(AP) – The Indiana Fever earned the first pick in the WNBA draft on Friday for the first time in franchise history.
The Fever had a 44% chance of becoming No. 1 after having the worst combined record over the past two seasons. The Minnesota Lynx will pick second, the Atlanta Dream third, and the Washington Mystics fourth. The Lynx had the slimmest chance of becoming the No. 1 pick, but rose two spots in the draft lottery.
“It’s a very strong design. We’re going to get a great #1 player pick,” said Lin Dunn, Indiana’s interim general manager.
South Carolina star Aliyah Boston is expected to be the top pick in the draft. With seniors still having the option to return for a fifth season due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no guarantee they’ll qualify for April’s draft.
It’s been a busy offseason for the Fever, who had the No. 2 last season and chose NaLyssa Smith. Indiana, which hasn’t made it through the postseason since Tamika Catchings retired in 2016, hired Christie Sides as its new coach last week. The Fever has five players in their roster from last year’s draft, including Smith.
“The talent that’s here, this young talent, and they’re going to keep growing,” Sides said at an introductory press conference hours before the lottery. “You will have some structure. We’re going to bust their ass off and just see the potential of the group of people that are here, but also what’s being built here is amazing. It’s just going to attract so many people who want to come to Indiana.”
The Lynx had just a 14.5% chance of finishing No. 2 after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“We’re excited to pick up the second overall pick of the 2023 WNBA draft,” said Cheryl Reeve, Lynx coach and president of basketball operations. “This selection will undoubtedly be an important part of our future as we shape the next era of Lynx basketball.”
Atlanta will pick third, a year after WNBA Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard.
The Mystics entered the lottery when they acquired the Los Angeles Sparks draft pick from Atlanta. Washington had picked the No. 1 last season before being sold to the Dream.
“Last year we hit the odds in the lottery and unfortunately we didn’t this year,” said Mike Thibault, Washington general manager and coach. “However, we moved up four places in the draft due to the swap. We will get an excellent player with the fourth pick and I look forward to continuing to improve our squad this off-season.”
The remainder of the first round will consist of Chicago, New York, Indiana, Atlanta, Seattle, Connecticut, Dallas and Minnesota.