Top 12 WNBA Draft Prospects of 2018

By Seth Dahle

My oh my, this year’s WNBA Draft is stacked. From experienced guards and versatile forwards, to athletic centers who can also shoot from the outside, teams simply can’t go wrong with their selections in the field. In fact, the 2018 pool features seven players who landed on the first, second or third AP All-America teams, as well as 17 seniors and/or graduate standouts who earned Honorable Mention honors.

WNBA Draft 2018 presented by State Farm is set for April 12 at the Nike New York Headquarters. ESPN2 will air the first round beginning at 7 p.m. ET, followed by coverage of rounds two and three on ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET. The draft will also stream live on the ESPN app.

Here’s a look at some of the top prospects in the 2018 draft (in alphabetical order), along with highlights and stats.

 

MONIQUE BILLINGS

The rundown: With a wide array of post moves and long arms that make her a defensive nightmare, Billings is an easy favorite as a potential first-rounder. As a senior, Billings collected 17 double-doubles and became just the third player in UCLA history and 14th in the Pac-12 to score 1,500 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. Along with a multitude of moves in the paint, Billings can dunk and has a midrange jumper, and she also upped her free throw percentage to 71.6 percent (a big leap from a dismal 47.7 clip during her freshman campaign).

Position: Power Forward

Height: 6-4

College: UCLA

2017-18 stats: 15.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 47.2 FG%

 

LEXIE BROWN

The rundown: Brown transferred to Duke from Maryland following her sophomore season and immediately fit into head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s up-tempo style. As a senior, she garnered All-ACC First Team and Defensive Player of the Year plaudits, proving her skillset on both ends of the hardwood. A sharpshooter off the bounce, Brown can hurt you inside or from the perimeter. She scored 20 or more points 16 times as a senior, and at one point during her junior season hit 56 straight free throws – a school and an ACC record.

Position: Point Guard

Height: 5-9

College: Duke

2017-18 stats: 19.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, 82.8 FT%

 

JORDIN CANADA

The rundown: UCLA’s all-time leader in assists, Canada is undoubtedly one of the top point guards in this year’s WNBA draft. As a senior, she became the first player in Pac-12 women’s basketball history to score over 1,800 points (finished with 2,153 for her career) and dish out 700 assists (ended with 831). Canada is not only a great distributor and scorer, but she is also a defensive presence, totaling 347 career steals (including a season-high 11 vs. San Jose State on 11/10/17) to rank third all-time in UCLA history.

Position: Point Guard

Height: 5-6

College: UCLA

2017-18 stats: 17.0 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.3 SPG, 80.4 FT%

 

DIAMOND DESHIELDS

The rundown: A 6-1 guard/forward, DeShields opted out of her senior season at Tennessee to play professionally overseas in Turkey, and that experience ultimately paid dividends, as she is now a top prospect for the first round. During her junior season at Tennessee, she led the Lady Vols in scoring, tallying 17.4 points per game and posting at least 20 points on 11 occasions. With an incredible athletic ability and high-rising pull-up jump shot, DeShields has the potential to be a standout WNBA rookie in 2018.

Position: Shooting Guard

Height: 6-1

College: Tennessee

2016-17 stats: 17.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 42.3 FG%

*junior-year stats, declared for draft following junior season

 

MARIE GULICH

The rundown: In addition to her already sound skillset, the amazing thing about Gulich is how quickly she emerged as a dominant center at Oregon State in the Pac-12 Conference. She went from averaging 3.2 and 4.1 points during her freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively, to over 17.5 points and 9.2 boards as a senior. Can she bring that same mentality and rapid development to the WNBA? Only time will tell, but Gulich scores major points in her ability to hit 15-to-18 footers. As a senior, the 6-5 German helped Oregon State perhaps overachieve in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, as she led the Beavers to a Sweet 16 upset over second-seeded Baylor.

