Welcome to the “your guess is as good as ours” projection of Thursday’s 2017 WNBA draft (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET). With new leadership in place in San Antonio and Chicago — which are picking 1-2 — and not that many players who rate as sure bets to succeed in the league, this draft doesn’t lend itself to any easy predictions. But hey, we’ll know the real thing soon enough. So here goes:
First-round mock draft
1. San Antonio
Kelsey Plum, Washington, 5-foot-8, guard
The Stars are trying to rebuild, and Plum, who set NCAA career and single-season scoring records as a senior, could be a big part of that. However, the Stars explored trading the pick, and that talk might further inspire an already motivated Plum. San Antonio, which is seeking its first winning record since 2012, could use a face-of-franchise-type player, and she has a lot of personality along with talent. Plum averaged 31.7 points per game this past season, shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from behind the arc.
Nia Coffey, Northwestern, 6-1, forward
It’s one of the key questions to this whole draft: What will the Sky do? In her first season as coach/general manager, Amber Stocks has remained mum. That said, it seems like Coffey, along with South Carolina’s Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis, are on the short list. Coffey has the local tie after playing at Northwestern. She’s a terrific athlete, and she averaged 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds in her college career. That’s a lot of consistent production, but she’ll probably need to transition to play more small forward. And Chicago might not be able to risk her still being around when the Sky pick at No. 9.
Allisha Gray, South Carolina, 6-0, guard
The Wings took small forward Aerial Powers last year, but she’s still recovering from hip surgery. When she’s back, she and Gray could play together, especially with Gray’s versatility. Gray did everything coach Dawn Staley asked of her in her one season on the court at South Carolina, averaging 13.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. She was also a rock for North Carolina in her two seasons there. If Chicago doesn’t take Gray at No. 2 overall, it’s likely Dallas will pick her with one of these back-to-back selections.
Alaina Coates, South Carolina, 6-4, center
Before an ankle injury prematurely ended her senior season, she had been in the conversation as the No. 1 pick. How long will her ankle take to heal, and how will she play when she comes back? (Which could be well into this season.) Coates is a high-percentage offensive player when she gets the ball in her comfort zone, deep in the paint. Her defense is very good, she’s a strong rebounder and she fits a need for Dallas. But are the Wings willing to wait for her?
5. San Antonio
Erica McCall, Stanford, 6-3, forward
Is this too high for her to go? Maybe. McCall appears to have a lot of potential to develop. She’s mobile, a good defender and rebounder and perhaps will become more consistent offensively. She has probably received great advice on how to succeed in the WNBA; her sister is longtime Mercury guard DeWanna Bonner. McCall averaged 14.4 points and 9.0 rebounds in helping Stanford reach the Final Four. She seemed to shrink as a scorer at times, but the talent is there.
Brittney Sykes, Syracuse, 5-9, guard
The Mystics obtained guard/forward Elena Delle Donne and guard Kristi Toliver in a splendid offseason, and also have seen the emergence of guard Tayler Hill. So Washington doesn’t have a glaring need, and the Mystics’ brain trust has had a lot to debate about this pick. Do they draft for post depth? If so, Kentucky’s Evelyn Akhator might be the choice. Otherwise, it’ll probably be between two guards, if they’re still available: Maryland’s Shatori Walker-Kimbrough or Sykes. Either is a good bet, but we’ll lean toward Sykes, who averaged 19.2 points and 7.2 rebounds as a senior for the Orange.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Maryland, 5-11, guard
The face of the franchise, 2009 No. 1 pick Angel McCoughtry, said she is going to rest this WNBA season. It’s not clear if that means all 34 games or just some, but the Dream have to plan as if they won’t have her at all. So Atlanta probably wants the best scorer available, especially from behind the arc. The Dream made the fewest 3-pointers of any WNBA team in 2016. Walker-Kimbrough made 45.9 percent (186-of-405) of her career 3-point attempts at Maryland, and 49.3 percent in her last two years. If the Mystics take Walker-Kimbrough, Sykes could go to Atlanta.
Brionna Jones, Maryland, 6-3, forward
Is any team with a first-round pick less enthusiastic about the draft than the Sun? Coach/GM Curt Miller has sounded pretty lukewarm about everyone not named Plum or Coates, and they’re not falling this far. Former No. 1 pick Chiney Ogwumike is expected to miss the season with an Achilles injury. The Sun acquired forward Lynetta Kizer, but they might look to another Terp for more interior help. Jones put up huge numbers at Maryland, averaging 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 69 percent this season. There’s some wariness, though, about her ceiling going forward.
Alexis Jones, Baylor, 5-9, guard
If the Sky take Coffey at No. 2, they’ll probably go with a guard for their second pick. They could still pick Davis if she’s available but might opt for the 1-2 combo that Jones can provide if she’s still on the board. Jones averaged 13.2 points and 4.8 assists as a senior, but her history of knee issues might concern teams. Still, if healthy, she’s an appealing playmaker/scorer to have for a Sky squad that will need more offense with Delle Donne’s departure.
Kaela Davis, South Carolina, 6-2, guard
Could all three of the Gamecocks players really end up in Dallas, where South Carolina just won the national championship? Davis, who averaged 12.7 points and 3.9 rebounds this season, is the biggest wild card of the draft. She has the tools and the size to be an effective pro player. But her inconsistency sparks a lot of concern. Dallas might see her best — such as her play in some key postseason games — as more than enough reason to take her. If Alexis Jones is still around, though, that could be Dallas’ option.
11. Los Angeles
Chantel Osahor, Washington, 6-2, forward/center
The defending champions really don’t have a “need.” But with Kristi Toliver gone to Washington, some 3-point shooting could help the Sparks. And they might get that from Osahor, along with her rebounding (15.3 per game this season) and passing. She’s a wonderfully instinctive player, and if health/fitness is a concern, being on a veteran team where her minutes would be limited might be a good fit. The Sparks might also consider Oregon State guard Sydney Wiese, who made 371 3-pointers in her career.
Alexis Peterson, Syracuse, 5-7, guard
Like the Sparks, the Lynx don’t have any specific holes to fill. But Minnesota’s roster is on the older side, and a young guard who can score coming off the bench might help. Peterson averaged 23.4 points and 7.0 assists as a senior, and the Lynx would also give her great veteran guards as mentors. If Peterson isn’t around, the Lynx might look to Wiese. Or they might see Akhator as a Rebekkah Brunson-like possibility.