu has dynamic shooting and passing skills and will head to New York as the new face of its franchise. Rounding out the lottery, the Dallas Wings took Satou Sabally, the Indiana Fever selected Lauren Cox and the Atlanta Dream picked Chennedy Carter.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was being held virtually. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert read the picks live on ESPN’s broadcast from her living room, and the players were being incorporated into the event via video conferences from their homes. It was a unique experience, but at least the show was able to go on.
Here are some winners and losers from Friday night:
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Winner: New York Liberty
It was a good year for the New York Liberty to have the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in franchise history. As expected, they took Sabrina Ionescu, who recently completed a historic collegiate career at Oregon, where she became the NCAA‘s all-time leader in triple-doubles, and the only player ever with 2,000 career points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
She’s a brilliant passer and understands the game at an extremely high level, but she is more than just a floor general. An elite jump shooter, her ability to consistently make 3-pointers off the dribble is rare and will help separate her in the league. Furthermore, she has a unique competitive drive and grew as a leader in her senior season. There will be immense pressure on her as the face of the franchise as they move into Barclays Center, but she has the skills and the makeup to thrive in that situation.
The Liberty wasn’t done, however, adding a number of other picks via trade. On Wednesday, they shipped longtime star Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics in a three-team deal, which netted them two extra first-round picks, and on the draft night, they sent Shatori Walker-Kimbrough to the Mercury for another first-rounder.
They used those picks to add Megan Walker at No. 9, Jocelyn Willoughby at No. 10 and Jazmine Jones at No. 12. If that wasn’t enough, they also had the first pick of the second round and took Jones’ college teammate, Kylie Shook. Walker was a bit of a surprise early entrant, but was the best shooter in the draft, and will help create space for Ionescu. As for Willoughby, she rose quickly on draft boards thanks to her size and scoring ability on the wing.
Obviously the main takeaway here is Ionescu, but the Liberty were thin on the wing and added the two best options this draft had to offer. The Jones and Shook picks were unexpected, but even still, this was a great night for them.
Loser: Crystal Dangerfield, Te’a Cooper, Beatrice Mompremier
The four lottery picks were pretty much locked in heading into the draft, and went as expected. No one really knew what would happen after that, however, and there were definitely a bunch of surprises. Some of those meant news for players — Mikiah Herbert Harrigan went No. 6 to the Lynx, and Jazmine Jones became a first-round pick — but some were unfortunately bad news.
Crystal Dangerfield, Te’a Cooper and Beatrice Mompremier definitely fell into the latter category. All three were projected as likely first-round picks heading into the draft, but ended up falling into the second round. Dangerfield went No. 16 to the Minnesota Lynx, Cooper fell to the Phoenix Mercury at No. 18 and Mompremier dropped all the way to No. 20, where she was picked by the Los Angeles Sparks.
Dangerfield ended up on a Lynx team that needs a point guard, so she’ll have a chance to make the roster. Cooper, too, will have a shot to compete for a spot on a Mercury team that’s a bit thin in the backcourt — in terms of the number of players, not talent. Mompremier, however, will have a tough time making a Sparks team that is loaded in the frontcourt. While it’s not the end of the road for any of these players, it was certainly a disappointing night.
Winner: Dallas Wings
The Wings didn’t get the No. 1 pick, but they might end up with the best player in this draft. That’s how much potential Satou Sabally has. A 6-foot-4 forward out of Oregon, Sabally was stuck in Ionescu’s shadow a bit, but she has all the skills you could ask for in a modern forward. She’s an incredibly smooth athlete, can shoot the 3, has a handle and can put the ball on the deck, yet still crashes the glass and can hold her own inside. Her and Arike Ogunbowale should form a dynamic partnership for years to come.
If getting Sabally was the only thing the Wings did on Friday night, they still would have been a winner, but they also added Bella Alarie and Tyasha Harris. Alarie is another versatile forward who can space the floor and will provide more shooting around Ogunbowale. As for Harris, she’s a big point guard who can run the show and allow Ogunbowale to work off the ball more.
Overall, the Wings addressed all of their needs, got one of the best prospects in the draft and added three players who should impact their team immediately. Dallas has been a bit of a mess in recent years, but they nailed this draft and are now finally heading in the right direction.
Loser: The draft night experience
Getting drafted is a special achievement and one of the most memorable nights of a player’s career. Unfortunately for the class of 2020, they didn’t get a typical draft night due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While moving forward with a virtual draft was necessary, and still better than nothing, it definitely lessened the experience for the prospects. They weren’t able to attend a big event in person and go up on stage and get a jersey from the commissioner. Instead, they were contacted via video conferencing, and had to struggle through awkward interviews with questions they could only barely hear at times.
And that was just the players taken in the first round. After that, the draft flew by in a matter of minutes. Picks were called in during commercial breaks, and by the third round the broadcast didn’t even bother announcing the picks, choosing instead to just put up a graphic. That was a shame for those players. There was nothing else going on in the world of sports on Friday night, and the broadcast could have at least given the third-round picks a moment in the spotlight instead of glossing over them.
1. New York Liberty: Sabrina Ionescu — G, Oregon
2. Dallas Wings: Satou Sabally — F, Oregon
3. Indiana Fever: Lauren Cox — F, Baylor
4. Atlanta Dream: Chennedy Carter — G, Texas A&M
5. Dallas Wings: Bella Alarie — F, Princeton
6. Minnesota Lynx: Mikiah Herbert Harrigan — F, South Carolina
7. Dallas Wings: Tyasha Harris — G, South Carolina
8. Chicago Sky: Ruthy Hebard — F, Oregon
9. New York Liberty: Megan Walker — F, UConn
10. New York Liberty (via trade with Phoenix Mercury): Jocelyn Willoughby — F, Virginia
11. Seattle Storm: Kitija Laksa — G, Latvia
12. New York Liberty: Jazmine Jones — G, Louisville
13. New York Liberty: Kylee Shook — F, Louisville
14. Indiana Fever: Kathleen Doyle — G, Iowa
15. New York Liberty: Leaonna Odom — F, Duke
16. Minnesota Lynx: Crystal Dangerfield — G, UConn
17. Atlanta Dream: Brittany Brewer — F, Texas A&M
18. Phoenix Mercury: Te’a Cooper — G, Baylor
19. Seattle Storm: Joyner Holmes — F, Texas
20. Los Angeles Sparks: Beatrice Mompremier — F, Miami (FL)
21. Dallas Wings: Luisa Geiselsöder — C, Germany
22. Los Angeles Sparks: Leonie Fiebich — G, Germany
23. Connecticut Sun: Kaila Charles — G/F, Maryland
24. Washington Mystics: Jaylyn Agnew — F, Creighton
25. Atlanta Dream: Mikayla Pivec — G, Oregon State
26. Minnesota Lynx (via trade with New York Liberty): Erica Ogwumike — G, Rice
27. Atlanta Dream: Kobi Thornton — F, Clemson
28. Indiana Fever: Kamiah Smalls — G, James Madison
29. Phoenix Mercury: Stella Johnson — G, Rider
30. Chicago Sky: Japreece Dean — G, UCLA
31. Seattle Storm: Haley Gorecki — G, Duke
32. Chicago Sky: Kiah Gillespie — F, Florida State
33. Las Vegas Aces: Lauren Manis — F, Holy Cross
34. Los Angeles Sparks: Tynice Martin — G, West Virginia
35. Connecticut Sun: Juicy Landrum — G, Baylor
36. Washington Mystics: Sug Sutton — G, Texas
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