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Megan Walker’s WNBA ceiling is high, but there’s still work to do

Walker’s fit with whichever team calls her name Friday will determine the course of her rookie season

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Megan Walker declaring for the 2020 WNBA draft is still a bit surprising, especially given the uncertainty surrounding this year’s season. Her versatility as a player will translate well at the next level, but her game needs a little more development for her to be an immediate impact maker for whichever team drafts her. With another year under her belt at UConn, Walker looked to be on the path to be a lottery pick and maybe even the top draft prospect next year.

Instead, how quickly she is drafted this year will depend on whether teams place more value on her projected ceiling, which is high, or where she currently stands. Mock drafts have her going anywhere from as high as fifth, to the 12th and final pick of the first round.

If her last three seasons with the Huskies are any indication, Walker will make the strides to be the versatile professional and a valuable piece wherever she ends up. But, the success of her rookie campaign will rely heavily on who calls her name Friday night, and what her expected role will be.

One part of of Walker’s game that looks ready to go at the next level is her 3-point shooting. She was one of the better outside shooters in college this year, finishing the season at over 45 percent from deep. If she gets drafted somewhere that needs that skill set, she’ll have an excellent opportunity to succeed in her rookie season right away.

Rebecca Lobo echoed this on a conference call Monday.

“In terms of Megan, I think the bigger thing is where is she going to go and what is she going to be asked to do,” Lobo said. “Right now in terms of her game translating to the WNBA, she can go out there and if it’s a team that can put her in the places where she really thrives, just go out there, Megan, and make some open threes for us, she’ll really succeed because she does that really well.”

Fortunately for Walker, there are a few teams on the first round draft board Friday that could really use some 3-point shooting. The worst perimeter shooting teams last season were Atlanta (29.0 percent), Phoenix (32.5 percent), Dallas (32.6 percent), and Minnesota (33.2 percent). Dallas and Atlanta have made acquisitions in the offseason that will likely improve their shooting, but Minnesota (sixth pick) and Phoenix (10th pick) should still be looking to add another threat from deep. If Walker ends up in one of those spots, she could have an immediate impact and strong rookie campaign.

“If she’s in a situation where she’s asked to do a few things that are out of her comfort zone, there might be a bigger learning curve for her,” Lobo said. “But she could end up in a great situation because she can shoot the basketball as well as anybody in this draft.”

That learning curve will include many elements of Walker’s game that need development for her to be a star professionally. While Walker can shoot as well as anyone from beyond the arc, she shot under 30 percent from mid-range this season. She improved slightly in February and March, but still has a ways to go in increasing her offensive repertoire.

Additionally, while Walker was good at finishing around the basket this season at UConn, she struggled against teams with a stronger interior presence, going just 4-10 against the likes of Baylor, Oregon and South Carolina. She will face even more resistance in the post in at the next level, and finishing inside will be a learning curve as well. Walker will, of course, also face the typical challenges of a WNBA rookie in adapting to the faster pace of play and learning to defend the best of the best.

For now, the season itself hangs in the balance, and its possible Walker could have the chance to develop her skill set overseas before setting foot on a WNBA court. If the 2020 season is played, she’ll benefit from being drafted from the likes of Minnesota or Phoenix, where her outside shooting can make an immediate impact as the rest of her game catches up to the professional level. But once her game develops further, Walker has all the pieces to be a starter at the next level.