Once again this year, the Dallas Wings enter the WNBA draft filthy rich with picks.
Thanks to a mid-winter trade, they have the first, second, fifth, seventh and 13th picks on Thursday. With new coach Vickie Johnson, Dallas will look to build around All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale and forward Satou Sabally, whom they chose with the second pick last year.
In this season’s draft lottery the Wings won the second pick, but they acquired the No. 1 pick in a trade with the Seattle Storm via the New York Liberty, which also brought them Katie Lou Samuelson.
In 2020 Dallas also had three first-round picks thanks to a bevy of trades. They took forward Bella Alarie and guard Tyasha Harris with their fifth and seventh choices, respectively.
Sabally had a decent rookie season, shooting 13.9 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds per game. She only shot 36 percent from the field due to 19 percent shooting from the three-point line. Sabally was not used correctly last year, and should have spent more time in the paint instead of on the perimeter.
Alarie played in 22 games but was not really used much on the offensive end, and she only averaged 2.7 points per game. She played decent defense, averaging close to one block per game. Alarie definitely has the skill set to be a good all-around player, so hopefully Johnson and her new staff can help her reach her potential.
Harris played well off the bench as the backup point guard, to the point where it seemed like she should have started given how well she handled the duties. With one year as a pro under her belt and new coaches, expect Harris’s level of play to improve tremendously.
The first issue for Johnson and GM Greg Bibb is how to fit their picks into their scheme, as they have just two roster spots open. They will have to trade some of those picks or make some other roster moves.
The Wings do need frontcourt help, three-point shooting, and some players that can defend the basketball. With the first two picks of the draft, they could fill those holes by taking Charli Collier from Texas and Awak Kuier forward from Finland. Both could give the team low-post scoring and frontcourt depth.
If not traded, with the other draft picks they could take Arizona star point guard Aari McDonald, whose stock has gone up since she guided her team to the NCAA title game. Dallas could take McDonald at two if they decide to move the fifth and seventh picks. She would be a huge addition with her speed, quickness and ability to score, as well as her lockdown defense, as she was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year in both her third and fourth seasons.
There are some crucial decisions to be made for the Wings. Hopefully those in charge make the right choices and bring in players who can help the team begin to live up to the potential that has shown in flashes and stretches, to the dismay of their devoted fans. This is the perfect opportunity for the team to get better, and whether they do that by keeping their picks or trading for veterans, careful choices need to be made.
Johnson has been around the WNBA for 23 years, first as a player and then as a coach. Her first head coaching stint with the San Antonio Stars yielded mixed results and poor season records, but she has been successful as an assistant in Las Vegas. Now it’s up to her to build a solid team and instill her knowledge into players and start to build something great.