This year's top WNBA draft pick is proving she's a superstar just 4 games into her pro career
Atlanta Dreamselected Rhyne Howardwith the first overall pick of the 2022 WNBADraft.
- The Dream's GM called Howard "a foundational piece" for the franchise before the season even began.
Rhyne Howard has been a professional basketball player for a little more than a week.
But even in that short span, she's proving that she's among the best in the business.
The former Kentucky Wildcats superstar is lighting the WNBA on fire just a handful of games into her professional career. Before the Atlanta Dream moved up to take Howard with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, General Manager Dan Padover said he thought the 6-foot-2 wing could become the type of "foundational piece" necessary to transform the franchise.
But even he — a two-time WNBA Basketball Executive of the Year — never expected it to happen so fast.
"We thought at some point she could do what she is doing now," Padover told Insider. "But in no way did we plan for it to show in her first four games."
Howard stuffed the stat sheet in her WNBA debut on the road against the Dallas Wings. She led Atlanta with a team-high 16 points, four assists, four blocks, and two steals while adding three rebounds in a well-rounded effort.
Her Dream left Texas with a seven-point win and tons of momentum, which they carried all the way back home for a matchup with the Los Angeles Sparks four days later. Howard led all scorers with 21 points and added eight assists to power Atlanta to a two-point victory.
"I'm super comfortable," Howard said in a recent postgame press conference. "My team, they put a lot of confidence in me. They're always telling me just basically go play."
"They got me for a reason, so I have to just come out and make an impact and help us get the team win," she added.
For the first time since the 2017 season, the Dream were off to a 2-0 start. And even though they followed it up with a loss against the Las Vegas Aces — one of the strongest teams in the WNBA — they bounced back on the road against the Indiana Fever two days later. Their star
Howard averaged 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game over her first four contests, good enough to earn Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in her very first week in the WNBA.
"I'm not sure I would use the word surprised, but I would say we are impressed with how fearless and confident she has come out the gate in this league," Padover said. "That is impressive for any rookie."
But Howard has seemingly managed to make her mark on more than just an individual level. With a 3-1 record at the end of Week 1, Atlanta found itself tied with the Aces and the Washington Mystics at the top of the league.
For a team that won just eight games total last season, the strong start may very well mark the beginning of a stunning turnaround for the Dream. And as Padover predicted, Howard is already proving to be "a foundational piece for our franchise and where we want to go."
"Might she hit a tough stretch at some point this season? Most players do," Padover said. "But I think she's showing a skillset and competitiveness that is going to make her a threat on both sides of the ball in this league for a long, long time."
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