The 2024 WNBA Draft order is set. Indiana won the draft lottery Sunday, giving the Fever the first pick in what could be one of the deepest drafts in league history. Could is the operative word, as every draft-eligible senior in this class has the opportunity to return to college for a fifth season due to the COVID-19 bonus year given to every player who suited up in 2020-21.
Indiana is the fourth team in the last decade to earn consecutive No. 1 picks after Seattle had the top selections in 2015 and 2016, Las Vegas had a three-year stretch of picking first from 2017-2019, and New York won the lottery in 2020 and 2021. The Storm won two titles with the duo of Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart, and the Aces have done the same with the trio of Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young. The Fever hope to shortly follow in their footsteps with the inside-outside combination of Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark.
— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) December 10, 2023
Clark going first has been the expected outcome since the end of last season, but what happens afterward? The Athletic’s first 2024 mock draft attempts to answer that question. This exercise includes every player who is eligible for this year’s draft, though we know some of them will choose to stay an extra year in school. We’ll cross that bridge later in the year. For now, let’s assume every senior who can go pro will do so.
Who are the best women’s college basketball players for the 2024 WNBA Draft?
1. Indiana Fever
Caitlin Clark | 6-0 guard | Iowa
This is the easiest decision in the entire draft. Clark is a superlative offensive engine, one of the greatest ever seen in college basketball. She pours on points in a hurry and not just with her logo range; Clark doesn’t shy away from contact in the paint and her midrange shooting gets better every season. She’s one of only 15 players in Division I history to score 3,000 points, and she has a realistic chance of breaking Kelsey Plum’s scoring record this season, in addition to chasing Pete Maravich’s all-time record for men or women.
If, somehow, she can be held in check as a scorer — and good luck with that, no team has kept her below 20 since Maryland in February, a span of 22 games — Clark is also an elite passer. She zips the ball up the court in transition and makes every read in the half court. This is the player who led the nation in points and assists as a sophomore and then improved on both those figures as a junior.
Clark is also a superstar. Iowa sold out its season ticket allotment, and attendance rises in every road arena when the Hawkeyes visit because people want to see Clark. She dazzles in the limelight. She is a marketing dream for any organization; she can handle the pressure of being the face of the franchise. The fact that she’s born and raised in the Midwest and takes great pride in that makes her a slam dunk in Indiana. Furthermore, the basketball fit of Clark and Boston is sublime. After years of competing against each other for national awards — and in one epic NCAA Tournament clash — they’ll get to build each other up as teammates.
Paige Bueckers | 5-11 guard | Connecticut
The Sparks are ecstatic to be in the position, even if Clark is off the table. The Fever earning the first selection makes it more likely that Clark declares for the draft, giving L.A. its pick of every other player in the country. Although fan sentiment is in favor of Cameron Brink (think about the last time the Sparks selected a Stanford frontcourt star in the lottery), right now, we have the Sparks taking Bueckers.
Bueckers’ injury history — she missed much of the 2021-22 season with a knee issue and then all of 2022-23 with a torn ACL — gives pause, but her play when healthy still portends a future superstar. She can work with the ball in her hands and is absolutely deadly in the midrange while also making 44 percent of her 3s in her UConn career. The only way to keep her from getting to her spots is to deny her the ball, and with her size and ability to read the floor, even that doesn’t always go well for opponents.
She won national player of the year as a freshman and kept UConn’s 14-year Final Four streak alive as a sophomore despite returning from injury two games before the Big East tournament. She’s a big-game player, and the Sparks need that, especially from the guard position. Since Chelsea Gray left in 2021, L.A. has lacked a dynamic playmaker who is also a scoring threat. That’s Paige Bueckers.
Anonymous WNBA GM poll: Candid thoughts on potential 2024 draftees Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers
Cameron Brink | 6-4 forward/center | Stanford
It would be more poetic if the Stanford big went to L.A. and the Connecticut guard went to Phoenix, but Brink lands with the Mercury in this mock. It isn’t so much about fit because Phoenix has two starter-level bigs in Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner, but she’s the best player available. Brink is the best frontcourt option in this draft. She’s an absolutely terrifying defensive presence who stifles post players and also sticks with guards on the perimeter. She has a versatile offensive game, mixing in guard skills with the traditional interior scoring of a 6-4 player.
Brink’s the type of player you can imagine being able to guard A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart in a couple of years while also being able to switch out onto Clark. Every WNBA team is going to need that.
