Imagine if women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark was entering the NBA instead of the WNBA, where she was this year’s No. 1 overall pick. Using AutoStats data to compare players with metrics such as NBA-range 3-pointers, contested 3s and drive efficiency, we can determine which NBA prospects in the last 12 years are the most similar to Clark. One player’s jumpshot jumps off the page.

Caitlin Clark has drawn comparisons to some of the greatest women’s basketball players in history long before she makes her WNBA debut with the Indiana Fever Tuesday night.

Will the former University of Iowa two-time national player of the year be the next Sue Bird at the highest level?

Diana Taurasi?

Her childhood idol Maya Moore?

Even the strongest comparisons are a bit subjective, of course, and Clark’s college career surely surpassed many of the best players of all-time – whether men’s or women’s college basketball.

In NBA terms, Clark has often drawn comparison to Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry because they both have a seemingly limitless range on 3-pointers. The way, way downtown variety, that is.

As Clark begins her pro career this week – the Fever visit the Connecticut Sun for one of the league’s more-anticipated regular-season openers ever Tuesday night, then play their home opener against the New York Liberty Thursday night – we’ll begin to see who the 6-foot scoring point guard best compares to at the WNBA level.


But we also want to explore which players resemble the WNBA’s first overall pick last month when they were NBA Draft prospects.

To find player matches, we’re going beyond opinion to make comparisons generated from volume- and rate-based stats and advanced data in her Iowa Hawkeyes career. We can use a method similar to our NBA Draft model, which includes an array of statistical inputs. We also can incorporate data from AutoStats, which uses AI-enhanced body recognition technology to identify player position and movement across the entirety of the court.

The best match may not be one you’ve considered before, but he’s long been a standout player in plain sight. 

Caitlin Clark’s NBA Draft Comparisons

Our AutoStats data allow us to compare Clark to men’s college basketball players as far back as 2012, plus international players since 2019, the NBA G League since 2020 and Overtime Elite since its inception in 2021. Her top comps are all college players, although similarities have been drawn in the media between Clark and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, a native of Slovenia.

The information via the model and AutoStats most compares Clark to the following players as they entered the NBA Draft: 1. Trae Young (Oklahoma); 2. D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State); 3. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State); 4. Coby White (North Carolina); and 5. RJ Barrett (Duke). Each of the five played just one college season before making an early entry into the NBA as a lottery pick, and they’re all point guards with the exception of Barrett, a left-handed shooting guard.


Unlike the top-five men’s basketball comparisons, Clark played four college seasons, dropping jaws while becoming the NCAA’s all-time leader in points (3,951) and 3-pointers (548) in 139 career games, and helping Iowa to NCAA Tournament runner-up finishes in her final two campaigns – to LSU and “rival” Angel Reese in 2023, then to South Carolina this past season.

Clark led Division I in both points and assists per game as both a sophomore and a senior, and nearly did it three times, but she ranked first in assists and second in scoring as a junior. She even averaged over seven rebounds per game in each of her final three seasons.

It’s ironic the data most matches Young’s All-America season at Oklahoma to Clark because he was traded for Doncic – yes, one of the comparisons mentioned earlier – the night both were selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. Young went from the Mavericks to the Atlanta Hawks, and Doncic vice versa.

Make no mistake, the Indiana Fever weren’t going to trade Caitlin Clark the night of April 15 – or anytime soon.

Caitlin Clark-Trae Young Comparison

Clark was a second-team All-American as a freshman and went on to be a first-team All-American in each of her final three seasons. In the smaller sample size of her freshman season compared to the single campaigns of the top-five comparisons, Young averaged more points and assists, while Russell was slightly better in 3-point percentage.

However, Clark’s well-rounded skill set was on display over the four seasons, so any men’s player had to do a lot to draw a comparison to her.


Trae Young best fits the mold, and it starts with physical similarly at his lanky 6-1, 164 pounds.

But he also led Division I in both points and assists per game – as a freshman at Oklahoma. He often dialed up from long distance off the dribble while finishing in the top 10 nationally in 3-pointers attempted and made, and flashed ability to feed the ball to teammates in the right spot. He drew fouls and got to the foul line as well, sinking 86.1% of 274 free throw attempts (the sixth-most in men’s basketball that season) – similar to Clark’s career 85.8% and 952 attempts (238 on average).

Young’s sometimes high-risk style of dribble-drives and passing also led to him averaging the most turnovers per game (5.2) in Division I. Over four years of action, Clark averaged a similar 4.6 per game, although she still had a 1.56 career assists-to-turnover ratio.

There are other single-season comparisons to be made between Clark’s 2023-24 senior year and Young’s lone campaign among all data tracked by AutoStats dating to 2012:

  • Among players to take at least 200 3-point attempts, Clark posted the highest shooting percentage on NBA-range 3s (47.9), while Young’s 43.1% in the 2017-18 campaign ranks fifth-best (fourth in men’s basketball).
  • Young (82.8%) and Clark (82.0%) rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in percentage of 3s contested among players with at least 100 3-point attempts in a season.
  • When a player had at least 1,000 passes, Clark’s senior campaign has the highest single-season assist opportunity percentage (30.5) and assist percentage (16.5). Right behind at No. 2 is Young – 29.7% and 13.4%, respectively.

Also, to emphasize how Clark’s dominance relates to other players in the age of tracking data, her 2023-24 season at Iowa ranks in the top 10 of all seasons tracked by AutoStats in:

  • Efficiency on drives – Clark individually averaged 0.526 points per drive (fourth) and the Hawkeyes averaged 0.993 team points per drive chance (fourth) on those drives (minimum 300).
  • Iowa averaged 0.98 team points per chance (ninth) on Clark isolations (minimum 150).
  • Clark averaged 0.399 points per touch (second) when she was the ball handler on a ball screen, (minimum 250) and 0.478 points per touch (third) on touches that generated from dribble handoffs (minimum 150).
  • She received a pass off 50.9% (fourth) of the off-ball screens Iowa set when she was the cutter and scored 0.469 (eighth) points per touch in those situations.

Maybe Caitlin Clark Becomes the Standard

The Caitlin Clark effect is expected to extend well beyond the court in her WNBA rookie season and throughout her career – perhaps with no peer in drawing media attention, attendance, TV ratings, merchandise sales and beyond.

While showcasing high production and skills in the Indiana Fever’s two preseason games, Clark helped attract a sellout crowd at the Dallas Wings and more than triple last year’s average regular-season attendance at Indianapolis’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse against the Atlanta Dream.  

Clark, who is paired on the Fever with the WNBA’s 2023 No. 1 overall pick and rookie of the year Aliyah Boston, also will draw comparison to other great basketball players as her pro career unfolds (maybe it even extends to Team USA at the Olympics this summer).

There’s anticipation she will join Curry and another great perimeter scorer, New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu – the only player in Division I women’s basketball history to have more career triple-doubles than Clark – in the 3-point competition at next year’s NBA All-Star Weekend.

While those two are among the players to make Clark comparisons, it’s actually Young’s incredible 2017-18 season that best resembles her skills had she been destined to be an NBA Draft prospect.

Young is enjoying an excellent pro career – including three NBA All-Star Game appearances and All-NBA Third Team honors in 2022 – but he’s also been in the shadow of Doncic, who’s likely to be voted to this season’s All-NBA first team for a fifth straight year.

The WNBA’s newest star has foreshadowed being more than excellent, however. One day the Caitlin Clark comparison figures to be about which basketball players most resemble her hoops style.

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