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Instant grades for every 2020 WNBA Draft first-round pick

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Here are our immediate reactions for the first 12 picks in the draft.

Stanford v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We’ve arrived at the 2020 WNBA Draft, what will hopefully go down as the first and only virtual draft in the league’s history. Sabrina Ionescu is projected to go first overall to the New York Liberty, but beyond that, chaos reigns on the mock drafts.

The Liberty are going all-in on their youth movement, having traded Tina Charles earlier this week to get two extra first-round picks in today’s draft. The full order is below — New York and Dallas each have three first-rounders, and Indiana, Atlanta, Minnesota, Chicago, Phoenix, and Seattle each have one.

Because draftees aren’t allowed to be in-person to shake the commissioner’s hand, the WNBA sent personalized swag boxes to the players instead. Ionescu confirmed to the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that she and the top picks also received a special tech package to make sure they can broadcast from their homes upon being selected.

1. New York Liberty — Sabrina Ionescu, G, Oregon

Grade: A

Ionescu was No. 1 on everyone’s board; she would have been the top overall pick to Las Vegas last year had she declared early out of Oregon. She is the biggest star of this draft — her new head coach Walt Hopkins called her a “franchise player” — and the Liberty needed a player like her to market around as they move into the Barclays Center full-time.

New York also needed what Ionescu brings to the court as they supercharge their rebuild. The Liberty haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 and just traded away a franchise icon in Charles. Ionescu can instantly come in to take control of the offense, as the team needs a point guard in the very worst way. Her knack for finding others and ability to take care of the ball are both traits that weren’t on New York’s roster last year.

2. Dallas Wings — Satou Sabally, F, Oregon

Grade: A

In another year, Sabally would be a no-brainer candidate for a No. 1 pick. She is an athletic wing who can get her own shot and get to the line while also draining it from deep. Sabally averaged 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting 38 percent from three-point range this season. Statistically, her metrics paint her as arguably a more impactful player than Ionescu this year.

Dallas has one future franchise cornerstone in Arike Ogunbowale, and Sabally will pair her marvelously. She doesn’t need to have the ball to dominate, and she can alleviate the pressure Ogunbowale faced from opposing defenses by providing a secondary scoring threat.

3. Indiana Fever — Lauren Cox, F, Baylor

Grade: A

The Fever had an easy decision to make with Sabally off the board, as Cox was easily among the top-three players in the draft. Her defensive prowess at Baylor, where she helped lead the team to a national title in her junior season, helped turn the Lady Bears into one of the most formidable units in the country.

Cox’s frontcourt partnership with Kalani Brown for the first three years of her college career bodes well for her fit with the fever, where Tierra McCowan is the center of the future. Cox can function out of the the high and low post on offense, and is another nice young piece for the Fever moving forward alongside McCowan and Kelsey Mitchell.

4. Atlanta Dream — Chennedy Carter, G, Texas A&M

Grade: A-

No one was happier than Nikki Collen when Carter elected to forego her senior season and declare for the 2020 WNBA Draft. The Atlanta head coach targeted a point guard or a small forward with the Dream’s first pick, and Carter is the second-best lead guard in the draft after Ionescu. Although her individual shooting percentages waxed and waned this season, Carter was the primary source of shot creation for her Aggies team. When Carter was on the floor, they took 52 percent of their shots at the rim (per Pivot Analysis), indicating her ability to drive efficient offense for others.

5. Dallas Wings — Bella Alarie, F, Princeton

Grade: B+

There was some thought Alarie would have slid in the draft after not having an NCAA tournament to showcase her skills against the best teams in the country, but the Wings took a chance on her anyway. Alarie is known best for her individual offense out of the midrange, and she also showed an ability to be part of an elite defense at Princeton. She’ll have to stretch out more to the three-point range in Dallas, but her feel for the game is elite. The pairing of Alarie and Sabally should keep the Wings content at the forward spots for years to come.

6. Minnesota Lynx — Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, F, South Carolina

Grade: C+

Herbert Harrigan has the potential to be a stretch big for Minnesota, the type of player to pair next to Sylvia Fowles for however long she remains with the Lynx. Her defensive fundamentals are strong having played under Dawn Staley, and she can guard in space, though she is a little undersized at power forward.