Position: Center

Height: 6-5

College: Oregon State

2017-18 stats: 17.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 91 blocks, 65.2 FG%

 

KIA NURSE

The rundown: Nurse was named this year’s WBCA’s Defensive Player of the Year, which tells you a lot considering she also averaged 13.5 points and shot over 44 percent from beyond the arc. The Canadian guard flourished at UCONN, playing in 145 career games and starting in all but three of them. Nurse, like many Huskies, knows how to win, notching NCAA titles her freshman and sophomore seasons. Her maturity and steadiness on the court makes her dangerous, and she also represented her country at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Position: Point Guard

Height: 6-0

College: Connecticut

2017-18 stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 44.3 3PT%

 

KELSEY MITCHELL

The rundown: Sometimes being a lefty can throw defenders off, and there’s no exception when it comes to Mitchell. Don’t be fooled, though, Mitchell is as skilled as they come – she’s one of just 13 players in NCAA women’s basketball history to record 3,000 career points. Mitchell started all 139 games as a Buckeye, totaled 3,402 points, drilled 497 three’s, and averaged 24.5 points per game for her career – all of which are Ohio State records. With the ability to score whenever she wants, Mitchell is expected to go in the top three of this year’s WNBA draft.

Position: Point Guard

Height: 5-8

College: Ohio State

2017-18 stats: 24.3 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.2 RPG, 129-for-321 3PT

 

AZURA STEVENS

The rundown: The draft board drastically changed the day Stevens declared her early entry, forgoing her final year of eligibility at UCONN. Despite coming off the bench for a majority of her junior season in 2017-18, Stevens wreaked havoc on both ends, scoring nearly 15 points and grabbing 7.4 rebounds per contest in just under 21 minutes per affair. The 6-6 center led the Huskies in scoring eight times this past season and was a major proponent on the glass, making her a hot draft prospect in 2018. After averaging 18.2 points per game during her sophomore season at Duke, Stevens transferred to UCONN and made an immediate impact for head coach Geno Auriemma.

Position: Center

Height: 6-6

College: Connecticut

2017-18 stats: 14.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 60.6 FG%

 

MARIA VADEEVA

The rundown: You could call Vadeeva the ‘dark horse’ in this year’s draft, as much remains unknown about the 19-year-old Russian. However, one thing is certain – Vadeeva is a durable post and proven performer at the elite level (she’s played professionally in her country since she was 16). At the FIBA U19 World Cup, Vadeeva scored 26 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and logged three blocks in Russia’s 86-82 win over the United States en route to earning tournament MVP honors. 

Position: Center

Height: 6-4

Country: Russia

2017-18 EuroLeague stats: 9.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 19.1 MPG

 

VICTORIA VIVIANS

The rundown: One of the most decorated players in Mississippi State women’s basketball history, Vivians recently capped a stellar career with the Bulldogs, finishing second in school history in scoring (2,527), field goals made (923) and three-pointers (281). Vivians turned Mississippi State from a top-25 program to a top-10 powerhouse, helping the Bulldogs reach their first Final Four in school history during the 2016-17 campaign (first women’s program in state of Mississippi to advance to Final Four). With the ability to score off the bounce with ease and drill three’s from 25 feet and beyond, Vivians is sure to be a backcourt asset to any WNBA team.

Position: Shooting Guard

Height: 6-1

College: Mississippi State

2017-18 stats: 19.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 48.5 FG%

 

GABBY WILLIAMS

The rundown: Don’t let Williams’ 5-11 frame fool you – she’s one of the most athletic players in this year’s WNBA draft. As a 15-year-old high schooler, she competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in track & field, clearing 6-feet, 2.25 inches en route to finishing fifth in the high jump, and that athletic ability has translated onto the court. Along with Nurse and Stevens, she was a proven performer at UCONN, averaging over 11 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest on 60.5 percent shooting during her senior season. While it took Williams a moment to find her identity at the college level, she is now one of the most dynamic players in the game.

Position: Power Forward

Height: 5-11

College: Connecticut

2017-18 stats: 11.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 60.5 FG%

 

A’JA WILSON

Let’s get straight to the point – Wilson is bound to be a premier post in the WNBA. As a junior in 2016-17, the 6-5 lefty led South Carolina to its first NCAA championship, and, during her senior season, collected nearly every national award, including – Citizen Naismith Women’s Player of the Year, Lisa Leslie Award, SEC Defensive Player of the Year (second time), SEC Player of the Year (third time) and Associated Press (AP) National Player of the Year. After cashing in 2,389 points and 1,195 rebounds during her illustrious career at South Carolina, it’s no secret why the AP and panel of WNBA coaches and general managers tabbed Wilson as the top pick in this year’s draft.

Position: Center

Height: 6-5

College: South Carolina

2017-18 stats: 22.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 54.2 FG%