Caitlin Clark leads top 5 storylines of the WNBA Draft


The 2024 WNBA Draft is the “one with Caitlin Clark,” but all the way down the draft order are interesting stories. The Indiana Fever will likely draft Clark at No. 1 in the third year of their rebuild plan. The Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky are in the early stages of their rebuilds, and the super-teams can be picky with which players to draft and keep.

Here are five storylines for Monday’s draft, which will have fans in attendance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

The Caitlin Clark-Paige Bueckers decision that wasn’t

Clark is the consensus No. 1 pick heading into Monday’s draft, but that wasn’t always the case. This draft class was initially headlined by Iowa’s Clark, a two-time Naismith winner, and Paige Bueckers, the 2021 Naismith winner at Connecticut.

There are differing opinions on which one a team would want to build around. Clark is an elite scorer with consistent deep range and is even better as a passer. Bueckers has a more complete game and is a better defender. But Bueckers missed all of her junior season with an ACL injury and missed time before that with various ankle and knee injuries. She played her first full season this year. Clark played all 139 games Iowa had on its schedule the past four years.

Bueckers announced last month she will return to UConn for a fourth season, leaving an easy choice for the lottery winner. Even if Bueckers had entered the draft, Clark is a great fit for Indiana.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark pauses as she speaks during a press conference before practice for the NCAA Women's Final Four championship basketball game on Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Iowa's Caitlin Clark pauses as she speaks during a press conference before practice for the NCAA Women's Final Four championship basketball game on Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is going to have an enormous impact on the WNBA. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Caitlin Clark latest piece in Fever rebuild

The Fever hold the No. 1 pick, but the team is already deep in rebuild mode. This is a team that was already close to a playoff spot and should contend for one with Caitlin Clark running the offense. General manager Lin Dunn told Yahoo Sports last summer before the franchise won the No. 1 pick that she would be disappointed if the team didn’t make the postseason for the first time since 2016. And that’s a realistic expectation.

The No. 1 pick Monday is the third consecutive top-two pick for Indiana. The organization drafted NaLyssa Smith (Baylor) with the 2022 No. 2 pick and Aliyah Boston (South Carolina) with the 2023 No. 1 pick.

Boston seamlessly transitioned to the pro level, earning an All-Star nod and Rookie of the Year honors. And in the backcourt is Kelsey Mitchell, a top-five all-time scorer in college who earned her first All-Star nod last year after being overlooked because of the Fever’s struggles.

The lottery odds are based on the past two years. Indiana had the worst record (18-58) because of the 5-31 season in 2022. But its 13-27 record last summer under first-year coach Christie Sides was its best since 2019. They also hold the Nos. 15 and 27 picks.

Teams with back-to-back No. 1 picks usually go on to win the WNBA championship with those pieces within a few seasons.

Seattle drafted Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird in 2001-02 and won the title in ’04. They also were both on the 2010 title team. The Storm did it again with Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart in 2015-16, winning titles in ’18 and ’20 with Bird still on the roster. And the Las Vegas Aces made three consecutive No. 1 picks from 2017-2019. The Aces’ core of Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young are two-time defending champions.

Sparks, Sky at start of rebuilds

The Sparks and Sky moved into the lottery seeking foundational pieces. Unlike the Fever, they’re each in the early stages of a complete rebuild.

The Sparks missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season, then watched former MVP and 2016 champion Nneka Ogwumike leave town.

There are players remaining who have won championships — Azurá Stevens in Chicago and Dearica Hamby in Las Vegas — but not enough to compete with the super-teams or to build a strong future.

Los Angeles won the No. 2 pick in the lottery with the third-best odds. The Sparks acquired the No. 4 pick and guard Kia Nurse in a trade with the Storm that cleared room for Seattle to sign Ogwumike and point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.

They’ll likely take Stanford forward/center Cameron Brink at No. 2 and could pair her with another big at No. 4. It is head coach Curt Miller’s second season after coming over from the Connecticut Sun, where he leveraged the No. 3 and No. 4 picks in the 2016 WNBA Draft to build a consistent title contender. Los Angeles also picks at No. 28.

The Sky are in a more dire situation two seasons after winning the franchise’s first championship in 2021. The core of Candace Parker (Aces), Courtney Vandersloot (Liberty), Kahleah Copper (Mercury) and Allie Quigley (sitting out) is gone as is head coach James Wade, who left in the middle of the 2023 season after shipping out a first-round draft pick in the loaded 2024 class.

Hall of Famer Teresa Weatherspoon is in her first WNBA head coaching job with the Sky, and the front office reacquired a first-round pick by trading Copper to the Mercury for the No. 3 pick overall. They also have the Nos. 8 and 13 picks. Marina Mabrey, whom Wade traded for picks in the 2024 and 2025 drafts, is the only Sky player signed through 2025.

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Cameron Brink #22 of the Stanford Cardinal dives for a lose ball against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Stanford Maples Pavilion on March 24, 2024 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Cameron Brink #22 of the Stanford Cardinal dives for a lose ball against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Stanford Maples Pavilion on March 24, 2024 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Stanford’s Cameron Brink is expected to be part of a rebuild with the Sparks. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Most rookies are unlikely to make a roster

The WNBA is the most difficult league to make, and most rookies will be waived before the start of the season. There are only a maximum of 144 spots on 12 teams, but many carry the minimum 11 players to fit under the strict salary cap. And teams often turn toward veteran players over rookies in those final spots.

Only 15 of the 36 players drafted in 2023 played in WNBA games. In 2022, 17 rookies were on opening day rosters, and in 2021, only eight players made it to the first day of the season. Two of those eight were not on rosters last year. Unlike the NBA, there is no G League option. Players will either stay stateside to fulfill short-term hardship contracts that could turn into longer stays, or go overseas before trying again at the next training camp.

Where a player is drafted matters less than the situation she enters. A player like Angel Reese, who is projected in the mid-to-late first round, won’t stick around a contender like New York or Las Vegas that has a fully built roster and wants to win now. But a place like Washington, which is rebuilding after watching members of its 2019 championship team leave, might fit.

It also means an international player or injured player could be in a good situation. Teams will draft-and-stash picks to retain a player’s rights even though said player can’t participate immediately. The Wings did it last year when they traded for 6-foot-6 center Stephanie Soares. She was selected No. 4 in 2023 by the Mystics and remained sidelined during ACL recovery. Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes would fit this scenario. She announced she was undergoing knee surgery that will keep her out of the entire 2024 season.

More super-teams?

The super-team pool grew by one this offseason when the Storm signed All-Stars Ogwumike and Diggins-Smith in free agency. The Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty each return their starting fives. And the Phoenix Mercury could be considered part of the club after adding guards Natasha Cloud and Copper to veterans Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner.

They’ll all look to make strategic selections with their higher picks, but might not keep a rookie on the roster.

The Aces lack depth at guard and hold picks Nos. 16, 18, 24 and 36. A possible fit could be Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair, who finished her career third on the NCAA DI all-time scoring list. The Liberty need better perimeter defenders, which might be a big ask for a rookie straight out of college. New York also has four picks at Nos. 11, 17, 23 and 35. Nika Mühl (UConn), who played solid defense on Clark in the Final Four, or Jaz Shelley (Nebraska) could slot in there. And Seattle drafts at Nos. 14 and 26, where it could add another guard.

The Mercury love to ride close to the salary cap with their protected veteran contracts and have $1,141,420 tied up in six players. That leaves $321,780 in cap room — $10 more than what’s needed to sign five players at the $64,154 minimum for players with 0-2 years of service. They have the Nos. 25 and 29 picks and could sign either if she beats out a veteran player.



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