Tonight the WNBA is holding its Draft Lottery which will set the order in which teams will pick players next spring. Like the NBA, the WNBA holds a lottery in which teams with the worst records in the league are given chances to get a top pick in proportion to how badly they finished the year. The lottery was instituted to make it harder for teams to lose games on purpose to get the top pick because the worst team is not guaranteed the top pick.
This season the Washington Mystics won only five games and will have the best chance (44.2%) at the top pick followed by the Phoenix Mercury (27.6%), Tulsa Shock (17.8%), and the Chicago Sky (10.4%). Tulsa also had a rough year despite playing their hearts out. They got six of their nine wins without their Aussie star Liz Cambage who took the second half of the season off after playing in the Olympics. Tulsa is in the lottery for the third year in a row. It was the worst team in 2010 and 2011 but didn’t get the top pick either year, which cost them a shot at two great players, Maya Moore and Nneka Ogwumike. I don’t have a team in the lottery so I will be hoping that Tulsa can overcome the odds and land the top pick.
What’s at stake in the lottery? Why is this year special? She’s 6’8,” her picture can be found in the dictionary next to the word dominant, and she led the Baylor Bears to a perfect 40-0 season ending with the NCAA Championship this past spring. Her name is Brittney Griner and she is ridiculously good. She dunks, she rides a skateboard, and she can’t be stopped on the court. She is the kind of player that is going to enter the WNBA and change the course of a franchise for years to come.
So that’s nice, one team is going to hit big but what about the ones who end up with the other picks? This draft is a little different than those in past years because there are at least two other college stars who should be able to make the switch to the pros without too many rookie growing pains. Elena Delle Donne who, for a time, was best known for leaving UConn before stepping foot on the court, will be another top pick. She quit basketball, played on the Delaware volleyball team, before deciding to return to hoops on her terms. She’s 6’5” but can dribble like a point guard, post up, and make you look bad from anywhere on the floor.
Skylar Diggins starred as a do-everything point guard for Notre Dame in the last two Final Fours and is an off-court star as well. She’ll not only give whatever team lands her a boost on the court but she is the type of person a team can build a P.R. campaign around. She’s smart, pretty, and media savvy (she worked as an intern for espnW.com) and could easily slide into the role as face of a rebuilding team even as a rookie.
The wildcard in the lottery is Phoenix which has been a contender in past years and maybe, allegedly, just possibly, tanked the season. The team was beset by injuries and other legitimate struggles but star Diana Taurasi played in just eight games over the entire season. The team said she just didn’t seem right, had issues with her wisdom teeth, and was tired from the Olympics (where she led Team USA in scoring). Hmmm. Phoenix’s fans didn’t seem to mind the alleged tanking because the potential for a big pickup at draft time. If Phoenix wins the lottery it will be a case of the rich getting richer and everyone should look out for them next season.
Personally, I don’t care if a team tanks. It’s the entire reason for the lottery. Without the lottery the team with the worst record automatically gets top pick. With the lottery it means that a team *cough* Phoenix *cough* that tanks may still be on the outside looking in as these top players are picked in the spring.
The order of the first four picks will be announced tonight on the 6 p.m. ET Sportscenter on ESPN. Who are you hoping wins the Griner sweepstakes? What do you think about the alleged tanking?