Now that we’ve officially closed the book on the 2023 WNBA Draft, let’s look at what’s in the 2024 draft.
The top players in each of last year’s national finalists will be seniors, and the other three top five of their high school class—Big Bakers, Cameron Brink, and Camila Cardoso—have lived up to the hype in their own ways. Three ACC guards have put themselves in contention for first-round draft picks (yes, Haley Van Leith is an ACC guard until further notice), and there are also a handful of seniors who are back in college for a fifth season. Put them all together, and this could be one of the greatest draft seasons in league history.
The obvious warning to this possibility is the COVID-19 bonus year. Every player who was in college during the 2020-21 season was given an extra year of eligibility, an oddity that removed many prospects from this year’s class and could wreak the same kind of havoc in 2024. Many players have already relished the prospect of winning. Using their fifth years, including Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, whom LSU actually listed as a sophomore in 2022-23 — so it’s reckless to expect them to leave for the WNBA.
For the purposes of this exercise — which is just a big plate and not a mock draft, since there’s no concept of a 2024 draft order — we’ll assume everyone can declare at will and apply an asterisk to any player who can return for another season. However, due to the possibility of many stars returning to college, this initial list will be expanded to 24 until it could eventually drop to 12.
Clark was named Player of the Year and offense, and improved after a year leading the nation in scoring and assists. She is able to generate her own shot from the perimeter and distort defensive schemes with her ability to shoot from distance. She’s also adept at running the screen, rolling and hitting it big or skipping a pass to the shooter. Clark got stronger and became a better edge finisher as a rookie as well. She still doesn’t offer much defense and continues to work on managing her emotions over the course of the game. However, it’s hard to imagine a more complete offensive skill set than Al Qaeda.
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2. Big Bakers | 5-11 Guard | Connecticut *
This is kind of speculation because we haven’t seen the Bueckers complete a full season in two years. However, a Bueckers who dominated during her junior year, who was the MVP in the U19 World Cup and who stepped up to the event several times in the NCAA Tournament, is still already an exciting prospect. If you can stay healthy, Bueckers should still be a formidable offensive force at the next level.
3. Cameron Brink | 6-4 FRONT/CENTER | Stanford *
Brink is the archetype of big talk. She’s a threat that defends from the edge and can defend expertly in space – she never gets out of a play even if a driver thinks she’s overtaken her. Brink also has a decent shooting touch, best illustrated by her 85 percent mark from the foul line last year, and she showed a willingness to take 3-pointers, even if she was less successful from long range as an underclassman. Versatile enough to play as a single large character or with another player in the front yard, Brink easily fits wherever you go.
4. Angel Reese | 6-3 forward | LSU *
Reese dominates the paint unlike anyone in college basketball, particularly on offense. She is a relentless rebel who puts her defenses in check with her pursuit of basketball. Reese is already a prolific scorer, and she could go up two points this season if she were to expand her game beyond the paint.
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5. Rekia Jackson | 6-2 forward | Tennessee
Already a pro at getting the bucket, Jackson has a smooth finish around the edge. Her stride is a killer, and she has many more counters for the cannon to beat. Even with the limitations on her jump shot, Jackson has averaged at least 19 points per game the past two seasons.
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6. Nyadio Bosch | 6-1 Forward | Southside Flyers (Australia)
Puoch was perhaps the biggest star of the Nike Hoops Women’s Summit Opening. The 18-year-old displayed superior edge protection – her best skills in the domestic league – as well as some budding ball maneuvering and smooth jumping. Puoch is well on her way to following in Ezi Magbegor’s footsteps to the WNBA.
7. Aliyah Edwards | 6-3 forward | Connecticut *
Edwards is a really good defender who can take on both wingers and seniors. It is not yet clear if she is a strong forward or center but she has strong footwork and has extended her jump to the edge of the paint.
