It should hardly come as a surprise that following a transformative offseason filled with a flurry of transactions, the Storm executed a WNBA draft trade to acquire second-year veteran guard Kennedy Burke.
The Storm needed to wait several minutes Thursday night before using the first of its four picks — No. 11 overall — to select Aaliyah Wilson before shipping the Texas A&M guard to the Indiana Fever for Burke.
“The way it played out tonight, it was last minute and kind of fell to us,” new Storm general manager Talisa Rhea said during a post-draft Zoom call. “We felt based on who was available, Kennedy was a great option for us and someone who’s going to come in and impact us right away.”
It was the only first-round trade, which netted the Storm the former UCLA star who has averaged 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 15.6 minutes during the last two seasons as a backup with the Fever. Last year, Burke started 11 of the 22 regular-season games while averaging 7.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
In two games against the Storm in 2020, Burke tallied 23 points and converted 3 of 6 three-pointers during an 89-84 Indiana win and scored 17 points while canning 3 of 5 three-pointers in an 87-74 Fever loss.
“We’d rather have her on our side,” Storm coach Dan Hughes joked. “We really like the fact that she had WNBA experience and really has the kind of presence at the three position to give us an athletic (player) and she spreads the floor extremely well offensively. We’re excited to mix her in with our team.”
Seemingly, the 6-foot-1 Burke will compete with newcomers Katie Lou Samuelson and Mikiah ‘Kiki’ Herbert Harrigan to fill the void created when standout Alysha Clark left via free agency.
The 24-year-old Burke, who is owed $58,710 this season and $72,141 next season, arrives with a contract-friendly deal for the Storm, which will face potential franchise-altering financial decisions in 2022 when stars Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird and Jordin Canada are up for new deals.
In the second round, the Storm selected Stanford point guard Kiana Williams with the 18th overall pick and Texas A&M forward N’dea Jones at No. 23. And the Storm used its last pick on Lafayette College forward Natalie Kucowski at No. 35.
The Storm has 18 players on the roster. WNBA teams are allowed 15 players in training camp and must trim the rosters to 12 by May 13.
Rhea said the three draft picks and training-camp invites Stephanie Talbot, Tamera Young and Haley Gorecki will report for the start of camp on April 25. A handful of veterans are expected to arrive late because of their commitments with their overseas teams.
Potentially, one of the most intriguing training-camp battles features Williams, who will have difficulty making the roster considering she’s in a logjam behind Bird, Canada and veteran Epiphanny Prince.
“She knows she’s got to have a good camp,” Hughes said when asked about Williams. “When I talked to every player in the draft when we did our calls, I was not shy to tell them the reality of our situation. I think she has a legitimate chance.
“It’s not one of those where it’s a given. She’s got to play herself on there, but there’s a lot of reasons where it’s a good fit, and it will be fun to watch that play out.”
Williams, a 5-8 guard who helped Stanford to the 2021 NCAA tournament title, was projected as a first-round pick in several mock drafts.
With seven returners and four prominent newcomers including Burke, Samuelson, Herbert Harrigan and Candice Dupree, conceivably the Storm has just one spot remaining for Williams or last year’s first-round pick Kitija Laksa.
On average, roughly 12 of Thursday’s 36 draft picks will make a WNBA roster in a 12-team league comprised of 144 players.
“It’s going to be a good camp,” Hughes said. “It’s not one of those years where everything is locked up and tied in a bow. There will be a little competition for spots as our roster develops.”
The reigning WNBA champion Storm never had much interest in the top draft prospects, which became evident two months ago when it traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Dallas Wings for Samuelson and a 2022 second-round pick.
As expected, the Wings chose Texas Longhorns center Charli Collier with the top pick and selected Finland forward Awak Kuier at No. 2.
The Atlanta Dream nabbed Arizona point guard Aari McDonald at No. 3, the Indiana Fever chose West Virginia point guard Kysre Gondrezick at No. 4 followed by Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee going to Dallas at No. 5.
The next five picks included UCLA forward Michaela Onyenwere going to the New York Liberty at No. 6, Alabama forward Jasmine Walker went to the Los Angeles Sparks at No. 7, Australian point guard Shyla Heal was chosen by the Chicago Sky at No. 8, Tennessee forward Rennia Davia went No. 9 to the Minnesota Timberwolves before Los Angeles nabbed North Carolina guard Stephanie Watts at No. 10.
Rather than add a first-round pick to a veteran team contending for a second consecutive title, the Storm came out of the draft with a couple of veteran guards in Samuelson and Burke, while Williams was a bonus addition in the second round.
“Katie Lou and Kennedy are two players that we had on our radar for a few years now,” Rhea said. “They compliment the other big pieces we have on our roster really well. They’re versatile. They can play multiple positions. They’re long. They’re going to provide a lot of defensive ability.
“And I think they fit our culture really well. They’re going to buy into the team idea and concept and doing their role. I think we’re going to be able to because of the other players around them really get the best out of those players and utilize all of their strengths in different ways. I’m really excited to get going here in Seattle.”
Key Storm dates
April 25: Training camp starts
May 13: League rosters finalized
May 14: WNBA season begins
May 15: Storm season opener vs. Las Vegas
July 15-Aug. 11: Summer Olympic break
Aug. 15: Second-half schedule begins
Sept. 17: Storm regular-season finale vs. Phoenix
Sept. 23: WNBA playoffs begin