Caitlin Clark will be ‘backbone of a franchise’: Anonymous WNBA GMs scout guard prospects

Caitlin Clark will be ‘backbone of a franchise’: Anonymous WNBA GMs scout guard prospects
Caitlin Clark will be ‘backbone of a franchise’: Anonymous WNBA GMs scout guard prospects

Caitlin Clark will headline the 2024 WNBA Draft, but she is far from the only impact guard who will make her way into the league. As the professional game modernizes, franchises are looking for more playmakers on the perimeter in an effort to improve the pace and spacing of their offenses. Clark is the most prolific and recognizable guard in this group, and she is joined by a deep class — including several international prospects — of shooters, pure points and combo guards who are eager to make their impact at the next level.

The draft is less than three weeks away, taking place April 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y., just eight days after the national championship. In anticipation of the event, eight WNBA general managers shared their candid opinions about the upcoming draft class with The Athletic before the NCAA Tournament. They were granted anonymity to allow them to speak openly. Thursday, we’ll run another installment that includes their unvarnished takes on frontcourt players such as Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese.

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WNBA Mock Draft: Where will Angel Reese land? Who will be picked after Caitlin Clark?

After the tournament, we’ll release our final mock draft and a GM scout of the potential picks in the 2025 WNBA Draft.

Players are listed in alphabetical order.

18.8 points per game (ppg), 6.8 assists per game (apg), 33.5 3-pt field goal percentage (3-pt fg%), 85.9 free-throw percentage (ft%)

• “I think most people will be willing to take on Amoore because she has a clear position of a one. Worst-case scenario, they may be able to turn her into a backup one, and being able to cement that position isn’t anything small in this league. A backup one who can stretch the floor is a nice piece to add to your team. She may be the safest pick of all of (Jacy Sheldon, Jaylyn Sherrod and Hailey Van Lith).”

• “Amoore’s question is size. The question is can she do some of the same things offensively in college that she would need to do in the pros? Because length bothers her on some of her pick-and-rolls. I think she knows how to run a team extremely well.”

• “She’s got that ability that I think the highest-level point guards have, where they know not just who needs the ball, it’s how to manipulate the defense to get them the ball in their best situations to be successful, and the best timing.”

Isobel Borlase | 5-11 guard | Adelaide Lightning (WNBL, Australia)

15.6 ppg, 4.7 rebounds per game (rpg), 2.5 apg, 1.8 steals per game (spg)

• “Borlase has a game that’s suited for Australia. I don’t know if it translates to our game.”

• “I think she does a really good job creating for herself. She can score in some ways that show that she has what I call the international maturity. You can tell that she’s been playing professional basketball. … From what I’ve seen, I think that she could easily be in the first round.”

31.8 ppg, 8.8 apg, 7.3 rpg, 37.9 3-pt fg%

• “I think the same as the rest of my colleagues: A generational talent that can be the backbone of a franchise. A clear No. 1 pick.”

• “Phenomenal player. Probably one of the most offensively ready guards coming into the draft we’ve seen in quite some time.”

• “I think where she’s gonna be most beneficial for her team, which we all know which team that will be, is her ability to pass and spread the ball and spread the love to some incredible players on her team. I think she will struggle more offensively just because of the strength of the guards that will be defending her, and the speed of those guards is something that she’s not used to seeing in college. But I think where she’ll make the biggest impact is her ability to pass.”

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What makes Caitlin Clark the best shooter in college basketball? The physics behind her shot

Leila Lacan | 5-11 guard | Angers (France)

11.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 3.3 spg

• “Not sure about her speed, quickness, toughness at this level, but I think she’s probably first round.”

• “I really like Leila’s size. She has a pretty complete package. I think she’s really good at pick-and-roll. I think her vision is really good, but she can also create for herself. She’s an attractive prospect. It’s just a little difficult when you don’t quite know about overseas obligations and the national team and all of those kinds of things.”

Carla Leite | 5-9 guard | Tarbes (France)

15.9 ppg, 5.8 apg, 1.4 spg, 87.4 ft%

• “Just 19 years old but demonstrates court awareness to become an elite professional point guard. Tremendous ability to get to the rim, great change of tempo, great ability with the ball in her hands, sees the floor exceptionally well. Decent size, gets to the line a lot for a PG and converts a high percentage of free throws. Needs to continue to improve 3-point shooting.”

14.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 89.2 ft%

• “She’s a combo guard. I think she’s more two-one than one-two. She’s shown she’s good at a lot of things. Can shoot the 3, midrange? She can get to the rim. Physical defender. But I would say of those three, I would probably give the slight edge to Amoore, and then (Jacy) Sheldon right behind her.”

• “Charisma is just a steady, great leader, high basketball IQ, willing to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful. … I think her midrange game is one of the best in the league. Great at the pull-up in the midrange. Needs to consistently shoot 3s, but a great defender.”

• “Charisma has worked really hard on her shot, and there was a lot of growth in that in the first two-thirds of the season. She struggled on it this back third. She’s gonna need to find some consistency. I think she’s gonna have to take the Jackie Young growth step in her shot. She has a nice pull-up, a really nice pull-up, like a second-layer feed off a ball-screen action. She actually can elevate and time her release really well to a contest. That 3-point ability has to become really consistent the way Jackie grew hers.”

Jacy Sheldon | 5-10 guard | Ohio State

17.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.9 spg, 37.3 3-pt fg%

• “The ceiling may be higher than Amoore, but there’s also a chance the physicality of our league may be too much for her.”

• “Tremendous athlete. My concern for her is the physicality of the game. Ohio State is a very physical team, but when you look at her body frame, I worry a little bit about her ability to handle the physicality on it. But great vision, passer, shooter.”

• “Could she develop a bit of an Allie Quigley type of game? She has a quick release. She plays in an up-tempo system really well. I think she shows great IQ in the half court off the ball, on the ball. I do find her to be an elite communicator. Her ability to vacillate from the one through three positions so smoothly is special.”

• “She has great discretion in selecting her shots, and then she can really get her whole team involved. And I think they go as she goes. Obviously, one of the most impactful parts of her game is the defensive end. She’s super athletic, and she just has great recognition of when she should go for a risky thing in their press especially, but she’s a really disciplined defender, and I think that that’s gonna be her biggest impact at the next level, at least in the immediate.”

Jaylyn Sherrod | 5-7 guard | Colorado

12.9 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.2 spg, 49.8 2-pt fg%

• “Tremendous defender. She catches my attention every time I watch them with her toughness on defense, her ability to intimidate whoever she’s guarding. Plays hard. She seems to be really smart, and of course, she’s added some offensive skill to her game. I like her toughness.”

• “She’s just not a pro shooter right now. She may be one of those ones that needs to go overseas and work on her offensive game and get a consistent jump shot, because nowadays you can’t be a guard in our league and not be a good shooter. She can attack the basket and do all that, but people learn to cheat off of you if you can’t shoot.”

Hailey Van Lith | 5-7 guard | LSU

11.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 35.5 3-pt fg%, 82.7 ft%

• “Good outside shooter, decent at getting to the rim, but midrange game is a question. Plays hard — scrappy, competitor, love the fire. Reminds me a little bit of Dana Evans. Probably a more natural two than a one, but her size will require her to mostly play at the one. Still, questions about whether she can be as effective as a one.”

• “She hasn’t shot the ball like people thought she would. I don’t know if it’s good or bad for her that she went to LSU and was forced to play point guard. But she’s had to work on some ballhandling and some passing skills because of what their team needed.”

(Photos of Charisma Osborne, Caitlin Clark and Hailey Van Lith: G Fiume, Harry How and Ethan Miller / Getty Images)