8. Haley Van Leith | 5-7 Guard | Louisville (Gateway Transportation)*
Kelsey Plum provides the ultimate Van Lith archetype, a bulldog of combo guard who claws his way to the edge, excels at midrange, and stalks defensively. The fact that Plum made her way to third place in MVP voting last season gives Van Lith a high ceiling, despite her size. Van Leith will have to work on her playmaking and prove her 3-point shooting in 2022-23 was just a blip for one year, but she has already proven she can score against tougher defenders.
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9. Camila Cardoso | 6-7 Center | South Carolina *
The physical tools speak for themselves with Cardoso. In her prime, she can impact shots almost nonchalantly at the edge and is already a solid defender in grabs and runs. I’ve developed a better understanding of how to read the abuse that looks like in each game. Its potential lies in reaching a high level if you can add any scoring moves beyond drawdowns.
Sheldon is the first true two-way point guard in this category. Her stealing pedigree is clearly inflated by playing the Ohio State Press, but she still has great instincts for passing lanes in the half area and enough speed to stay ahead of drivers. A leg injury caused her to miss 3-point shooting in 2022-23, but she’s always been a 3-point 35-percent shooter who can also attack the basket, giving her every level of scoring a modern point guard needs.
That status may be a bit high given her three-year stint at Virginia Tech, but 2023 Georgia Amoore is alone as a WNBA player. She can handle any kind of defensive pressure with her grip and speed and generate huge 3-pointers for herself and her teammates. The hope is she can make any effort defensively when she’s not relied on to run her team’s offense for 40 minutes every night.
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A solid defender in the backcourt, Osborne needs to use her senior season to prove she can score again with above-average efficiency. She takes care of the ball and gets to the line more often, but a more consistent jump can be a make-or-break skill for her.
Jackson is a sporting hazard that protects the edges and finishes efficiently around the edge. Once you figure out how to leave the position, it will be quite the offensive power.
The defense is there for Taylor, and she could arguably be a more defensive influence once her offensive role is streamlined into the next level. Whatever you add as a scorer and putter, it’s the gravy at this point.
15. Elizabeth Keightley | 6-6 Center | Virginia Tech
Kitley has had a solid performance in the NCAA Tournament and has almost boosted her efficiency as a postal center who can both score and facilitate. Her defense will be the swing factor – she is fine right at the edge but needs to defend better on the move.
16. Te Hina Baobao | 5-9 guard | Oregon (Gateway Transportation) *
Paopao has great taste in the game industry and is an excellent shooter. Oregon State has been a bit of a mess in 2022-23 so it will be interesting to see how they run a different offense next year.
Leger-Walker really rose to the national stage with her MOP performance as the Cougars won the 2023 Pac-12 tournament. A complete goalkeeper who can handle, shoot and get off the ball, Leger-Walker needs to keep showing up against top opposition.
Statistically speaking, Andrews’ resume looks very similar to Amoore’s in terms of shooting percentages and assist rates. However, Andrews is not quite as fast, especially with the ball in her hands, as Amoore, which explains the difference in their positions.
19. Aubrey Griffin | 6-1 Forward | Connecticut
Griffin can influence the game in many different ways: as a cutter, in transition, on the glass and especially as a defender. Her single offense is nonexistent, which brings her to the second round.
Blackwell was essentially redshirted a year after moving to Baylor, playing just 95 minutes in 2022-23. Assuming she’s healthy, she’s an athletic forward, playmaker and is a willing checker who can also play off the ball.
Ustby simply knows how to play. She is an excellent defender and passer and reads the floor well but she definitely has to improve her finishing, otherwise this arrangement will look ridiculous.
22. Hannah Jump | 6-0 Guard | Stanford
A knockout shooter who can drain 3-pointers from a stoppage or stop motion should always have a place in the WNBA.
As a typical point guard who holds up defense and scores efficiently, albeit with minimal bulk, Ryan fills a niche in a league that’s short on true point guards — provided you can hold it up physically.
24. Deja Kelly | 5-8 guard | North Carolina *
Kelly pushes over the edge and steps in tense situations. You should be more consistent and expand your shooting range.
(Caitlin Clark top photo: Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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