Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso [1296x729]
Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso [1296x729] (Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

How will the NHL s West be won Projecting the matchups tactics and X factors that will matter most

There's no question about the No. 1 pick in Monday's WNBA draft (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) as Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark is certain to go to the Indiana Fever.

But after that, the mystery starts. And what the Los Angeles Sparks do with the Nos. 2 and 4 picks could shape the rest of the draft.

The Sparks, with coach Curt Miller in his second season and general manager Raegan Pebley in her first, are in a period of franchise refresh. Forward Nneka Ogwumike, the face of the team, left in free agency for the Seattle Storm in February. The Sparks haven't been to the playoffs since 2020; the three-year postseason drought is the longest in franchise history. So this draft could mean a lot to Los Angeles.

"They're an incredible opportunity for our organization," Pebley said of the two lottery picks. "We want to see two players that not only have the skill set to make an impact early but also a long runway ahead of them [with] opportunities to develop."

After Clark, a quartet of post players appears to be next on the draft board: forward Cameron Brink (Stanford), center Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina), and forwards Rickea Jackson (Tennessee) and Aaliyah Edwards (UConn). The Sparks must decide which of those four they need the most, and that player will go No. 2.

Cardoso, at 6-foot-7, stands out in the group because of her size, mobility, and impact on defense and rebounding. The 6-4 Brink and 6-2 Jackson are likely the most offensively versatile, and the 6-3 Edwards has the pedigree from UConn, which has produced many successful WNBA players.

The Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings also each have two first-round picks Monday, and those franchises are in different places. The Sky are rebuilding, while the Wings are hoping to improve on last season's semifinals appearance.

Chicago has a new head coach, Teresa Weatherspoon, and GM, Jeff Pagliocca, both hired in October. With the No. 3 pick, the Sky also will be in the mix for Brink, Cardoso, Jackson or Edwards. They also will select at No. 7 after a trade Sunday with the Minnesota Lynx, who now have the No. 8 pick.

Dallas has had at least one top-five pick in the draft for 11 of the past 13 years, going back to when the franchise was still in Tulsa. Some of those have worked out well, some haven't.

"I think our draft strategy has changed significantly over the past few years," Dallas president and CEO Greg Bibb said. "If you go back, it was, 'Who's the best player available? We're going to take that player because we need everything.'

"Thankfully, our team has evolved over the last few years. And our job has become much narrower in terms of our focus and our search. We're looking for a need to help us take the next step from being a top-four team to being a top-two team to ultimately the top team."

First round 1. Indiana Fever: Caitlin Clark

Iowa | PG | 6-foot-0 | senior

In the past week, Clark received the Wooden Award for the second year in a row and appeared on the "Weekend Update" segment of "Saturday Night Live." Also, it was announced that the Indiana Fever will have 36 of their 40 games featured by the WNBA's national broadcast and streaming partners. It has been a great 2024 so far for Clark, but she is likely most looking forward to getting on the court with her new teammates and coaches.

2. Los Angeles Sparks: Cameron Brink

Stanford | PF | 6-foot-4 | senior

This is the key pick in terms of how the top post players go. If it is Brink, this pick would make her a foundational player for a Sparks team establishing a new identity now without Nneka Ogwumike. But the same could be said for Cardoso, who played well winning the NCAA championship. Both players should be elite rim-protectors and shot-blockers; Brink at this point probably offers a little more proven offensive versatility.

3. Chicago Sky: Kamilla Cardoso

South Carolina | C | 6-foot-7 | senior

Cardoso is hard to stop once she gets the ball in scoring position, and she can control the boards, plus be a major impediment to opponents' driving ability. Almost everything will be new with the Sky this season, so Cardoso or whomever Chicago picks will have a fresh slate and a chance to play a lot.

4. Los Angeles Sparks: Rickea Jackson

Tennessee | SF | 6-foot-2 | senior

Jackson has been a proven scorer throughout her college career and can play either power or small forward. The Sparks will need an offensive boost, and she should be able to help there, plus develop quickly on the defensive end. Jackson's career-high 22 3-pointers this season mean she has that tool, which will be an advantage.

5. Dallas Wings: Aaliyah Edwards

UConn | PF | 6-foot-3 | senior

There's a chance Edwards goes higher, depending on whether a team is looking for a more traditional power forward who can dependably do everything well. The track record of former UConn players in the pros is excellent, so that helps her draft stock, too. The good thing for Dallas is if Edwards is already picked, Jackson probably will be available, and the Wings would be happy with her, too.

