Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics
Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

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With a guard-heavy draft that has a chock load of potential, it’s A’ja Wilson that everyone has at the top of their boards. The Ball Out is here to give you some insight as to who might go where and why.

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Ball Out’s first-ever WNBA Mock Draft!

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While the league has seen a lot of movement this offseason, there has been one constant on every fan’s mind: A’ja Wilson is the consensus number one pick no matter which team it was. Despite such great talent as Diamond DeShields (more on her later), Jordin Canada and Kelsey Mitchell coming out, Wilson proved throughout the 2017-18 season that she is the best available talent. So with that being said, let’s go ahead and break down the first round.

1) LAS VEGAS ACES – A’ja Wilson, Forward, University of South Carolina

You’d be forgiven if you thought that the Aces (formerly San Antonio Stars aka Utah Starzz) would draft a guard with their first pick for the third year in a row. They did draft Moriah Jefferson with the no. 2 pick in 2016, and despite a logjam at guard already, drafted Kelsey Plum with the no. 1 pick last season. However, this year, they have new management (Bill Laimbeer was hired away from the New York Liberty to be their coach/general manager), a new home (Las Vegas) and a new attitude.

Wilson finished her career as the Gamecocks’ all-time scoring leader, three-time SEC All-Defensive Team, and at 6’5”, would be the second-tallest player on a team that could use more inside presence on the rebounding and defensive end. This also sets her up to be the possible face of the future for Las Vegas’s first-ever pro basketball team.

2) INDIANA FEVER – Kelsey Mitchell, Guard, Ohio State

While Indiana could use more help in the post, Mitchell makes the most sense here. Not only did she finish as the second-leading scorer in NCAA history, but she also finished as the career record holder for 3-pointers (497) while shooting nearly 39 percent from long range. As a team, the Fever only shot 31 percent from deep; opponents averaged 39.1 percent. Did we mention Mitchell can score, and score fast? Mitchell only took 79 games to get to 2,000 career points. Yes, Indiana could use their Canadian National Team connections in Kayla Alexander, and Natalie Achonwa and draft Kia Nurse from UConn…but do they really want to give up the best deep-threat (potentially) in women’s basketball? I think not.

3) CHICAGO SKY (VIA ATLANTA DREAM) – Azura Stevens, Forward, University of Connecticut

It’s no secret that head coach Amber Stocks is enamored with the potential of Stevens, and who can blame her? Stevens had already been gathering a lot of attention from WNBA teams, so when she renounced her final year of eligibility after the season, it changed many draft boards quickly. Stevens, who was the American Athletic Conference Sixth Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, gives the Sky height (6’6”) and she can shoot well from deep for a power forward. And before you cry about how bad the Sky need speed, we’ve got you…

4) CHICAGO SKY – Diamond DeShields, Guard, Turkey

This pick isn’t as much a surprise as people think, plus this works out only because they got the third pick from Atlanta. DeShields has been linked to Chicago since the end of the 2016-17 season, when she was eligible to come out due to her status as a fourth-year junior. She opted

to stay at Tennessee, then changed her mind in June, but it was too late to be eligible for the WNBA. DeShields averaged 15.7 ppg for her career, which will be helpful for Chicago after losing Cappie Pondexter as their bench scoring anchor.

5) SEATTLE STORM – Jordin Canada, Guard, University of California, Los Angeles

I don’t know that there has ever been a more obvious pick besides Breanna Stewart in Seattle’s case. Canada is literally the female equivalent of John Stockton, but a more prolific scorer. Her court vision is quite possibly the best in women’s college basketball, and once Sue Bird is ready to call it a day, will make possibly the best young power trio in the WNBA with Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

6) DALLAS WINGS – Kia Nurse, Guard, University of Connecticut

Most draft boards have Gabby Williams at this pick for Dallas, but Nurse makes the most sense here. They already have a proven distributor in Skylar Diggins-Smith, and they have more than enough size with Liz Cambage, Breanna Lewis, and Theresa Plaisance. What Dallas has needed for a while is three-point shooting, and Nurse brings an immediate upgrade there (44.3 percent from behind the arc in 2017-18). On top of that, she comes into the league with pro experience, as she played with the Canadian National team in the 2016 Olympics.

7) WASHINGTON MYSTICS – Victoria Vivians, Guard, Mississippi State

This would be considered a massive mistake if head coach/GM Mike Thibault didn’t draft Vivians here. The common sense answer would be to draft a replacement for Emma Meesseman since she is sitting out the season, but Vivians is the strong, scoring wing that Thibault needs. He had connections due to his daughter being an assistant coach to Vivians, and while there are post players available such as Mercedes Russell and Shakayla Thomas, they don’t have the impact that Vivians will have (and need to for Washington) immediately.

8) INDIANA FEVER – Monique Billings, Forward, University of California, Los Angeles

The Fever traded away starting point guard Briann January to Phoenix to get this pick, and while Duke’s Lexie Brown seems to be the popular choice here…the right choice is Billings. You need a post player who can rebound at will and provide a defensive scare? Billings is the answer. She left UCLA as the all-time leader in blocks, finished third in rebounds, and as a bonus, was only the third woman in UCLA history to collect 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.

9) CONNECTICUT SUN – Gabby Williams, Forward, University of Connecticut

The first-ever Cheryl Miller Award winner as the nation’s best small forward, Williams has the athleticism to fit right in with the Sun. She is a monster distributor (191 assists in 2017-18), is among the best defensive players in this draft, and is considered the toughest player according to most analysts. Add in her familiarity with former UConn teammate Morgan Tuck, and Williams will have no problem sliding right into the rotation in due time.

10) NEW YORK LIBERTY – Lexie Brown, Guard, Duke University

A 5’9” threat from every area on the court, Brown fits the two needs that the Liberty need most: perimeter scoring and defense. As a senior, Brown averaged 19.4 ppg while shooting 37 percent from three-point range (69-of-186) and also had 122 steals. It helps that she can also share the rock (146 assists). Basketball literally runs in her blood; both her mother and father played college ball (her father, Dee, is a former NBA Slam Dunk champion and former WNBA head coach).

11) LOS ANGELES SPARKS – Mercedes Russell, Center, University of Tennessee

A lot of people may be disappointed to not see Billings stay close to home and wear the Sparks purple and gold, but Russell will fit in just fine. While I mentioned earlier that she may not have an immediate impact, the Sparks don’t need her to. That she comes into the league already with a high basketball IQ is a bonus, and her innate ability to rebound well (9.2 rpg in 2017-18) and score in the post will be of immediate help to a Sparks team that needed a lot of that in their Finals loss to the Minnesota Lynx.

12) PHOENIX MERCURY – Maria Vadeeva, Forward/Center, Russia

Seeing how the Mercury still have Brittney Griner as the most dominant center in the league, and DeWanna Bonner returning, the need to get a can’t-miss prospect here is low. But getting Vadeeva, who has been a pro since the age of 16, is worth taking a gamble. She brings height (6’4”) and will make a great addition to the frontcourt, especially considering her youth (she turns 20 in July).

Turn into the WNBA Draft this Thursday on ESPN 2 and ESPN U. The first round starts at 7 p.m. EST.

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