11 Jan

Fever win No. 1 overall pick for second year in a row

The Indiana Fever won the 2024 WNBA Draft Lottery on Sunday, securing the No. 1 overall pick in the highly anticipated 2024 WNBA Draft. Rounding out the lottery is the Los Angeles Sparks at No. 2, the Phoenix Mercury at No. 3 and the Seattle Storm at No. 4. This is the second year in a row in which the Fever have won the lottery.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, is the projected first pick, and she has been for some time. After leading the Hawkeyes to their first national championship game in school history last season, Clark is leading the nation in scoring at 29.6 points per game. She’s also fourth in assists at 7.6 and hauling down 6.7 rebounds for good measure.

Here are some key takeaways from the result:

A Boston-Clark partnership?
In last season’s Final Four, Caitlin Clark led Iowa to a dramatic upset over Aliyah Boston and South Carolina, ending the Gamecocks’ 42-game winning streak. Now, the last two Naismith Player of the Year award winners are on track to become teammates at the next level.

The Fever won the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in franchise history last year, and selected Boston, who went on to win Rookie of the Year in unanimous fashion after a historic campaign. She immediately established herself as the best young center in the league and has all the makings of a franchise player. Clark, with her elite 3-pointer shooting and playmaking ability, is the most talented guard prospect in a number of years, and she would be a perfect backcourt partner for Boston.

After years of bad luck in the lottery and poor decision making by the front office, the odds have finally turned in the Fever’s favor. Thanks to Boston, Indiana won more games last season (13) than it did in 2021 and 2022 combined (11), as the team was already showing signs of being back on the right path.

Adding Clark to the mix would immediately give them the best and most exciting young duo in the league, bringing genuine excitement back to the once-proud franchise.

Lottery system punishes the Storm
The WNBA’s lottery system uses the aggregate record of the two previous seasons to determine the odds for the No. 1 overall pick. While a useful tool for combating tanking, the system punishes teams who fall off for other reasons.

That’s just what happened to the Seattle Storm. They were a legitimate title contender in 2022, but then lost Sue Bird to retirement and Breanna Stewart to free agency, and understandably fell off a cliff. Last season Seattle finished in 11th place at 11-29, and it has a long way back to the league’s upper echelon.

The No. 1 pick would have helped, but the Storm never really stood a chance. Their 33-42 record over the past two seasons was the best of the four lottery teams, which gave them the worst odds at 10.40%. To little surprise, they wound up with the No. 4 overall pick.

This is a great draft, and they’ll still wind up with a talented player, but there’s a big difference between picking first and fourth.

Does anyone go back to school?
There’s a major wrinkle with this year’s draft due to the extra year of eligibility granted to all players who were active during the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called “COVID year” means that the majority of this season’s top prospects are eligible to return to school next year, even if they’re currently seniors.

That includes Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Aaliyah Edwards and Angel Reese. Paige Bueckers could also go back to school, though she’s only a junior after red-shirting in 2022 due to a torn ACL. If any number of these players decide against turning pro, it would alter not only this year’s draft, but next year’s as well.

The Fever, of course, will be crossing their fingers that Clark leaves, but they’ll at least get the first pick regardless of what happens. If a bunch of these players stay in school, it would be a disaster for the Mercury and Storm further down the lottery.

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