6. Washington Mystics: Jacy Sheldon

Ohio State | SG | 5-foot-10 | senior

Washington is in a new stage for the franchise, with some prominent former standouts either gone or not playing this season. After Clark, Sheldon might be the top guard picked in this draft for her combination of scoring ability (17.8 PPG this season) and energetic, hard-nosed defense. There's also a chance the Mystics could go with an overseas player who might not play in the WNBA this season.

7. Chicago Sky: Angel Reese

LSU | PF | 6-foot-3 | senior

The fact the Sky traded with Minnesota to swap first-round draft positions gives us a good indication that Chicago has a specific player in mind -- someone the Sky hope will still be available. It could be Reese, who was a dominant rebounder in college; she had 20 in her final game for LSU. A lot has been made of Reese needing growth on the offensive end. But Weatherspoon was a defensive specialist as a player and could really value Reese's potential.

8. Minnesota Lynx: Isobel Borlase

Australia | PG | 5-foot-11

All signs point to the 19-year-old wanting to play in the WNBA this season. But even if she doesn't, she's so young there is plenty of time for her to develop for the future. Borlase already has played professionally with the Adelaide Lightning in the WNBL this season in Australia. The Aussies' track record of success in the WNBA is very good, too.

9. Dallas Wings: Leila Lacan

France| PG | 5-foot-11

Based on the Wings' roster, they might go with an overseas player who might not play in the WNBA until 2025. Lacan turns 20 in June and is playing professionally for Angers in her native France. She has averaged 12.7 points this season. She played in the U19 World Cup last season for France, which lost the bronze medal game to Canada.

10. Connecticut Sun: Nyadiew Puoch

Australia | PF | 6-foot-3

Another 19-year-old, Puoch is back in the first round of our final mock draft of 2024. The Sun might see her as an investment in the future. She plays for the Southside Flyers, who won the WNBL championship this season in her native Australia. If she is not ready for the WNBA this year, perhaps this will be a "draft-and-stash" situation in which she joins Connecticut in 2025.

11. New York Liberty: Nika Mühl

UConn | PG | 5-foot-11 | senior

The key here: Will the Liberty think a defensive-minded guard who averaged just 5.8 points per game in four seasons with the Huskies is valuable enough to be a first-round pick? Her size and energy on defense are big pluses for a team that needs better perimeter defense. She also averaged 7.9 assists as a junior and 6.5 as a senior, so her playmaking is a strength as well.

12. Atlanta Dream: Celeste Taylor

Ohio State | PG | 5-foot-11 | senior

Taylor played five seasons in college, spread out between Texas, Duke and Ohio State -- three programs known for strong defense. So she might also be on New York's radar for the No. 11 pick, or even go higher. Taylor averaged 10.8 points per game in her college career, making 169 3-pointers total.

Second round

13. Chicago Sky: Alissa Pili, Utah, SF, 6-2

14. Seattle Storm: Charisma Osborne, UCLA, SG, 5-9

15. Indiana Fever: Javyn Nicholson, Georgia, PF, 6-2

16. Las Vegas Aces: Dyaisha Fair, Syracuse, PG, 5-5

17. New York Liberty: Marquesha Davis, Ole Miss, SF, 6-0

18. Las Vegas Aces: Jakia Brown-Turner, Maryland, SF, 6-0

19. Connecticut Sun: Jessika Carter, Mississippi State, C, 6-5

20. Atlanta Dream: Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech, C, 6-6

21. Washington Mystics: Taiyanna Jackson, Kansas, C, 6-6

22. Connecticut Sun: Jaz Shelley, Nebraska, SG, 5-9

23. New York Liberty: Quay Miller, Colorado, PF, 6-3

24. Las Vegas Aces: Desi-Rae Young, UNLV, PF, 6-1

Third round

25. Phoenix Mercury: Carla Leite, France, SG, 5-9

26. Seattle Storm: Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana, PF, 6-3

27. Indiana Fever: McKenzie Forbes, USC, SF, 6-0

28. Los Angeles Sparks: Kate Martin, Iowa, SG, 6-0

29. Phoenix Mercury: Rebeka Mikulášiková, Ohio State, PF, 6-4

30. Washington Mystics: Brynna Maxwell, Gonzaga, SG, 6-0

31. Minnesota Lynx: Hannah Jump, Stanford, SG, 6-0

32. Atlanta Dream: Honesty Scott-Grayson, Auburn, SG, 5-9

33. Dallas Wings: Kiki Jefferson, Louisville, SG, 6-1

34. Connecticut Sun: Sara Scalia, Indiana, SG, 5-10

35. New York Liberty: Abbey Hsu, Columbia, SG, 5-11

36. Las Vegas Aces: Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado, PG, 5-7