ESPN announced yesterday that for the first time in league history of the WNBA draft will be televised live in prime time. On April 15, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. you can turn on ESPN 2 and watch the first round starting with the Phoenix Mercury who won the draft lottery last year amid a chorus of complaints that it tanked its season. So why is this the year ESPN decided to put the draft in primetime?
The draft is stacked. There are three stars at the top of this year’s draft that are probably household names even in places where no one watches lady ballers. Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins, and Elena Delle Donne are some of the most talented players the college game has seen in a while which makes this draft stand out from others because of the sheer number of franchise players available.
The draft order starts with the lottery teams: Phoenix, followed by Chicago, Tulsa, and Washington. The draft lottery was basically the Brittney Griner sweepstakes, determining which team would get the shot to draft the 6’8” shot blocking, scoring, superstar who helped lead Baylor to the NCAA title last year by going 40-0 for the season. If Griner joins Diana Taurasi in Phoenix they have to become instant contenders for the WNBA title. Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, Elena Delle Donne of Delaware, Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown, and Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins are all players to look for at the top of the draft.
ESPN’s decision to televise the draft during prime time is a huge step forward for the WNBA and a good sign for the future of the league and the marketability of both its teams and the stars that are coming out of the college ranks this season. Hopefully, the interest generated by the NCAA tournament, in which several of the top players will likely star, will continue as America is able to tune in and follow with its own eyes where its favorite tournament stars end up.
The WNBA is going strong after 17 years even as the women’s soccer league has been able to find its footing. Putting the draft, and the future stars of the WNBA on television can help the league grow interest from casual fans, who may only tune in to women’s basketball during March Madness. For the league’s more rabid fans it will give them something to tide them over from the NCAA’s to the start of the pro season while giving overlooked or just plain terrible franchises hope for the new year.
What do you think of ESPN’s decision to televise the draft? Will you be watching in hopes that your team lands one of these stars?