Now that we’ve officially closed the book on the 2023 WNBA Draft, let’s see what’s in store for the 2024 edition.
The top players in each of last year’s national finalists are seniors, and the other three top-five finishers from their high school class — Paige Bueckers, Cameron Brink and Kamilla Cardoso — are all overrated in their own ways. A trio of ACC guards have put themselves in contention for first-round picks (yes, Hailey Van Lith is an ACC guard until further notice), and there are a handful of super seniors who have returned to college for a fifth season. Put it all together and this could be one of the greatest draft classes in league history.
A clear warning for that 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, which eliminated several top prospects from this year’s class and could wreak the same kind of havoc in 2024. Using their fifth years, including Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, LSU actually listed a sophomore in 2022-23 — so it would be foolish to expect them to leave for the WNBA.
For the purposes of this exercise – this is just a big board and not a mock draft, as there is no concept of a 2024 draft order – we’ll assume that any returning player can declare an option and use an asterisk. For another season. However, with several stars likely to return to college, this preliminary list will likely stretch to 24, eventually reducing it to 12.
A player of the year and an offense unto himself, Clark led the nation in scoring and assists a year later. She is capable of creating her own shot from the perimeter and warps defensive schemes with the ability to shoot from long range. She’s adept at running the screen-and-roll, hitting her roll big or avoiding a pass to a shooter. Clark got stronger and became a better finisher at the rim as a junior. She is still not very active defensively and continues to work on managing her emotions during the game. Still, it’s hard to imagine a more complete offensive potential from a point guard.
Caitlin Clark is not eligible for the WNBA draft, and even if she is, she may stay at Iowa for a long time.
2. Paige Beukers | 5-11 Guard | Connecticut *
This is somewhat speculative as the Bukers haven’t completed a full season in two years. However, Bukers, who dominated his freshman year, was the MVP at the U-19 World Cup and has already advanced to the NCAA Tournament multiple times, is still an exciting prospect. If she can stay healthy, the Bukers should be an even more formidable offensive force at the next level.
3. Cameron Brink | 6-4 Forward/Center | Stanford *
Brink is the archetype of a modern pix. She’s a threat to protect the rim and can defend efficiently in space – she never plays even when a driver thinks she’s overstepped. Brink has a decent shooting touch, as evidenced by his 85 percent mark from the foul line last year, and he’s shown a willingness to take 3-pointers, even though he had less success from distance as a junior than as an underclassman. Versatile enough to play alone as a big player or as another forward, she can easily fit into the ring wherever she lands.
4. Angel Reese | 6-3 Forward | LSU *
Reese dominates the paint like no other in college basketball, especially on offense. She is a relentless rebounder and controls the defense with her pursuit of the basketball. Reese is already a top scorer and could move up two spots in this class if he expands his game beyond the paint.
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5. Rickia Jackson | 6-2 Forward | Tennessee
Already a professional bucket-getter, Jackson finished smoothly around the rim. Her step-through is dangerous, and there are many counters to get by her defender. Despite limitations in his jump shot, Jackson has scored at least 19 points in each of the past two seasons.
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6. Nyiadew Puoch | 6-1 forward | Southside Flyers (Australia)
Pooch may have been the biggest star of the inaugural Women’s Nike Hoops Summit. The 18-year-old showed excellent rim protection — his best skill in the domestic league — as well as some fresh ball handling and a smooth jumper. Pooch is determined to follow in the footsteps of Ezzy McGegor and make it to the WNBA.
7. Aaliyah Edwards | 6-3 Forward | Connecticut *
Edwards is a good defender who can match up against wings and bigs. It’s not yet clear whether she’s a power forward or a center, but she has solid post footwork and can stretch her jumper to the rim of the paint.
