Four potential picks for the Dream ahead of Thursday’s draft

Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2) celebrates at the end of a women's Final Four game against Connecticut on Friday, April 2, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Arizona won 69-59. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2) celebrates at the end of a women's Final Four game against Connecticut on Friday, April 2, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Arizona won 69-59. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The scouting process for Nicki Collen and the Dream hasn’t looked the same in this pandemic-riddled offseason.

Collen and her staff didn’t attend many games, other than nearby trips to Stegeman Coliseum for Georgia games and appearances at the SEC and ACC tournaments. The franchise didn’t have full representation in San Antonio for the NCAA Tournament in March, other than assistant coach Darius Taylor making the trip to watch his wife, Georgia coach Joni Taylor, lead her tournament run and watch a few games that followed.

The Dream didn’t have the chance to watch players at practices. Collen enjoys the process of watching a prospect’s mannerisms, her leadership qualities and how she executes a development session. WNBA rules barred all 12 organizations from having that opportunity.

The Dream have made the most of the hand they were dealt. Zoom, as for many others, has become the way of life. Collen and her staff have watched plenty of video in an effort to narrow their list ahead of the third, 15th and 27th selections in Thursday night’s WNBA draft (7 p.m., ESPN).

“It has changed less than people realize,” Collen said of the process. “You have to ask more questions to coaches and players to get answers on things we didn’t get to see in person.”

The Dream finds themselves in an interesting situation with their first pick. The franchise is taking a long-term approach with a slew of free agents looming after the 2021 season. The Dream have the luxury of selecting a prospect at any position or exploring a trade, although that seems less likely as the selection nears.

“Not only to help this year, but to help for the future,” ESPN basketball analyst Rebecca Lobo said of the Dream. “That’s the interesting and fun thing about the draft. You have to look at where there might be a major need in the following year.”

Collen’s list has narrowed, and the Dream want to lock in a series of plans — contingent upon Dallas’ picks at No. 1 and 2 overall — by noon Thursday. Here’s a look, according to people with knowledge of the situation, mock drafts and team needs, at who the Dream could select once the draft begins.

Aari McDonald, guard, Arizona

After scoring 26 points and beating powerhouse Connecticut to advance to the NCAA national title game, Arizona guard Aari McDonald cemented her place as the tournament’s darling. She placed her hands on the podium and put her mouth toward the microphone.

McDonald needed the people to know something.

“My name is Air-E,” McDonald said. “Not Are-E. Sorry. That’s all I wanted to say. Thank you.”

Everyone knew the pronunciation of her name at that moment. They all fell in love with the 5-foot-6 guard who averaged 28 points over her last four games in San Antonio. McDonald caught the eye of WNBA teams across the league, too, and she surged up the draft boards.

She’s an option for Collen and the Dream at No. 3 overall, too, after her eruption. She would be the short-term option to play alongside or behind Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams in 2021. For what Collen called a “security blanket,” McDonald provides a long-term answer if Odyssey Sims or Tiffany Hayes were to leave as free agents.

Collen mentioned McDonald in a Monday conversation with the AJC, and had some questions to answer — whether McDonald could be a consistent shooter and overcome the size deficiency.

There’s plenty that the Dream are in favor of, however, with the hot-topic guard.

“Aari is a creative guard who is going to touch the paint and make plays,” Collen said. “She’s got a little bit of that killer instinct.”

Awak Kuier, forward, Finland

Kuier is a 6-foot-5 dominant big who would bring international flair to the WNBA. She was born in Egypt, played for the Finnish national team, and now plays in the Italy Serie A league.

Kuier could be the second overall selection by the Dallas Wings, especially since she played alongside Dallas forward Isabelle Harrison in Italy.

If Kuier falls to the third selection, however, it could be tough for the Dream to pass up. In Italy this season, the post presence finished with 8.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game at a 51 percent shooting clip.

Rennia Davis, wing, Tennessee

At 6-foot-2, Tennessee’s Rennia Davis fills a nearly concrete need for the Dream. It doesn’t have much size on the wing, aside from Shekinna Stricklen (also at 6-foot-2).

Davis was a do-it-all player for Tennessee over four seasons, and emerged as the Lady Volunteers’ go-to option against upper-echelon competition and while earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. She averaged 17.3 points per game through the 2020-21 campaign, but scored a season-high 33 points against Ole Miss.

Davis’ shooting numbers, however, were a bit inconsistent, and the Dream are in search of bolstering their 3-point percentages. Davis could be a top-five selection in the draft, and a consideration for the Dream.

“I think the world of Rennia Davis because she’s an incredible athlete when you look at her size and wingspan,” ESPN’s LaChina Robinson said. “She looked like a pro with all of the skill sets to be a difference-maker.”

Arella Guirantes, guard, Rutgers

For a prolonged amount of time, many of the mock drafts have pointed to the Dream selecting Arella Guirantes, a 5-foot-11 guard out of Rutgers who provides versatility to play multiple positions.

The hours dwindle before the Dream’s selection, and she’s a viable option to be selected by Collen and her staff.

Guirantes averaged 21.3 points per game on the season, and had 20- and 30-point showings over two NCAA tournament games. A smaller body of work with a brief tournament run, however, could’ve hurt Guirantes’ draft stock. She should still be in consideration as a top-five selection.

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