Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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Haley Jones Is the Answer to the Wings’ Biggest Remaining Question

The WNBA Draft is in less than a week, and no one knows who is running Dallas' offense. Good thing the perfect fit could be available with the third overall pick.
Jones would provide the playmaking Dallas sorely needs. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret how important the 2023 WNBA Draft is for the Dallas Wings. The Wings’ draft struggles have been well-documented, and the direction they go with the third selection will be pivotal. After years of blowing premium draft picks, it is imperative that Dallas gets this one right.

Let’s assume that Indiana kicks off the April 10 draft by selecting South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston and Minnesota then grabs Maryland guard Diamond Miller. Boston has yet to declare, but these are the consensus top two picks. Assuming chalk holds, what should the Wings do?

Snap up Stanford guard Haley Jones. 

Here’s why. With its offseason roster remodel, Dallas put a heavy emphasis on interior scoring and multi-positional defenders. The goal was to trade explosion and outside shooting for reliable scoring and versatile defense. 

That, however, left a hole in the playmaking ball-handler responsibilities. Last season Dallas ranked 10th in the WNBA in assists per game and assist ratio, along with 11th in assist percentage. Now three of the Wings’ top four players in assists per game are gone, making it an open question of who will run the offense. Crystal Dangerfield, acquired along with Natasha Howard from New York, needs to prove she’s a starting point guard after shooting below 40 percent from the field last season and being the shortest player on a WNBA roster at 5-foot-5. Veronica Burton, the seventh pick in last year’s draft, could be a menace defensively, but she has a way to go on the other end of the floor. Arike Ogunbowale can always handle the ball, but she’s far more adept at creating her own offense than someone else’s. After that, who else is there?

The prevailing theory is that Dallas needs more scoring. As a result, Villanova forward Maddie Siegrist, who averaged 29.2 points a game this season, has been a popular projection over Jones. Indeed, Siegrist is a fantastic offensive player, and if available when the Wings make their second pick in the first round at No. 5, they would be wise to take her. (They also have the 11th pick.) But the priority should be getting Jones, because no one on the roster has a skill set like hers. Ogunbowale is a high-volume player with a career usage rate of almost 30 percent. Teaira McCowan and Natasha Howard both will need the ball, as will Satou Sabally and Diamond DeShields. But somebody has to get it to them. 

At Stanford, Jones displayed the moxie of a confident floor general. The engine who led the Cardinal to the 2022 national title, she was also named the  Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. Her assist total increased in each of her four seasons, topping out at 4.0 this season. Whether it was a simple chest pass or a bounce pass through traffic on a backdoor cut, Jones found her teammates again and again. 

Her style should fit well with the Wings’ personnel, with the speed of Ogunbowale and the aggression of DeShields. Even someone like Sabally could benefit from being on the other end of Jones’ dishes, either as a drive threat or for the space she might get to shoot when defenses are forced to respect her moving downhill more often. 

Dallas wouldn’t necessarily be getting a shooter in Jones, at least from beyond the arc. She was a career 22 percent three-point shooter at Stanford. In that sense, she won’t solve the spacing conundrum that Dangerfield and Burton already present. But she can pull up from the free-throw line and features a drive and step-back to shake defenders. With a style that emphasizes the midrange and shorter shots, she would have the potential to be an accent piece around a cast of established scorers. And she’s fearless under and around the basket. She pulled down 9.0 rebounds a game, including more than two on the offensive end.

At 6-foot-1, Jones can guard several positions. Smaller guards can’t easily blow by her, and tweener guard/forward types will be frustrated by her length. And she played under legendary coach Tara VanDerveer, who develops players who are typically strong in fundamentals and work ethic. Stanford counts L.A. Sparks stars Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike among its alums, along with countless other players in Europe and the WNBA.

The Wings’ issue in recent drafts has been selecting high-ceiling players who carry some risk. Sabally is immensely talented, but she has been betrayed by injuries and inconsistency. On paper, Awak Kuier is a matchup nightmare, but that hasn’t translated to the WNBA. Charli Collier, taken first overall two drafts ago, is a potential roster cut due to unfulfilled promise.

On the heels of last year’s selection of Burton, Jones makes perfect sense. The Wings already have a trio of all-star caliber players in Ogunbowale, Howard, and McCowan, along with a former all-star in Sabally who could return to that level of play with improved health. Now they have an opportunity to add another piece to the blueprint. In many ways, the piece: the player who can make this group go, and do so without compromising its defense. Jones wasn’t a pure point guard at Stanford, and long-term, she might not be in Dallas, either. But she adds enough of those traits to make her the right fit right now. 

The addition of Jones would further crystallize the vision of new coach Latricia Trammell to trade offensive explosion and outside shooting for reliable scoring and versatile defense. There’s no reason to overthink this one. When their turn comes up with the third pick, the Wings should submit the name of Haley Jones. It’s as simple as that.


Sam Hale
Sam Hale covers the Wings and FC Dallas for StrongSide. His relationship with Everton FC is forever "it's complicated." He's…