11 Jan

Which team needs the No. 1 overall pick the most?

The 2024 WNBA Draft Lottery has arrived, with the big event set for Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET in between the Utah vs. South Carolina and North Carolina vs. UConn games at the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase. Soon, we’ll learn which lucky team will have the No. 1 overall pick in what is projected to be one of the best classes ever.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, is expected to be the top pick, though there are a number of other talented players in the mix, including UConn guard Paige Bueckers and Stanford center Cameron Brink, just to name a few.

This year, the lottery is made up of the Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm. Due to the league’s policy of using the combined records of the past two seasons to determine lottery odds, the Fever have the best chance of winning the first pick.

As the lottery approaches, here’s a look at which team needs the top pick the most.

  1. Phoenix Mercury
    The Mercury have been through the wringer the last few years, and an array of injuries and absences finally culminated in the second-worst season in franchise history. They finished in last place at 9-31, had the worst defense in the league by far and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012, ending what was the longest active postseason streak in the league.

Skylar Diggins-Smith, who missed the entirety of the season on maternity leave, is an unrestricted free agent and appears unlikely to return.

“I’ve definitely been working towards trying to have one of my most productive years next year, because I think a lot of times — especially in sports — you’re not encouraged to have kids. And the teams that I played for in the past when I got pregnant didn’t like that,” Diggins-Smith said in an interview with Edition by Modern Luxury in September. “And so I’m looking forward to being somewhere where my family and I are supported and welcomed.”

There’s a good chance Diana Taurasi retires after next season and Brittney Griner, now 33 years old and still recovering from her harrowing ordeal in Russia, is no longer the player she was at her peak. While there are some solid role players around, such as Brianna Turner and Sophie Cunningham, this team desperately needs a young star to carry it into the future.

  1. Seattle Storm
    Last winter, the Storm’s present and future was upended by Sue Bird’s retirement and Breanna Stewart’s departure in free agency. Everyone expected the Storm to take a step back in the aftermath, but it was far worse than that. Their .275 winning percentage was their worst since their inaugural season when they won just six games, they finished in 11th place and had the second-worst net rating at minus-7.1 points per 100 possessions.

And that was despite a heroic effort by Jewell Loyd, who won her first scoring title by putting up 24.7 points per game — the second-highest mark ever — and played 1,343 of a possible 1,600 minutes. In the rare minutes when she wasn’t on the court, the Storm had an 87.3 offensive rating — the exact same as the 2020 New York Liberty team that went 2-20.

Loyd is one of the best guards in the league and in Seattle through 2025 after inking an extension in September, plus Ezi Magbegor made a huge leap on the offensive end to complement her already elite interior defense. Beyond those two, however, the Storm are woefully thin, especially with Gabby Williams set to stay in Europe this summer.

The No. 1 overall pick would bring a much-needed talent boost.

  1. Indiana Fever
    The Fever missed out on the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, which is the longest active drought in the league, but they are no longer a laughingstock. They won more games last season (13) than they did in 2021 and 2022 combined (11) and had the fifth-best offense in the league.

That was thanks in large part to last year’s No. 1 pick, Aliyah Boston, who put together one of the best rookie campaigns we’ve ever seen. Her 14.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game led all rookies, while she shot 57.8% from the field to become the first rookie ever to lead the league in field goal percentage. Along the way, she became the sixth rookie to start the All-Star Game.

Boston gave the Fever a focal point on both ends of the floor, stabilizing a franchise that was flailing in the wind for far too long. That’s not to say they don’t need the No. 1 pick, but between Boston, NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell, there’s a bit more talent in Indiana than there is in Seattle.

  1. Los Angeles Sparks
    The Sparks had incredibly poor luck with injuries last season, and they still nearly snuck into the playoffs before finishing one game behind the Chicago Sky for the eighth and final spot. Long-term, it’s for the best that they missed out, but the Sparks are not a typical lottery team.

Nneka Ogwumike looks rejuvenated and played some of the best basketball of her career last season en route to All-WNBA and All-Defensive Team appearances. Assuming they re-sign Ogwumike and Most Improved Player runner-up Jordin Canada, they’ll have a very solid, veteran-filled roster that also includes Dearica Hamby and Azura Stevens. Add in one of the best coaches in the league in Curt Miller, and this team should make the playoffs with even halfway decent health.

Obviously, every team in the lottery could use the No. 1 overall pick, but the Sparks aren’t crying out for help in the same way as some of the other teams in the mix.

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