The results are in, and the San Antonio Stars are the winners of the WNBA Draft Lottery, giving them the first pick in the draft for the first time in franchise history.
“I’m really excited for our team, for our organization, for our San Antonio fans,” enthused Stars general manager Ruth Riley said on ESPN. “Our fans are really excited about 2017.”
The biggest winner of the night, however, might just be Mike Thibault and the Washington Mystics. Despite having the worst odds of winning the lottery, they still came away with the second pick.
“Where we are with our franchise, to get another good college player will help us a lot,” Thibault told ESPN. “The second pick is really exciting for us.”
Rounding out the lottery are the the Dallas Wings with the third pick and the Los Angeles Sparks, who claimed the fourth overall selection courtesy of last season’s draft-day trade with the Connecticut Sun. It’s been a great few days for the Sparks franchise, as Nneka Ogwumike was just named league MVP and Jantel Lavender won Sixth Woman of the Year.
In addition, an hour after the lottery, the Sparks tipped off Game 1 of their semifinal matchup with the Chicago Sky. Los Angeles won in runaway fashion by defeating the shorthanded Sky 95-75 to take a 1-0 series lead.
With the NCAA season just over a month away, the league’s coaches and general managers will begin the long and arduous process of scouting potential players who could help improve their respective rosters. Making this year difficult to project are a multitude of variables. Among them are the lack of a clear-cut first overall pick, which means team need could play a larger role in draft order than it has in previous drafts. It could also lead to more trades as teams jockey for better picks or for veterans to shore up younger rosters.
Another huge variable is the potential additions to this draft class of Tennessee underclassmen Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell. Both players underachieved last season as both were coming off redshirting the year prior (Russell from injury and DeShields from transferring from North Carolina).
That said, both are elite-level players and have shown stretches of brilliance that speak to their potentials. If either or both have a season where they perform to the level they are capable of, then they could decide to enter the draft and could both become top three picks.
The final question looms with Dallas. The Wings currently feature one of the best starting units in the WNBA and have equally impressive bench depth at the guard positions. Much like the Sparks, they aren’t necessarily in need of a top pick. Their record this past season was more a reflection of injuries and a lack of continuity than of an inferior team. Unlike Los Angeles, however, Dallas owns an additional pair of first-round picks (10th and 11th), which opens up more intrigue for possible trades leading into draft day.
As of now, with an entire season to play before the draft, here’s my list of the top 10 prospects* heading into the NCAA season, listed in alphabetical order.
*Please note: Russell and DeShields are not included as they have not made any statement as of yet regarding the possibility of entering the draft early.
Alaina Coates: 6’3” PF South Carolina
Nia Coffey: 6’1” F Northwestern
Shayla Cooper: 6’2” F Ohio State
Nina Davis: 5’11” F Baylor
Makayla Epps: 5’10” SG Kentucky
Alexis Jones: 5’9” PG Baylor
Brionna Jones: 6’3” C Maryland
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough: 5’11” SG Maryland
Erica McCall: 6’3” PF Stanford
Kelsey Plum: 5’7” G Washington