On Friday, the WNBA held its annual draft, and it was a night that was heavy on prospects from Texas universities. A strong in-state senior class plus the early entry of Texas A&M guard Chennedy Carter ensured that this would be a night where numerous prospects from the Lone Star State made their way onto professional women's basketball teams.
For those of you reading this who watch a lot of college basketball but not a lot of WNBA basketball, one important feature is that each year, there's a 36 player draft, but each year there are also only somewhere between 132 and 144 WNBA roster spots. That makes it very, very hard for young players to crack the final roster, especially players who weren't taken in the first round. That means that all the Texas prospects aside from Lauren Cox and Chennedy Carter are facing uncertain paths to making final WNBA rosters.
Let's talk about what all of the selected players might be able to do on their drafted teams and what their path to minutes looks like.
Lauren Cox - No. 3 - Indiana Fever
While many hoped the Dallas Wings would find a way to add the Flower Mound grad, Baylor forward Lauren Cox is heading to Indiana.
Cox joins a team that might look a lot like her Baylor teams have stylistically, with the Fever putting Cox at power forward beside center Teaira McCowan. That allows Cox to play a similar role to the one she played in Waco, letting her work out of the high post, use her vision to make crisp passes and keep the offense running and also spend some time defending down in the post. Cox mentioned during a conference call this week that she sees herself as more of a four than a five, and this new home allows her to be the player that she's been.
Cox will compete with veteran Candice Dupree initially for the starting four role, but the McCowan/Cox frontcourt duo is clearly the plan for Indiana moving forward, and solidifying that front court will allow them to focus on answering questions about their backcourt going forward.
Chennedy Carter - No. 4 - Atlanta Dream
Oh my, this is going to be fun, on and off the court.
Carter joins a Dream team that's been retooling this offseason, adding veteran talent to a team that had the WNBA's worst record in 2019.
One of the pieces they added is former Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams. A Williams and Carter backcourt projects to be really interesting. Carter needs to work on her shot since Williams isn't much a long-range threat, but having both players to handle the ball gives the Dream a lot of options. Tiffany Hayes is also there as part of what could be a really intriguing three-guard lineup.
Atlanta might think it can contend soon, and Carter could, in theory, be that missing piece the Dream need to push things over the top. I'd guess she initially comes off the bench, but head coach Nicki Collen will find ways to get Carter onto the floor, and her great dribbling ability plus passing skills that never get talked about enough will ensure that Carter sticks around the league for a while.
Brittany Brewer - No. 17 - Atlanta Dream
Here's where things start to get more interesting, since the first four picks of the draft went pretty chalky.
I don't think anyone was expecting Brewer to be the third Texas player selected, but her going 17th shouldn't be considered too big of a surprise. (The real surprise is that other in-state prospects fell; Brewer was always in play from the mid-second on.)
Brewer is likely in a battle with Alaina Coates to be the last big on Atlanta's roster, and while it'll be tough to earn that spot, Brewer has some things working in her favor.
First is that she really blossomed as a shot blocker this season. Brewer blocked 4.4 of them per game this year.
The second thing is that Brewer could be the kind of inside-outside big that the league is seeing more and more of. Brewer struggled from deep last year, but she's shown an ability to knock down open shots in the past, has some good shooting touch, and rebounds the ball well. She's not a lock to make this team, but the fact that she can contribute offensively and defensively sure helps.
Te'a Cooper - No. 18 - Phoenix Mercury
Cooper falling to 18th after being mocked in a lot of first rounds was one of the biggest surprises Friday night.
In her one year with Baylor, Cooper showed that she had what it took to run an offense and to connect on shots at a high rate. Those are two things that a WNBA team wants.
But I wonder how much Cooper's college career in which she floated around to three different teams might have weighed on GMs, or how much front offices thought Cooper's one-year boost with the Lady Bears was more about the team than her. I don't think either concern is that valid, but something caused Cooper to drop this far.
As for what happens next, Phoenix is a good spot for her because while their backcourt of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi is set in stone, there's a path to her making this team and getting minutes. The team's free agent signing of Bria Hartley complicates that path, but maybe Cooper's upside and ability as a combo guard could help her beat out Sophie Cunningham for a roster spot? Financial concerns matter here though, as Phoenix might only get to carry 11 players, which further complicates things.
Joyner Holmes - No. 19 - Seattle Storm
Holmes is another player who dropped more than most expected. After a career at Texas that saw her continually flash potential but occasionally struggle to consistently put it together, Holmes got drafted by one of the best coaches in the league at maximizing talent.
But it's not an easy path to the Storm roster. First round pick Kitija Laksa already announced she won't be coming over this year, so there's potentially room, but that room might depend on last year's first rounder, Ezi Magbegor, staying overseas for the second year in a row, and it would also require the Storm to make some other move to clear up cap space, as right now they can't afford a 12th player.
Joyner Holmes is such an interesting prospect, someone who can put the ball on the floor while playing the four and possesses a lot of athleticism. If she can make this team, practicing with a great Storm team would be great for her long term development. But Seattle is also in win-now mode, and that's going to make it really hard for Holmes to crack this rotation unless there are injuries.
Erica Ogwumike - No. 26 - New York Liberty (Traded to Minnesota Lynx)
Minnesota traded for Ogwumike, which seems to suggest there's at least some chance she can earn a roster spot, right?
With Odyssey Sims missing the upcoming season, the Lynx need backcourt depth, so Ogwumike is likely being brought in to compete for a spot. Minnesota's in a bit of a weird spot because of Sims, Temi Fagbenle not being re-signed yet and uncertainty over Karima Christmas-Kelly, who didn't play last year. If everyone was here, Ogwumike's path to a roster spot likely wouldn't exist.
But as is, it sort of exists. If Ogwumike can improve on her jump shooting, her other skills – defense, driving, strength – would make her an intriguing pro. We'll see what happens here.
Juicy Landrum - No. 35 - Connecticut Sun
Connecticut is in an interesting spot. BBall Index's Ben Dull has them down as being $400 short cap-wise of being able to add two rookie minimum deals. If they can't make the money work and have to run with 11 players, it looks like Landrum would have to beat out Kaila Charles for the final roster spot, which would be tough.
If, somehow, the Sun are able to add two players, Landrum might be one of the third rounders from this year with the best chance of making a roster. Her ability to shoot the lights out of a basketball won't hurt her in that quest, and while Sun head coach Curt Miller has a reputation for not playing rookies, Landrum would be a good insurance policy on the bench for a team whose guard depth is questionable. Keep an eye on Landrum as we get closer to the season.
Sug Sutton - No. 36 - Washington Mystics
Sutton wasn't on a lot of people's draft boards, and while the former University of Texas point guard is talented, the Mystics are a veteran team that can only carry 11 players this season. Sutton's going to have to really, really impress in training camp to get a roster spot, which would include her needing to outplay fellow rookie Jaylyn Agnew and for the team to move on from a more established player.
But just getting drafted into the WNBA is a huge accomplishment. 60 players get drafted into the NBA; meanwhile, just 36 get drafted into the WNBA despite the college talent pool for both leagues being of about equal size. Sutton not making Washington's roster says nothing about her skill as a basketball player.