Indiana Fever win WNBA Draft Lottery for the first time

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday night, the Indiana Fever leadership gathered at the Ale Emporium in north Indianapolis to watch the 2023 WNBA draft lottery. The Fever hadn’t won the lottery for five straight seasons and had never been number one overall, but they entered the event with the best odds (44.2%) to become the number one pick in the draft secure in 2023.

Even before the draft lottery started, it was an eventful day for Fever. Christie Sides was introduced as the franchise’s new head coach this morning, and interim general manager Lin Dunn spoke about her lucky charms at the inaugural press conference. Indiana had a chance to significantly boost its franchise in one day by hiring a new head coach and snagging top pick in the draft.

Alongside the Fever decision makers and coaches, Destanni Henderson was on hand to watch the draft lottery. It was fitting as Henderson made several highlights for potential number one pick Aliyah Boston during the lottery broadcast. During a climax, Henderson put up a screen for the Big South Carolina and it resulted in a bucket. Everyone in the room cheered.

Fever’s representative for the lottery was Kelsey Mitchell, their top player. She was recently in Indianapolis to work with NaLyssa Smith, the team’s top pick from last year’s draft.

Prior to the 2023 draft lottery, Indiana had a greater than 10% chance of receiving the top pick in the WNBA draft in each of the previous five lottery events. But the odds were never in their favor. They ended with second choice twice, third choice twice, and fourth choice once. “Happiness” wasn’t part of Fever’s slang.

When the trial began, the back room at the Ale Emporium was tense. Indiana wasn’t even able to get fourth place overall, but it was when the Washington Mystics logo was featured on the show ESPN2, there were a few smiles in the room. So bad was the luck of the fever. They couldn’t rule out the impossible.

The Fever could have picked third, though, so there was a little cheer when it was announced that the Atlanta Dream would pick third. Lin Dunn was guaranteed a top 2 selection and space was on the edge of her seats.

Henderson, Sides, Dunn, Operations Manager Hillary Spears, and Operations Coordinator Shannon Norton all watched in suspense, mouths slightly open. They watched as the number two was unveiled and the Minnesota Lynx logo shown on screen. There was no waiting for the official announcement that the Fever had first pick. They all knew and started celebrating.

Indiana Fever players and brass
Indiana Fever players and leaders celebrate the team’s WNBA Draft Lottery win (Photo: Tony East – The Next)

Sides paced around the room giving high fives or punches to multiple people. Dunn’s arms shot up – higher than everyone else’s. Henderson quickly sent messages to her phone. It was an exciting moment for the Indiana Fever franchise. Finally, after years of not winning, they had won the WNBA draft lottery.

“It’s exciting to be number one,” Henderson said. “It’s just exciting to bring out the best person in college.”

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Henderson and Boston, widely regarded as the best prospects this draft cycle, were teammates in South Carolina for three seasons. Haley Jones, who played at Stanford with fever guard Lexie Hull, Diamond Miller, Rickea Jackson and Ashley Joens could also be in the lottery mix.

“How exciting!” Sides said she had an unforgettable day between being introduced as head coach and winning the draft lottery. She was last season on the Atlanta Dream Team coached by 2022 No. 1 Rhyne Howard. “With number one there are so many options that can happen. Lin and I will meet, roll up our sleeves, and get to work [and] to find out what fits this team best.”

The Indiana Fever will pick the number one overall for the first time in franchise history. It will be a great chance for the franchise to speed up their rebuild and escape the WNBA basement they have been stuck in for a number of years. They will also pick seventh in the 2023 WNBA draft.

In the past nine months, the Indiana Fever has changed GMs, changed coaches twice, and changed stadiums twice. Next year Dunn will have a full offseason as general manager, Sides will be fully integrated as head coach and the team will play all of their home games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Now, the first overall pick in the 2023 draft will join this franchise and its newfound stability. After a year of change, everything is looking promising for the Indiana Fever.

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