Nyadiew Puoch pushes the ball forward on a fastbreak opportunity.

2024 WNBA Draft: The Atlanta Dream Go International

The Atlanta Dream entered the 2024 WNBA Draft in an intriguing position, holding the 12th and final pick of the first round after an off-season trade with Los Angeles that brought Jordin Canada to Atlanta.

Canada is a vital piece for the Dream, viewed as the immediate and foreseeable future’s answer at point guard. The Dream already has a franchise cornerstone in 2022 Rookie of the Year and 2x All-Star, Rhyne Howard. Allisha Gray earned her first All-Star nod last season, her first with the Dream, and is a lock to start at the 2. Cheyenne Parker also earned her first All-Star appearance last season, one of the premier post scorers in the league.

Nia Coffey started at the 4 the majority of last season prior to a season-ending hand injury, and she is back in Red this season.

The Dream also signed Aerial Powers to provide depth on the wing, and made one of the most interesting moves of the signing period by bringing WNBA legend and former MVP Tina Charles in. While Charles didn’t play in the W last season, she could play an integral part for a team that lacked depth at the 5 last season.

Atlanta also has 3 players on rookie-scale contracts currently slated as deeper rotation players: Naz Hillmon, Laeticia Amihere, and Haley Jones all showed strong ability in spurts this past season.

This team has depth, has an established core group, and is looking to build off of its first playoff appearance since 2018. While the Dream are still a young group, actively looking to improve in every facet and develop, the space on this season’s roster was limited.

Picking at 12, it was highly unlikely that the Dream would be able to Draft a player who would be able to earn their way onto the roster. As the night played out, that largely ended up being the case. It’s not that there weren’t talented players, many who could stick in the W and that I believe in longterm, but again, was there going to be a spot in Atlanta?

When projecting out the draft myself, I always toyed with the idea of adding another established post to the mix. However, with how well Amihere played at Athletes Unlimited, and what her potential is, I strongly doubt anyone drafted at 12 gets the opportunity over Amihere. The Dream need to shore up that back-up frontcourt position, and while Amihere had a limited role last season, she has a major chance to fill into a larger one this season, as Monique Billings is now in Los Angeles, and Iliana Rupert is staying overseas for International play with France.

The same can be said of the guard spot. I thought there was potential to bring in someone that could challenge for a roster spot and provide guard depth, but when you think on it, how much opportunity is there? This team is invested in Haley Jones, and she showed a ton of bright spots as a rookie, perhaps the young player with the most potential on the team. Howard and Gray both can command the offense for large stretches as lead ball-handlers, and Canada is a true point guard that thrives with the ball in her hands.

It’s a difficult spot to bring a rookie in and see if they sink or swim. The Dream took lumps last season as a group that played through youth, but also competed. They’re banking on internal development and tinkering with the roster, adding veteran talent, to push them further this next season.

Tying it back to Atlanta’s draft class: The Dream selected Nyadiew Puoch (Australia) with the 12th pick, Isobel Borlase (Austraila) with the 20th pick, and Matilde Villa (Italy) with the 32nd pick.

While none of these players will come over in the 2024 season, this is a tremendous Draft class for the Dream. They got better last night even if we might not see that play out on the court during the W season.

“We’re super excited to be able to add these young talented players…We like what we’ve seen them do at such a young age and we expect them to grow their game into the future,” said Dream Head Coach Tanisha Wright.

Given that the WNBL and Euro seasons typically do not intersect with the WNBA season, building relationships and international check-ins will take place in large part out of the W season calendar. Wright mentioned the importance of showing genuine care and interest, and that the front office looks forward to making those in-roads in the future.

Dream General Manager Dan Padover stated off the top that this Draft and where they were positioned was all about acquiring the best talent and building for the future.

I think it’s pivotal to mention that that future aspect is potentially crucial in the immediate future. In my own evaluation, both Puoch and Borlase were 1st round level talents. Villa is on the smaller side, but has shown a great deal of potential and could become a very quality guard in the right setting. Other team’s outside of the Dream have evaluations and keep tabs on these prospects as they play and develop overseas.

Creating and developing a talent-base of international prospects can prove important down the line with respect to making trades. If the Dream look to make another significant move over the next year, having the draft rights to intriguing overseas talent that teams do not have to currently roster or pay is an essential part of expanding your possibilities.

However, I would not rule out the potential of these players making an impact for the Dream in the future as well.

Puoch has the potential to be a star level roleplayer, a dynamic defender and slasher at 6’3. As she continues refining her game and becoming more consistent, she has the tools to become one of the best players in this Draft.

Borlase, similarly, has showcased a high level of skill and scoring polish in the WNBL. She’s a fantastic driver who is quite strong off the  bounce, and as she continues to round out her perimeter game, she has a place in the pro game.

The Dream are in the difficult part of a rebuild, working to find what sets them apart and hone in on becoming consistent. The flashes and stretches of play last year were incredibly bright. It’s a lot harder to make the moves that take you from the middle of the pack to the top look sexy, but Atlanta did a good job last night of continuing to open the pathways of what is possible as they continue to develop organizationally.

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