4. Seattle Storm
Rickea Jackson | 6-2 forward | Tennessee
Jackson’s placement in the lottery assumes that she’ll return soon from an injury that has limited her to two games this season. Because if Jackson regains her form from last season, she’s a professional scorer who belongs on any WNBA roster. She even got to her spots against a Team USA squad that came to Knoxville for an exhibition in November, leading all scorers.
Seattle’s main problem in 2023 was a dearth of offensive options, leaving Loyd to fend with suffocating defensive coverages. Jackson can alleviate that pressure. What she does best is put the ball in the hoop.
Nyadiew Puoch | 6-3 forward | Southside Flyers (Australia)
Normally, I try to shy away from international players in the first round given their national team commitments and the difficulties of prioritization. But it’s much easier for Australian players to make the move to the WNBA because their domestic league, the WNBL, doesn’t conflict at all with the WNBA calendar. As a result, Puoch is a strong selection for Dallas at No. 5.
Puoch has put up strong performances internationally at the youth level; she particularly dazzled for the world team at the inaugural Nike Hoop Summit in April. Her defensive versatility pops. Even as a wing, Puoch is a dynamic rim protector in help defense. The 19-year-old is also a smooth driver, mixing in Euro steps with powerful takes to the cup and finishing with her left despite being right-handed. She’s connecting on 50 percent of her 3s in the WNBL this season, making her a prototypical 3-and-D wing to complement Dallas’ stars.
Nyadiew Puoch gets better every time she steps on the court.
Tonight’s game against Bendigo was next level, as she displayed more of her offensive arsenal than ever before.
That hesi move is going to be a nightmare for opponents to deal with for years to come!
— Hayley Wildes (@wildes_hayley) December 9, 2023
Jacy Sheldon | 5-10 guard | Ohio State
The Mystics love a guard who gets after it on defense, and even if she were subbing in for Brittney Sykes (or potentially Natasha Cloud), there would be no defensive drop-off with Sheldon. She’s been an active full-court defender for five years at Ohio State and absolutely outstanding off-ball in the half court, which fits seamlessly next to the point-of-attack pressure of Sykes. For a team that prides itself on stopping opponents, Sheldon makes a ton of sense.
Washington needs to improve its spacing on offense, and Sheldon also fills that role. She was at or near 35 percent from long range in her first three seasons with the Buckeyes and has raised that to 40.5 percent as a super senior. The Mystics generate a high volume of triples in their system but have connected on them at a below-average rate every year since 2019 when they set a WNBA record for offensive efficiency. Guards who can shoot are a must.
Charlisse Leger-Walker | 5-10 guard | Washington State
The Lynx don’t have any point guards under contract for the 2024 season. Although they seem perfectly content finding a floor general from the veteran waiver wire, as they did the last two years, the draft is a prime opportunity for Minnesota to find another franchise tentpole to pair with Napheesa Collier and Diamond Miller.
Cheryl Reeve seems to prefer lead guards with a little more size (hence the Tiffany Mitchell and Rachel Banham experiments at point), which is why Leger-Walker is the pick. She’s a dynamite passer, not just in the pick-and-roll but also on skip passes out of drives. She can get to the basket on her own and off cuts, and she has a smooth midrange game, particularly when she posts up smaller guards. Her shooting range hasn’t yet expanded consistently to the 3-point line, but being a career 80 percent shooter from the foul line suggests it is possible. As a defender, Leger-Walker is physical and rebounds well. She’ll need work in one-on-one defense, however, most rookies do. Assuming Leger-Walker can get up to snuff on the defensive end, she would fit well offensively on the Lynx, who get a lot of shot creation out of their frontcourt.
Kamilla Cardoso | 6-7 center | South Carolina
Watching the Dream in the playoffs last year — and in some of their disappointing fall-from-ahead defeats in the regular season — the major need on this roster is a veteran point guard who can settle Atlanta in the run of play. Unfortunately, drafts don’t yield veterans, which means the Dream might be best suited trading this pick if they can’t land a floor general in free agency.
If we stick with the best player available, Cardoso gets the nod. She would help beef up a somewhat undersized frontcourt; she could back up Cheyenne Parker or even play next to her, considering Parker’s perimeter skills. The Dream were mauled on the glass in the postseason against Dallas and had no bigger options on the bench to turn to — Cardoso solves that problem. And unlike many draftees who struggle with the adjustment of playing in the second unit, Cardoso has done that for much of her collegiate career.
