Las Vegas Aces – Draft Summary
By Matt Hallett
The San Antonio Stars finished the regular season in last place in the WNBA last season. They were then sold to a consortium in Las Vegas and rebranded the Las Vegas Aces. They also installed Bill Laimbeer as their new head coach and general manager. The moves that Laimbeer made in the offseason were solid but not ones which would move the team forward.
They added size and experience in the singings of Kelsey Bone and Carolyn Swords. They added defensive toughness when they signed Tamera Young. They also traded away Kayla Alexander for a pick next year as well as let Alex Montgomery walk through free agency. To restock they had picks 1, 13 and 25 in this draft.
Pick 1 – A’ja Wilson
When you have the worst record in the WNBA last season the best thing to do is select the best player in the draft. A’Ja Wilson, the 6’5” forward from South Carolina was the outstanding college prospect from last season. Her 22.9 points per game was ninth in division 1. Her 12.0 rebounds per game was good enough for 11th. Her rim protection was incredible with her 3.3 blocks per game being good enough for sixth in division 1.
This pick was like a hand inside a tailored glove. The Aces lacked a true inside presence the likes of Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner. Wilson is going to give them this even though Laimbeer has informed the WNBA world he sees Wilson as a 4.
The Aces are going to be scarily good in a couple of seasons. They have Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum and Moriah Jefferson who fill out the back-court/wing positions. Now add Wilson at the 4 with a combination of Dearica Hamby, Swords, Bone and Isabelle Harrison at the 5 and this team has potential written all over it.
Pick 13 – Jaime Nared
Jaime Nared is a 6’2” forward out of the University of Tennessee. Nared improved exponentially throughout her college career and improved her major statistical numbers each of her four seasons. IN her senior year she averaged 17.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.
In most years, Nared would have been drafted mid-first round but thanks to the sheer quality of this draft she fell into the second round. This is a blessing for the Aces as Nared has the size to play anywhere from the 2 to the 4 and will give coach Laimbeer quality minutes.
While there were still players such as Stephanie Mavunga and Monique Billings available, Nared better fits the needs of the Aces.
Pick 17 – Ji-Su Park
Ji-Su Park is a 6’3” center from the Republic of Korea. Park is a quality low-post scorer who. If she comes over, will play backup minutes to Kelsey Bone and Carolyn Swords. Park, who is 20, has been described as the future of Korean basketball.
Park has dominated for Korea in the U17 and U19 national teams has a tremendous work ethic to go with her solid skill set. When she was told she was not strong enough to defend bigger centers, she hit the gym – hard.
Park will learn and grow under Bill Laimbeer, himself a solid center in his time and should be a benefit to the Aces. Park was originally drafted by the Minnesota Lynx before being traded on draft night to the Aces
Pick 24 – Kahlia Lawrence
Kahlia Lawrence is a 5’8” guard out of Mercer University. Lawrence led Mercer in scoring last season with 18.6 points per game. However, the standout number on her stats is the 5.3 rebounds per game this undersized guard was able to average for her college career. This shows she is not afraid to mix it with the bigger bodies in the paint.
However, my biggest question of Lawrence is, has she reached her ceiling? In college it is good to see a progression of stats year on year. Lawrence has averaged 18.0 points for years two and three of college and then averaged 8.6 points per game in her senior year. She also averaged between 4.9 and 5.5 rebounds per game for all four years.
Lawrence was originally picked by the Minnesota Lynx before being sent to the Las Vegas Aces in a draft night trade.
Pick 25 – Raigyne Louis
Raigyne Louis is a 5’10” guard out of LSU. Last year she averaged 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. In her five years of college, Louis showed progression in her game towards the end of her career, However, with the guard depth of the Aces it is difficult seeing her making the regular season roster.
Draft grade: A+
I give the Las Vegas Aces an A+ for their draft night. They did what everyone expected by drafting A’Ja Wilson and then took the best players for their needs who were still available on the draft board. The trade on the night with the Minnesota Lynx gave them a future center and more depth at guard.