In the wealth of WNBA mock drafts floating around, Crystal Dangerfield is a consensus late first round pick with some drafts even sending her into the second round. Many of these projections are, of course, accounting for the limitations of Dangerfield’s size at the next level. But she could be a draft day surprise and have her name called in the early half of the first round Friday night.
It wouldn’t be the first time a UConn player shook things up on draft night. Just last year, virtually every mock draft had Katie Lou Samuelson falling somewhere between seventh and ninth but she ended up as a lottery pick (No. 4 to the Chicago Sky). While Dangerfield going in the lottery would be surprising, rising up to be the fifth (Dallas Wings) or sixth (Minnesota Lynx) pick is certainly possible.
The biggest question about Dangerfield’s professional career resides with her height. At 5-foot-5 she’s among the shortest of WNBA players, with Leilani Mitchell being the only current active player of the same height. However, recent history shows that there is a place for smaller point guards among a draft class’ elite prospects. Dangerfield is just an inch shorter than former Husky Moriah Jefferson (selected second overall in 2016) and Jordin Canada, who was the fifth overall pick in 2018 out of UCLA and started 29 games for the Storm last season.
While Dangerfield’s size poses questions, her quickness, elite passing and scoring range curb doubts. Her ability to distribute is proven as much as anyone else in this draft class not named Sabrina Ionescu, and has been an elite trait since her debut in Storrs in 2016. Dangerfield splashed onto the scene with a 19 point, five assist performance against No. 2 Baylor in just her second game as a Husky. Over her four years she moved into fifth on the Huskies’ all-time assists leader board, surpassing the great Sue Bird, and consistently ranked among the nations’ best for assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Her assist numbers were down a bit this year with younger players surrounding her, which may be part of why she’s falling lower in mock drafts. But her 2018-19 season, where she averaged 5.9 assists per game (15th in the country) and boasted a 3.08 assist-to-turnover ratio (10th), shows what Dangerfield is capable of when surrounded by elite players.
In an offensive system like UConn’s that relies so heavily on ball movement, her assist numbers (while fantastic) still don’t capture the whole picture. Dangerfield’s ability to run an offense can be best be seen through her role as the starting point guard for one of the nation’s best offenses for three straight years. During that span (yes, even this year), UConn’s offense was among the four most efficient in the country on a points per 100 possessions basis. The elite players surrounding her certainly are a large part of that, but through a cast of changing characters over the past three seasons, Dangerfield has still directed successful offenses.
Dangerfield’s skill set also expands beyond her ability to distribute. She’s an elite three-point shooter and hit over 40 percent of her shots from deep this season with impressive range. She’s an efficient scorer overall as well, and scored 1.03 points per play this season which ranks among the top three percent in the country. On the defensive end, she has quick hands and is an excellent spot up defender. Even with the limitations of her size, Dangerfield is built to be an excellent option off the bench at the next level.
Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve echoed this on Monday.
“I think Crystal’s probably looking at, in the right situation, having the opportunity to be a reserve player in our league as she develops,” Reeve said on a conference call. “I think she’s got some good qualities. She can defend and obviously she can shoot the three, and she comes from a great program.”
So where does that leave Dangerfield on draft night? Being relished as a reserve player doesn’t necessarily push her to later in the draft since many of this year’s prospects will likely be bench assets. In fact, a need at the point guard position for multiple teams with top picks bodes well for Dangerfield. Atlanta, Dallas, and Minnesota (picks 4-6) all could use some more depth at the point.
Cheryl Reeve also noted that “Crystal will be the point guard taken after Ty Harris.”
I’m not sold on that; The order in which Harris and Dangerfield go is interchangeable. Either way, Dangerfield has a good chance at landing the fifth or sixth pick. For Dallas, the only true point guard on their roster is fellow former Husky Moriah Jefferson, who professional career has been injury-riddled thus far.
The Wings have added a wealth of shooters over the off-season and have four first round picks to re-tool with but they have a clear need for another point guard. For Minnesota, with Odyssey Sims sitting out this season, Lexie Brown is likely to take on the starting point guard role which would open up a spot for another facilitator on their bench. Either situation would be a great fit for Dangerfield.