Three rounds and 36 picks later, the 2021 WNBA Draft is complete.
Some picks were expected and conventional, others were, well, not even remotely predictable. For example, most mocks for the 2021 WNBA Draft had Arella Guirantes of Rutgers going in one of the first picks of the night. She fell to No. 22 in the second round. On the flip side, Kysre Gondrezick from West Virginia was projected as a third rounder, maybe second if you talked to the right person. She went No. 4 overall to the Indiana Fever.
Those are two of the most notable examples from this whirlwind of a draft.
After every draft in every sport, people rush to provide letter grades and pass judgments on how teams did. I don’t like that approach. Sure, you can make predictions for how well a draft will pan out for a team, but you can never really know. I prefer to take a look at some of the inflection points in a draft, make a note, and return a few years down the line to see how those big decisions worked out.
So, rather than give grades and evaluations, we’re looking at a few of the picks that you’ll want to remember in five years and then ask if it was a good idea.
WNBA Draft 2021 – Picks to Remember in Five Years
No. 1 Charli Collier (C, Texas) & No. 2 Awak Kuier (C, Finland) to the Dallas Wings
The Wings had the first two picks in the draft after trading for the No. 1 pick earlier in the offseason. They spent them on Collier and Kuier, starting the 2021 WNBA Draft without a surprise.
It doesn’t happen very often that the same team gets to make the first two selections in a draft, but Dallas did it in 2021. Now the question for the next several years becomes if it made the right decisions with its picks. The Wings went all in for this draft, acquiring the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5, No. 7, and No. 13 selections before draft night. That’s great and could be fantastic for the franchise’s future, but it only helps if those picks hit, especially the first two.
With two post players coming to Dallas via the top-two selections in the 2021 WNBA Draft, there is a lot to watch for on the team’s interior. The Wings needed frontcourt depth, and they might have found it in a major way with Collier and Kuier. In five years, let’s see if these picks fixed that problem.
No. 3 Aari McDonald (G, Arizona) to the Atlanta Dream
McDonald was expected to go high, but most mock drafts didn’t have her going in the top three. But the Dream liked what they saw from the 5-foot-6 point guard who took the 2021 NCAA Tournament by storm last month and used their first pick on the Arizona standout.
You have to think that a big part of McDonald going so high was because of her performance in the NCAA Tournament, which was outstanding. She was also having a pretty great season and career before March Madness, averaging more than 20 points per game for the second season in a row and earning countless accolades along the way, from 2021 Pac-12 Player of the Year to a third Pac-12 All-Defense nod to a couple of program records for single-game scoring and single-season scoring.
So, this is not to say that McDonald wasn’t a great college player who had no business going early in the 2021 WNBA Draft. Quite the opposite. But how good she was in the tournament had to have influenced the powers that be, and we will see if the faith the Dream have now placed in her will pay off in the long run.
No. 4 Kysre Gondrezick (G, West Virginia) to the Indiana Fever
I promise I’m not just going pick by pick.
This was a massive surprise. Gondrezick was considered a second or third round pick by most and certainly not viewed as a lottery selection, but that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that the Indiana Fever must have really liked what they saw from the West Virginia guard, because they spent the No. 4 overall pick on her.
This one has left a lot of people scratching their heads, but there have been plenty of other picks like this in sports drafts that have proven to be excellent decisions. Also, plenty of times it has turned out that the team made a huge mistake. The Fever are getting and will continue to get torn apart for this choice in the short term, and Gondrezick will have her name included by association. It could all be accurate, or we might look back at the immediate reactions and laugh at how quick we can be to judge what in reality is a long-term decision. Regardless, this will be a fun one to think back on in a handful of seasons.
No. 10 Stephanie Watts (G, North Carolina) to the Los Angeles Sparks
On a night of surprises, this was another one that made a good portion of the basketball community furrow its brows.
Watts is another player who wasn’t expected to touch the 2021 WNBA Draft first round but went there anyway. This isn’t seen as the same level of reach as the Fever picking Gondrezick at No. 4, but this is still a good bit before the consensus considered Watts would go.
Watts is 24 years old and has not proven to be a particularly efficient player. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing here – she was still projected to be picked, rebounds well for a 5-foot-11 point guard, and has massively improved in taking care of the ball during her time in college. But did she warrant a first-round pick? In a few years, we will know if the Sparks made a brilliant move or wasted an opportunity.
No. 20 DiJonai Carrington (G, Baylor) to the Connecticut Sun
Carrington was considered a late first-round pick in most mock drafts but ended up falling into the middle of the second round where the Sun probably happily snatched her up. She played very well in the NCAA Tournament and was a defensive anchor for a Baylor team that loved to get physical. She can score, too, averaging 14.1 points per game this season.
But for whatever reason, Carrington didn’t go in the first 12 picks like people thought she would. Instead, she’s a second rounder and headed to Connecticut after the team used its first pick of the draft to take her. The Sun were the last team to submit a pick Thursday night, meaning all 11 teams passed on Carrington, some more than once, before she went at No. 20.
We will see if every other WNBA team was right to skip over Carrington or if the Sun found themselves a bargain with their first pick, but the decisions made on the Baylor product could be a big talking point in a few years.
No. 22 Arella Guirantes (G, Rutgers) to the Los Angeles Sparks
Heading into the 2021 WNBA Draft, Guirantes was viewed as a nailed-on top pick. Plenty of predictions had her in the top three, and no one thought she would fall further than the top five.
Well, everybody was wrong. Guirantes didn’t hear her name called until the second half of the second round, a massive fall for a player thought to be one of the best in this draft class. As a senior, she posted averages of 21.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per contest and was consistently a masterful scorer throughout her collegiate career.
It isn’t clear right now why this happened, but clearly WNBA teams had their reasons for passing on the former Rutgers player. After 21 picks, though, the Sparks decided they would take a chance on Guirantes, ending her slide way down the board.
Perhaps the 11 teams that skipped on her (and the Sparks, who could have picked her much sooner than with the No. 22 pick) are right. Maybe we won’t see an illustrious career from Guirantes. But maybe they’re wrong and the Sparks just picked up a huge asset with a late pick. This will be one that people will talk about years down the road.