Evaluating the Top Three WNBA Draft Picks’ Performances

WNBA

With the WNBA Playoffs just about one month away, it is time to look at how the top three picks in this year’s draft have been doing so far.

The Top Three WNBA Draft Picks’ Performances

Rhyne Howard

As the first pick in the draft, Rhyne Howard has a lot of pressure on her to excel. The young guard has not failed to meet the high expectations the league has for the number one pick, though. During the draft process, Howard had many doubters questioning whether she was really a worthy number one pick. She proved them wrong in only her first few months in the league.

Howard won the WNBA KIA Rookie of the Month award two months in a row. Currently, she is also the front-runner for winning Rookie of the Year. She is leading all rookies in points (15.3), steals (1.5) and three-pointers made (2.4).

During her short time in the league, Howard has already made history more than once. There are only three other players who have had as good of a shooting season from deep as Howard. Howard takes about seven three-point attempts per game and makes 39.8% of them. This puts her in the company of Kelsey Plum, Diana Taurasi, and Katie Smith, who are the only other players to match that volume and accuracy. Besides that, Howard also ranks in the top thirteen throughout the league in all the before mentioned categories.

Howard started all games for Atlanta so far and scored double digits in all except three games. She put up her career high of thirty-three points in her fourth game of the season against the Indiana Fever. Howard’s debut in the league was more than impressive. She is only the seventh player in WNBA history to score more than one hundred points in their first five games.

In her first week in the league, Howard already earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. This had not been done since 2002. To top that off, Howard was also the only member of her rookie class to be named an All-Star. She competed in the skills challenge and the three-point contests, where she made it to the final round. As the only rookie in the All-Star game, Howard only saw fifteen minutes of playing time. Nevertheless, Howard still showed off her skills by filling up the stat sheets. She finished the game with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.

Howard still has a lot more to accomplish in the WNBA, but after just a couple of months, it is safe to say that she proved herself a worthy first draft pick. Howard met and exceeded all expectations for her rookie season. She still has a high ceiling for the rest of her career and will continue to amaze.

NaLyssa Smith

NaLyssa Smith does not only have the pressure of proving herself as a worthy second draft pick on her. Many also expect her to save the Indiana Fever and become their big franchise player. While we will still have to wait and see whether Smith will live up to the latter expectations, it is already obvious that she was a justified top three draft pick.

So far, Smith has been averaging 12.8 points, 8 rebounds and 1.3 assists. These are already impressive numbers for a rookie, but Smith also recorded several double-doubles. One of them included her career high of 26 points in game 14 against Chicago. In the same game, she also grabbed 11 rebounds. Throughout the league, Smith ranks fifth in rebounds.

Smith does not stand out as much as number one pick Howard, but she is proving to everyone that she has the potential to be one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. She is an incredibly versatile player, who could already dunk in eight grade, and shows amazing off-ball movement. Smith has been shooting 34.7% from the three-point line and continues to show how dangerous she is when attacking the basket.

In May, Smith was signed by Puma, just like Breanna Steward, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Katie Lou Samuelson.
In her first few months in the league, Smith has met all the expectations aimed at the number two draft pick, but eyes will continue to be on her as she still has much more to achieve in the WNBA.

Shakira Austin

As the third pick in the WNBA draft, Shakira Austin has a lot of eyes on her. Her numbers are not especially flashy, with 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, but Austin quickly established herself as a solid role player for the Washington Mystics. She proved herself on a veteran team and earned herself a starting spot through her hard work. If Austin continues to play as well as she has been for the Mystics, she might as well be the team’s future.

The Mystics’ offense is +16.67 with Austin on the court, and the defense is +12.44. Even though the offense rating is higher in this case, defense is Austin’s biggest asset. Her rim protection and interior defense were what set her apart from other players and made her the third overall draft pick. Despite being a rookie, Austin was responsible for guarding great players like Candace Parker, Jonquel Jones and Sylvia Fowles and held her own against them.

The focus is on Austin’s defense, but she has also impressed on the offensive end. She leads all rookies in field goal percentage with 55.2% and ranks second in the entire league. Austin proved to be an effective spacer, even though she is not a shooter, and a good passer. Her career high is twenty points in her fifth game against the Dallas Wings.

Austin may not stand out as much as the two players who were drafted before her, but she has not disappointed. Austin has put up a solid rookie performance so far and will continue to grow as a player and have an impact on the league.