At the risk of criticizing Cheryl Reeve’s scouting, however, this pick doesn’t seem to address a need for the Lynx. Minnesota doesn’t have a point guard right now, unless Reeve is right about Odyssey Sims returning earlier than expected for the 2020 season. They could have used this pick for another ball-handler like Crystal Dangerfield or Tyasha Harris.

7. Dallas Wings — Tyasha Harris, G, South Carolina

Grade: B

The Wings have essentially built their starting lineup of the future in this draft. Harris serves as a perfect complement to Ogunbowale going forward. The former Notre Dame star is the scoring engine for Dallas, but Harris is more of a pure passer who finished in the top 1 percent in assist rate in the NCAA this season. Harris is also a bigger guard who can defend both the one and the two. Her major weakness is an inability to set up her own shot, but that becomes mitigated playing next Ogunbowale and potentially Sabally and Alarie.

8. Chicago Sky — Ruthy Hebard, F, Oregon

Grade: B

Ionescu said Hebard wouldn’t last until New York’s second pick, and she proved exactly right. Hebard goes from the best offensive team in college basketball to one of the smoothest offenses in the WNBA, and she’ll have another dominant pick-and-roll operator to play with in Courtney Vandersloot.

The problem here is Chicago’s offense relies on spacing, and Hebard doesn’t have an outside jump shot. The Sky have shown the ability to coax spacing from their bigs, like Stefanie Dolson and Astou Ndor, and James Wade may have his next project in Hebard. She can slot in as the backup behind Dolson, but she’ll have to improve her shooting to be a starter going forward.

9. New York Liberty — Megan Walker, F, Connecticut

Grade: A-

The best way to build an offense around Ionescu is to give her spacing, and New York just picked up the best wing shooter remaining in the draft in Walker. Walker isn’t necessarily the type of player to create her own shot at the WNBA level, but she can score off screens and on the break, both of which make perfect sense with the Liberty’s new point guard. New York was one of the worst shooting teams in the league in 2019 and their offensive rating was 98.14, but they’ve just added a scorer who averaged 1.02 points per possession (per Her Hoop Stats).

10. Phoenix Mercury — Jocelyn Willoughby, F, Virginia

Grade: B-

Despite already boasting a backcourt of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi, Phoenix is going all-in on their offense. There is no doubt Willoughby will get good shots playing next to that dynamic guard duo, especially since she shot 41.6 percent from three-point range as the No. 1 option for the Cavaliers. She’ll be formidable for opposing defenses who will have to load up on Diggins-Smith and Taurasi.

This doesn’t address Phoenix’s rebounding deficiencies or bolster their defense on the perimeter, which means the Mercury will continue to rely on Brittney Griner to stop everything that gets into the paint. However, Phoenix should be a nightmare to guard.

11. Seattle Storm — Kitija Laksa, G, Latvia

Grade: B-

It’s hard to know what to make of Laksa’s production this past season coming off of a torn ACL in 2018-19. Laksa shot 38.2 percent from beyond the arc in her last full collegiate season, and if that figure is indicative of where she is now, she will be an easy fit in Seattle. However, if she is closer to her production at TTT Riga this past season, it’s hard to tell what Laksa brings to the table.

Her fundamentals, including her quick release, suggest she’ll be able to make shots consistently, particularly considering the strong playmakers on the Storm roster. Seattle doesn’t really need any production outside of its title-winning core from 2018. They can afford to gamble with this pick.

12. New York Liberty — Jazmine Jones, G, Louisville

Grade: C+

A bit of a surprise to finish the first round. Jones was a high-efficiency scorer in the ACC last season who also made the conference’s all-defense team, but was projected to go in the second round. Jones can guard every perimeter position, which is the type of versatility that should appeal to the Liberty. There are concerns about how she will score at the next level, however, given her lack of creation and her low volume from the three-point range.

Jones has already signed a contract with Tarbes Gespe Bigorre, a professional team in France. It’s possible the Liberty stash her given their abundance of picks in this year’s draft.