Sky, Wings, Fever and Aces earn top marks in WNBA draft


The WNBA draft is a night of glitz and fun. But in five weeks, the WNBA season will begin with all of the draftees knowing how hard it is to make a roster. Because a great many of them won't.
The WNBA has 12 spots on 12 teams, so it's difficult to get and keep a job. The draft brings fresh talent in every year, and most classes have at least a handful of players who stick for multiple seasons. This year appears to have more talent than some recent classes, but that remains to be seen on the court.
When it comes to grading the draft, a big part of the grade comes simply from opportunity. Some franchises, such as defending champion Minnesota, didn't have a first-round pick and might not have improved their roster in a way that's readily obvious. By contrast, there's a team such as Chicago, which had two lottery picks and should benefit a lot from this draft.
Drafts are never properly graded until well after the fact, when we have actual results by which to judge. But here are espnW's draft grades as the clock ticks toward opening day on May 18.
The 'A' list
Chicago Sky
No. 3 Diamond DeShields, 6-1, SG, Tennessee
No. 4 Gabby Williams, 5-11, SF, UConn
No. 28 Amarah Coleman, 5-11, SG, DePaul
The Sky got exactly what they wanted. It helps when you have the No. 3 and No. 4 picks, which coach/general manager Amber Stocks helped set up with a trade last season. The bottom line in how this draft is evaluated long term is DeShields' performance. She has the ability to be one of the league's stars, and a go-to scorer the Sky need. She has to fit in chemistry-wise, though, which is something she says she understands.
Williams has the athleticism and competitiveness to fill in a lot of gaps because she's willing to do whatever she's asked. If Coleman makes the roster, she'll be a local grad like veteran Sky guard Allie Quigley, also of DePaul.
South Carolina's Alaina Coates, the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, feels like part of this class, too, because she didn't play in the 2017 WNBA season as she dealt with ankle injuries. Coates competed overseas, but she recently lost her father to a heart attack. We'll have to see how Coates deals with what is certain to be a very emotional time while trying to establish herself in the WNBA.
Dallas Wings
No. 6 Azura Stevens, 6-6, PF, UConn
No. 18 Loryn Goodwin, 5-9 PG, Oklahoma State
No. 30 Natalie Butler, 6-5, C, George Mason
The Wings maximized each pick they had for where it came in the draft. They couldn't be sure that Stevens would fall to sixth, but when she did, that was great for Dallas. With 6-foot-8 center Liz Cambage returning to the WNBA and now paired with Stevens, Dallas goes from a team that was soft in the middle to one that has two high-level rim protectors. That's an enormous and needed defensive improvement for the Wings, who allowed the most points in the WNBA last season.
And if Butler makes the team, that's another big body inside; she spent her senior year at George Mason after previously playing at UConn and Georgetown.
Goodwin was even more traveled, playing at four colleges, but she had an excellent senior year with Oklahoma State. She's a point guard who can score, and, if she makes the roster, Goodwin conceivably could prove a solid backup to Skylar Diggins.
Indiana Fever
No. 2 Kelsey Mitchell, 5-9, SG, Ohio State
No. 8 Victoria Vivians, 6-1, SG, Mississippi State
No. 14 Stephanie Mavunga, 6-3, PF, Ohio State