Dream trade up to make No. 1 overall pick in WNBA draft Monday

Generic photo of WNBA basketball.

Credit: Kelsey Bibik/Atlanta Dream

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Generic photo of WNBA basketball.

Credit: Kelsey Bibik/Atlanta Dream

The Dream traded up ahead of Monday’s WNBA draft to receive the first overall selection from the Washington Mystics.

On Wednesday, the Dream gave up the No. 3 and No. 14 overall (second round) picks in 2022 and the right for the Mystics to swap their first-round pick next year for the pick the Dream acquired in the Erica Wheeler trade with the Los Angeles Sparks.

In addition to picking No. 1, the Dream will pick at No. 15.

“We found a situation that made sense for us and made sense for Washington,” Dream general manager Dan Padover told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “We’ve identified a player we feel very comfortable taking at No. 1. We went for it.”

The Dream received the No. 3 pick in the draft from December’s lottery, based on records from the past two seasons.

The Dream have scouted a number of prospects over recent weeks under the leadership of Padover and assistant general manager Darius Taylor. The Dream are down to a select group of targets, a person with knowledge of the situation said, including Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, Michigan’s Naz Hillmon, Ole Miss’ Shakira Austin and Oregon’s Nyara Sabally.

Padover, since taking the job in October as a former executive with the Las Vegas Aces, has spent a lot of time studying successful WNBA franchises over the past two decades. The Dream have taken a culture-first approach, as proved with the hires of president Morgan Shaw Parker, coach Tanisha Wright, and the supporting staff members. Padover believes that the biggest step in such a rebuild is adding a foundational player.

“The move today gives us a shot of obtaining a foundational piece, which are very hard to come by in this league,” Padover said.

The Dream will make their first No. 1 overall selection since the 2009 draft, when they drafted former star Angel McCoughtry out of Louisville.

Last season, the Dream drafted Arizona guard Aari McDonald with the No. 3 overall pick after her NCAA tournament run with the Wildcats. As a rookie, McDonald averaged 6.3 points and two assists per game. The Dream have had a top-five draft pick in each of the past two WNBA drafts, not including Monday’s selection.

Two seasons ago, the Dream selected Texas A&M guard Chennedy Carter with the fourth overall selection. After handing Carter a conduct-related suspension, the Dream opted to go in a different direction and traded her to the Sparks for future assets. The Dream feel confident that with their 2022 selection, similar to the successful addition of McCoughtry in 2009, they can add a star-caliber player while in the midst of a rebuild.

The Dream now have made a major move ahead of the first draft under the leadership of Padover.