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Dallas Wings control WNBA draft with top two picks

April 14, 2021 GMT
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Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2) gets a hug from Stanford guard Anna Wilson (3) at the end of the championship game in the women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Stanford won 54-53. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2) gets a hug from Stanford guard Anna Wilson (3) at the end of the championship game in the women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, April 4, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Stanford won 54-53. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Dallas Wings basically control the WNBA draft on Thursday night with the top two picks and four first-round choices.

It’s the first time in league history that a team will choose both No. 1 and 2. The Wings acquired the top pick in a February trade after being awarded the second choice in the draft lottery.

“It has made draft preparation a little bit easier,” Wings President and General Manager Greg Bibb said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Typically, you’re trying to figure out what you want to do and what everyone else wants to do, and that impacts what you want to do. The first two picks, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s a nice luxury to have.”

The Wings also have the fifth pick as well as the first pick in the second round. Dallas traded the seventh pick to Los Angeles on Wednesday for the Sparks’ first-round pick next year. Los Angeles also got a 2022 second-round pick from Dallas.

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This draft completes the second half of the team’s long-term strategy after they traded away Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins over the past few years.

“We pivoted our roster construct from a few superstar players to one which would be a on-the-fly rebuild,” he said. “We made a decision at the time of those players moving on, rather than take back other WNBA players I knew would be of lesser value to become a speculator to aggregate a number of draft picks.”

The Wings drafted Satou Sabally, Bella Alarie and Tyasha Harris last year to complement their young team.

“If we can have the same kind of success this year, we have a very talented young core group that joins Arike Ogunbowale, Kayla Thornton, Isabelle Harrison and Allisha Gray,” Bibb said. “It’s a very talented roster with a window of success that is opening.”

Bibb said that the franchise is looking at a number of players for the top two picks and he hasn’t been shy about heaping praise on Finnish player Awak Kuier. The Wings also could draft Texas’ Charli Collier with one of the top picks.

Other players expected to go early in the draft include Arizona’s Aari McDonald, Louisville’s Dana Evans, and Rutgers’ Arella Guirantes.

For the second straight season the draft will be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will be announcing picks from an ESPN studio in New York and players will be at home when they are drafted.

The other picks in the first round are: Atlanta at 3, Indiana at 4, New York at 6, Chicago at 8, followed by Minnesota, Los Angeles, Seattle and Las Vegas. The Washington Mystics currently have no picks in the draft.

Other tidbits from the draft:

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For the first time seniors had to declare their intention to enter the draft this year because the NCAA had granted a blanket waiver allowing an extra year of eligibility. While Georgia’s Jenna Staiti and guard Que Morrison, Rice’s Nancy Mulkey, DePaul’s Deja Church and Ohio’s Cece Hooks all originally had declared for the draft, they all have decided to take their names out of the draft. Players who aren’t drafted on Thursday and haven’t done anything to violate their amateur status, like sign with an agent, have 30 days to declare their intent to return to school.

MAKING A ROSTER

With only potentially 144 roster spots in the WNBA and so many players under contract or still on their rookie-scale deals, there are not many spots open for players to make teams. There’s a good chance that less than a dozen draftees will be on opening-day rosters this season.

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