2022 WNBA Draft winners and losers: Dream start rebuild with Rhyne Howard;  Fever continues trend of odd drafts

2022 WNBA Draft winners and losers: Dream start rebuild with Rhyne Howard; Fever continues trend of odd drafts

After all the waiting, the film study, the interviews and mock drafts, the 2022 WNBA Draft finally arrived on Monday night. And for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was in person, which meant we got to see the players go up on stage, meet with commissioner Cathy Engelbert and have a real draft night moment.

As expected, the Atlanta Dream selected Rhyne Howard from Kentucky with the No. 1 overall pick. The rest of the lottery largely followed the projections as well, with the Indiana Fever taking NaLyssa Smith at No. 2 and Emily Engstler at No. 4, and the Washington Mystics picking Shakira Austin at No. 3.

Now that all of the action is complete, here are some winners and losers from draft night. For full results and first-round draft grades, go here.

Winner: Atlanta Dream and Rhyne Howard

Sometimes there can be a tendency not to include the No. 1 overall pick as a winner on draft night because it has been expected for so long that it loses some of the novelty and excitement. That is not a good approach to take, however, especially not this time around.

For one, the Dream pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Mystics to acquire the top pick earlier this month, moving up from No. 3 overall. After a disaster 2021 both on and off the court, the Dream hit the reset button at all levels of the organization and moving up to get the best player in the draft was a perfect way to start their rebuild. Everyone knew this pick was coming, yes, but it’s still a big win for the Dream to get a player of Howard’s caliber.

And on an individual level, this is a tremendous accomplishment for Howard. Over 1,000 players have passed through the WNBA through the years; only 26 of them were selected No. 1 overall. Howard is part of that select group. All of her hard work in high school, college and on the international level paid off in a major way on Monday, and now she has a chance to be a star in the pros.

Loser: Destanni Henderson

Almost every year (at least when the event is held in person) there’s a player invited to the WNBA Draft who is projected to go in the first round that ends up falling until all of a sudden they are the last invitee left on the board. This year, that was South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson.

Earlier this month, Henderson helped South Carolina win the NCAA title with a spectacular performance in the national championship game. She showed off her 3-point shot en route to a career-high 26 points, while also playing strong defense on UConn star Paige Bueckers. Many saw her as a potential first-round pick before that night, and afterward, there was a thought she might go in the top-10.

Instead, it appears teams were scared off by her lack of size. While clearly talented, she is just 5-foot-7, which makes it harder to succeed at the next level. In the end, she went No. 20 overall to the Fever. Interim GM Lin Dunn loves defensive-minded players and the Fever are in a rebuild, so that’s not a bad landing spot for her given the circumstances. Still, this was not how Henderson envisioned draft night going.

Winner and Loser: Indiana Fever

The Fever had unfortunately become something of a laughing stock over the last few years, especially when it came to the draft. None of their lottery picks from 2019, 2020 or 2021 are still on the team, and the latter two have already been waived after a combined 45 appearances with the club.

Eventually, the poor results on and off the court led to some big changes, and Tamika Catchings stepped down from her all-encompassing role in the front office. Lin Dunn took over as interim GM, and many hoped she could turn things in the right direction, especially given the team had two lottery picks and four first-round selections in this year’s draft.

Instead, the Fever rather quickly had the biggest shocker of the night when they selected Lexie Hull out of Stanford with the No. 6 overall pick. Hull shoots it well from outside and was a good player at the college level, but no one had her projected to be a first-round pick. A short time later, the Fever doubled down on the original thinking by going with Queen Egbo from Baylor at No. 10. She’s athletic and works hard defensively, but again, no one was rating her as a first rounder.

Once again, the Fever went way off the board — something that has not worked out well for them recently. It’s too bad, in a way, because you don’t want to sit here and criticize Hull and Egbo. It’s not their fault they were picked this high, and both of them may end up succeeding in the league. They surely would have been available later, however, and the Fever had a bunch of picks in the later rounds. When you’re mired in a rebuild like the Fever you cannot continue missing on draft picks, and there’s a good chance they did so again with these two selections.

The good thing about having four first-round picks and seven selections overall is that it gives you a whole bunch of swings. And despite the strange decisions at Nos. 6 and 10, this wasn’t the worst night overall for the Fever. They started out quite well, in fact, taking NaLyssa Smith at No. 2 and Emily Engstler at No. 4. Those two play hard and could form the basis of a terrific defensive frontcourt. Smith, in particular, has star potential if his offense continues to develop. Later on, they had Destanni Henderson — who many had graded as a potential first-round pick — fall in their laps late in the second round. She’s another defensive-minded player who could fit in on this rebuilding Fever team.

When you add players like Smith and Engstler, and even Henderson, it’s hard to say that the night was a complete loss for the Fever. At the same time, you cannot call them winners when they continue to have an odd process and reach for multiple players.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.