8. Hailey Van Lith | 5-7 Guard | Louisville (Transfer Portal) *
Kelsey Plum provides the perfect archetype for Van Lith, a bulldog of a combo guard who knifes his way to the rim, excels in the midrange, and follows it up defensively. Plum finished third in MVP voting last season, giving Van Lith a high ceiling despite his size. Van Lith will need to work on his playmaking and prove his 3-point shooting is a one-year blip in 2022-23, but he’s already proven he can score against tough defenders.
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9. Camila Cardoso | 6-7 Center | South Carolina *
Body tools speak to Cardoso. At her height, she can almost impact shots at the rim and is already a strong pick-and-roll defender. She developed a better understanding of how to read the offense seemingly every game. If she can add any scoring moves beyond rebounds, her potential will be through the roof.
Sheldon is the first true two-way guard in this class. Her steal percentages have obviously been boosted by playing in the Ohio State press, but she still has great instincts for crossing lanes in the half court and enough quickness to stay ahead of drivers. His foot injury threw off his 3-point shooting in 2022-23, but he’s been a 35 percent 3-point shooter and can attack the basket, giving him the marksmanship needed by a modern guard.
The ranking may be a bit much considering her three-year stint at Virginia Tech, but 2023 Georgia Amore is the only WNBA player outright. She can handle any defensive pressure with her handles and quickness, and can create plenty of 3-point looks for herself and her teammates. When she doesn’t trust her team’s offense for 40 minutes every night, the belief is that she can give any effort to the defense.
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Already a solid backcourt defender, Osborne will need to use his super senior season to prove he can score with above-average efficiency again. She takes care of the ball and gets to the lane often, but a more consistent jumper could be her make or break ability.
Jackson is an athletic rim-protecting threat who finishes efficiently around the rim. Once she figures out how to get out of position, she’ll be quite the offensive force.
Taylor has the defense and will be more impactful defensively once his offensive role is eased at the next level. Whatever she adds as a scorer and a ball handler is gravy at this point.
15. Elizabeth Kidley | 6-6 Center | Virginia Tech
Gidley had a strong run in the NCAA Tournament and has almost perfected his performance as a post center who can score and facilitate. Her defense will factor into the swing – she’s right at the rim, but needs to defend better on the move.
16. Te-Hina Paopao | 5-9 Guard | Oregon (Transfer Portal) *
Paopao has great playmaking skills and is an excellent shooter. Oregon was a mess in 2022-23, so it will be interesting to see how he runs a different offense next year.
Leger-Walker really stepped onto the national stage with her MOP performance as the Cougars won the 2023 Pac-12 Tournament. A complete guard who can handle, shoot and move the ball, Leger-Walker should continue to shine against top competition.
Statistically, Andrews’ resume looks similar to Amur’s in terms of his shooting percentages and assist rates. However, Andrews isn’t as quick as Amore, especially with the ball in his hands, which explains the difference in their positions.
19. Aubrey Griffin | 6-1 forward | Connecticut
Griffin can impact the game in a variety of ways: as a cutter, in transition, on the glass and especially as a defender. Her personal offense was lacking, which pushed her to the second round.
Blackwell basically had a redshirt year after transferring to Baylor, playing just 95 minutes in 2022-23. Assuming she stays healthy, she’s an athletic, willing screener going forward and can play off the ball.
Ustbi knows how to play. He’s a plus defender and passer and reads the floor well, but his finishing needs to be completely improved or this ranking will be fun.
22. Hannah Jump | 6-0 guard | Stanford
A knock-down shooter who can knock down 3-pointers from a standstill or on the move has always had a place in the WNBA.
As a prototypical lead guard who plays defense and scores efficiently, albeit in limited volume, Ryan fills a niche in a league lacking true point guards — if he can physically hold up.
24. Teja Kelly | 5-8 guard | North Carolina *
Kelly pressures the rim and thrives in tense situations. She needs to be more consistent and expand her shooting range.
(Top photo by Caitlin Clark: Icon Sportswire via Bailey Hillesheim/Getty Images)