As the 2019 WNBA Draft rapidly approaches, it is time to unveil round one of the 2019 WNBA Draft Big Board here on BBall Index. A new version of the board will be published each month leading up to the 2019 WNBA Draft. Before diving into the list, let’s rattle off some quick disclaimers.
This big board by definition—unlike my mock drafts, the first of which will be released later this week—is quite simple. It aims to answer one question: With what we know and have seen to date, who are the best WNBA prospects eligible for the 2019 draft?
Team context matters. Some prospects look better and others look worse because of the collection of talent around them (and the lack of a defensive three seconds rule). Not all college stars can produce as efficiently as they are now at the next level. Some have very specific skills that I expect to become even more valuable once they are playing with the best players in the world.
And yes, draft-eligible non-seniors are included. Let’s dive right in to this month’s board.
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Here are some quick notes on the top of the field and my biggest winners about one third of the way through the 2018-19 college season.
The first five
I have been set on this top five in some order for quite a while now. Ionescu is the best player in college basketball, and I expect her to continue to excel in the same areas (dynamic 3-point shooting, creating out of pick and roll) at the next level.
Evaluating Samuelson has begun to point me back to DeWanna Bonner’s 2018 season, specifically of her balance as a scoring threat around Diana Taurasi pick and rolls. I think Samuelson’s future coach in the pros is going to have a lot of fun tapping into her cutting and ability to stick 3-pointers running around screens. Her ability to attack a closeout feels a little underrated right now.
I’ve flip-flopped some on Samuelson and Durr since the start of the season. I see the ceiling for both as number two scoring options. Durr has shown more creating her own shot off the bounce. But I haven’t been able to get past the simple fact that Samuelson is at least five inches taller, which undoubtedly raises her ceiling as a finisher and will give her future team more defensive flexibility.
Brown has been one of the toughest to evaluate. I’ll admit I’m banking a lot on what I think her potential is in ranking her this high above other bigs in the class. Glimpses of her back to basket footwork and ability to face up and put it on the floor once to score at 6’7” put her a head above the rest at the position.
Collier is going to need to knock down open 3-pointers. That’s the only notable concern with her game. I think she can be an All-Defense-caliber player and could even play a lot at the 4 if her future team really commits to it.
She and Samuelson have naturally been in the spotlight for quite some time now, yet there is still plenty to be learned from the performance of both the rest of the way. Every UConn starter is logging heavy minutes but the other three have not looked very confident on offense. They all can shoot from distance. As they pile up reps and get more comfortable, expect the number of difficult attempts for Collier and Samuelson to go down.
Biggest early risers
Alanna Smith, Stanford
Her true shooting percentage through 12 games is all the way up to 67 with a usage rate of 31.2 per Her Hoop Stats. No one could have seen this coming to this degree. The 3-point shooting will probably come down.
There is still value in seeing her comfort level spending so much time spotted up beyond the arc, picking and popping and even running around screens. When it comes to defending both big positions and out in space, I think she’s the best among this crop of bigs. I’m not expecting her to be a high usage scorer at the next level, but we’re seeing the outlines of a true two-way stretch big.
Bridget Carleton, Iowa State
This is a very intriguing class of wing players. Many of them are key cogs with their college teams, but Carleton may have the most diverse skill set. She’s everything to Iowa State’s offense. Running pick and rolls and isolations accounted for about 35 percent of ISU possessions that ended with a Carleton shot, foul drawn or turnover per Synergy Sports.
The ball skills and playmaking are very appealing. Few true specialists make it in the WNBA. Carleton looks to be a player that can do much more than spot up. I see the appeal in that with her as a second or third option on the perimeter, attacking weaker defenders that opponents may try to hide on her.
Meme Jackson, Tennessee
She has nearly doubled her free throw rate from last season through 13 games. Flip a Lady Vols game on and you’ll see why. She gets downhill in an instant and has some shake to create her own creases to get past people. I think that’s the key for her to end up being one of the steals of this draft as long as she continues to shoot in the mid-to-late 30s from deep.
Mailbag! Send in your draft questions
Some of this space with my updated boards and mock drafts will be reserved for any questions you may have on this draft class (or entire posts if there are enough questions). Feel free to shoot me a tweet or direct message with any draft-related question you’d like to see explored in greater detail in this space.
Look for my first 2019 mock draft here on BBall Index later in the week. Next month’s board will be expanded from 25 to 36.