9. Dallas Wings
Georgia Amoore | 5-6 guard | Virginia Tech
The Wings employed Crystal Dangerfield as their starting point guard for most of last season but didn’t seem fully sold on Dangerfield at that position, ultimately benching her in the second round of the playoffs. Both she and Veronica Burton are still under contract, but neither has a protected deal, meaning this spot is very much up for grabs in Dallas. Amoore could be the player who finally brings stability at point guard.
Amoore has become an outstanding distributor, with her assist percentage jumping above 40 this year after hovering around 27 her first three seasons. She’s kept her turnovers constant in the process, making her even more dangerous with the ball in her hands. The Australian guard is also a legitimate scoring threat, with the ability to finish creatively at the rim and score in the midrange on pull-ups and floaters. But her trademark is the sidestep beyond the arc which allows her to put up a high volume of 3-pointers. Amoore runs a lot of pick-and-rolls, and one can only imagine what she would do with the space afforded by a Teaira McCowan screen. Her 3-point percentage is slightly down this season, but that seems to be an issue of overuse. If Amoore were ever set up by a teammate — which rarely happens at Virginia Tech — she’s an excellent spot-up shooter. She’s a shooter defenders wouldn’t want to leave alone, even if she’s sharing the court with McCowan or Arike Ogunbowale.
Amoore’s size presents concerns about her ability to hold up defensively in the WNBA, which is why she slots behind other guards. However, Dallas survived defensively with Dangerfield, and Amoore adds more on offense. She could step right into an existing role with the Wings.
10. Connecticut Sun
Te-Hina Paopao | 5-9 guard | South Carolina
Every offseason, I dream of ways the Sun could get some spacing, and we’re going to manifest it by sending them Paopao. She is one of the best overall offensive guards in college basketball. Paopao is exceptional at running an offense, especially in the pick-and-roll, but she is also exceptional off the ball as a spot-up shooter, which is important when Alyssa Thomas will often be handling the rock. Paopao isn’t the best point-of-attack defender but does well in help and works hard boxing out. She and Ty Harris (another Gamecocks product!) would complement each other well.
I considered putting Charisma Osborne in this spot, since her defensive mindset is a pretty obvious fit with the Sun. Osborne is a good rebounder and playmaker who doesn’t provide the same level of individual offense as Paopao, however, and the latter’s edge in shooting was enough to earn her this spot.
11. New York Liberty
Angel Reese | 6-3 forward/center | LSU
Truthfully, I don’t really know what kind of minutes Reese would get in a lineup that already has Breanna Stewart and (presumably) Jonquel Jones — though I’d love to see some jumbo looks with all three since Stewart and Jones can both space the floor. But Reese is far too talented to pass over at this point. In April, one WNBA GM said Reese was one of two players in this draft (along with Clark) who had an opportunity to be “generational.” Depending on Brionna Jones’ Achilles recovery in Connecticut, it might even make sense for the Sun to select her.
Anonymous WNBA GMs on Angel Reese: ‘She’s a guaranteed lock impact player, All-Star.’
Reese brings instant physicality and a presence on the glass at both ends. She creates extra possessions, her motor is unending, and LSU feeds off her energy. There’s a toughness in Reese’s game that would be a helpful addition to New York, and she’s the kind of star personality who would thrive in that market.
There is some uncertainty around Reese given her recent unexplained absence from the Tigers, and, as noted in our anonymous GM poll, there were questions about her maturity even prior to that. The team that drafts Reese should have a stable locker room full of veterans, and the Liberty fit the bill.
12. Los Angeles Sparks (from Las Vegas Aces)
Alissa Pili | 6-foot-2 forward | Utah
The Sparks defended hard in 2023. With Jordin Canada at the point of attack and Nneka Ogwumike anchoring the frontcourt, Los Angeles had the ability to contain even the best offenses in the league. But the Sparks made offense look hard for themselves, too, and they could use a player who can score efficiently and in a variety of ways.
Pili is one of the nation’s most versatile offensive players, a post savant who can also step out. She can attack the basket on the catch or off cuts. She does everything, and L.A. needs that offensive juice. The way she poured it on against a stout South Carolina defense suggests that Pili can hang against WNBA-level defenses despite her shorter stature. She simply gets buckets.
Knocking on the door: Aaliyah Edwards, Charisma Osborne, Celeste Taylor
(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos of Angel Reese, Cameron Brink and Caitlin Clark: Brian Rothmuller/ Getty, Elsa / Icon Sportswire, Maddie Meyer / Getty)