Leading up to the 2021 WNBA Draft, Twitter has featured conversations among players about who belonged to the best draft class.
Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage talked up the 2011 class, which featured Maya Moore, Cambage and Courtney Vandersloot as the top three picks.
Aces teammate A’ja Wilson countered with the 2018 class, the one that brought Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams to the Sky with the No. 3 and No. 4 overall picks.
“Obviously, I’ll always ride for mine,” DeShields said.
Thursday night, another class will get its chance.
Leading up to the WNBA’s second virtual draft (6 p.m., ESPN), DeShields and her teammates talked about who’s available, happenings around the league and what players they like. Mostly, DeShields said it has been an opportunity for all of them to be fans for a week.
Once the picks are in, that mentality quickly flips from fans back to players preparing for a new season with a rookie to work into the system.
The Sky will make their first pick at No. 8, and coach James Wade said he’ll do it from Chicago. The Sky’s night concludes with the No. 16 pick, and while Wade has said he has no intentions of trading up, nothing is off the table.
The Sky want a backup point guard, a glaring need Wade said he’s confident he can address with this draft. Wade and his team are taking a deep dive into between four and five players. Two guards he mentioned specifically are Aari McDonald and Kiana Williams.
It seems unlikely that McDonald still will be available when the Sky pick, but Williams is listed going at No. 8 on multiple mock drafts.
Regardless of who is selected, she will enter an ideal situation. Tasked with playing 10 minutes a game, she won’t have the pressure of leading the starting unit, and there’s arguably no better mentor than Vandersloot.
They will, however, have the tall task of maintaining Vandersloot’s productivity. The Sky’s offensive rating with Vandersloot on the court is 110.6, and when she’s on the bench that stat falls to 81.6.
“We don’t want another Courtney Vandersloot,” DeShields said. “We understand how almost impossible that will be to find. What we do need is someone that we trust with our offense that’s going to get players in position to do their jobs better.”
The offseason was marked by the blockbuster signing of Candace Parker to a two-year deal. Coming off a disappointing season in the WNBA bubble, the Sky are a heavy favorite to win a championship.
But the players on the roster they have now are operating in win-now mode as the team will need to address multiple unrestricted free-agent contracts next year, including Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper.
Until then, the focus is on this season and this roster. If the Sky can lock down a solid backup point guard with the No. 8 pick, it will be a weight off of Wade’s shoulders next offseason.
“This draft class is hit or miss,” Wade said. “You could hit big later on or miss big early.”