December 10, 2023
How to watch the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery
How it works, who’s going to matter, and what to root for
Today, the WNBA will do what it does best: something big at a time when it is most likely to be completely overshadowed. It’s time for the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery.
At 4:30 p.m. on ESPN this afternoon, the WNBA will televise a lottery to determine the order of the first four selections in the draft next April. This comes during the Hall of Fame Showcase tripleheader, which features three top-25 matchups between six big-name programs,1 and is sandwiched directly by South Carolina and UConn games. So while there should be plenty of eyeballs on the lottery, a significant amount of them are instead mostly concerned with what’s happening before and after the event.
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To oversimplify the lottery process: the picks are assigned to the four teams who missed this year’s playoffs, and their order is determined by the same kind of machine that calls bingo games or state lotteries. Teams get more ping pong balls the worse they finished in the standings over the past two years. The first ping pong ball that pops out determines who gets the No. 1 pick, and the second ball determines who gets the No. 2 pick. And then to avoid a repeat of 2013,2 the third and fourth picks go to the remaining pair of teams in order of who was worse over the past two years. (The upshot is that the team with the top odds can’t finish worse than third and the team with the worst odds can’t finish third at all.) This is all done beforehand; this afternoon will only feature the commissioner revealing the results of this process in reverse order, for maximum drama.
Here are the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery teams, along with both their odds of winning the top pick and their odds of securing one of the top two:
|Odds of No. 1 pick
|Odds of top-two pick
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With few exceptions, everyone comes into each year’s lottery knowing how to feel about that year’s draft. But the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery is a murky one, just the third time since 2008 that the player who will end up going No. 1 in April is someone that we’re not sure will even enter the draft at all:
- All four lottery teams are praying as hard as humanly possible that Caitlin Clark, the unanimous No. 1 prospect in the class, decides to go pro after this collegiate season, but she’s strongly considered sticking around Iowa for the 2024-25 season.
- The teams are apparently praying slightly less hard that Paige Bueckers, the likely No. 2, declares as well, but she seems even more likely to spend another year in college.
- The clear consensus No. 3 player, Cameron Brink said she is “50-50” on her future, and while she had a recent Instagram post of hers that certainly got most of us betting she’ll turn pro, she also told the San Francisco Chronicle it “would be a dream” to return as a pro to the Bay Area, which is getting a team for 2025.
- If the draft happened today, I’m led to believe that a plurality of teams would have Aaliyah Edwards as their No. 4. She too seems likely to enter the draft, though she could return to UConn and has not yet been asked about that decision.
- If any number of those four players stay in college and/or a team at the back half of the lottery is lower on Edwards than consensus, the next-most-likely selections seem to be Rickea Jackson and Kamilla Cardoso. Jackson cannot return to college next year, while Cardoso can, though it has been suggested that she will probably enter the draft.
This is all relevant information if your team is in the lottery. But what about the other two-thirds of the league? What about college fans? What 2024 WNBA Draft lottery outcomes should they be rooting for?
I present your “my team isn’t picking the lottery” guide to the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery, the outcomes you want if you’re rooting for …
- Los Angeles
The Fever with Clark would be the most exciting team in the league outside of Las Vegas and New York: young and explosive at every position with “face of the league”-caliber stars at the 1 and the 5 and a lot of future cap room to use. The Storm would either add Bueckers to what is already an incredibly fun supporting cast or have the most exciting young frontcourt group since the late-2010s Connecticut Sun alongside the reigning scoring champion. This means that the Mercury have to grab the third pick and the Sparks the fourth, though the front office that preceded new Phoenix general manager Nick U’Ren would probably have loved to use this opportunity to trade that pick away for pennies on the dollar.
- Los Angeles
You want chaos? Try imagining Clark and Farewell Tour Diana Taurasi3 on the same team. The Fever drafting third basically guarantees that they’re doing one of two things: either,
- Drafting a big, meaning that if both that player and NaLyssa Smith develop into starting-caliber players, one’s getting traded; or,
- They’ll happily let someone with too much draft capital trade up to do something very stupid.4
And if the Storm can’t draft someone who could soon be the best player on the team, they’re going to be facing some tough decisions sooner rather than later.
- Los Angeles
If you’re a suit, you want to make sure Clark enters the WNBA next year and enters the biggest market the WNBA can offer. Los Angeles is probably the possible solution to both: second-biggest media market in the league, opportunities for endorsements galore and an opening to be the team’s biggest star from Day One. The issue with the Sparks is a severe lack of infrastructure: their practice facility is among the worst in the league, the size of their development staff is smaller than most, and they too frequently have home games bumped from Los Angeles’ professional arena to a local college. The Storm might as well be the exact opposite of the Sparks — a dedicated practice facility set to open soon, a culture that even the league’s well-traveled players continually laud for its professionalism, an arena where they’ve got top billing throughout the W season — so the No. 2 pick going to Seattle would be a strong pull for Bueckers or Brink.
There is also a chance that the Fever getting the top pick would go a long way toward pushing Clark to declare for this draft; multiple sources independently confirmed to The Next that her boyfriend works for the Indiana Pacers.
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- Los Angeles
Do you love your Huskies? Well then you better root for chalk. Under the assumption that Bueckers doesn’t enter the draft this year, this gives Taurasi a massive upgrade in supporting cast by inserting Brink into the lineup, someone who should complement both Taurasi and Brittney Griner without taking away from Taurasi’s limelight. And if you want your departing Huskies to keep going to the UConn West that is Seattle, having Los Angeles third and Seattle fourth maximizes the chances that Edwards goes to the Pacific Northwest, since the Storm would instead be taking Clark or Brink if they got a top-two pick and Los Angeles seems the most likely option at No. 3 to not take Edwards. The secondary effect of the Storm drafting Edwards is that they’re in decent position to add Bueckers in 2025, given that Edwards’ right tail outcomes aren’t as extreme as Brink’s.
- Los Angeles or Seattle
- Seattle or Los Angeles
Perhaps you’ve forgotten that the Mercury traded the rights to their 2025 first-round pick to the Liberty. Fear not, because I’m here to remind you: the Mercury traded a pick that currently has about a 25% chance to become one of the 10 greatest draft prospects in WNBA history … to New York … for Michaela Onyenwere. The worse that Phoenix ends up in this draft, the more likely it is to miss the playoffs for a second-straight year and hand a lottery pick to the Liberty. And for the Mercury to end up fourth, Los Angeles and Seattle have to win the top two selections.
Angie Holmes and Howard Megdal contributed reporting to this story.
- Imagine telling yourself five years ago that Utah would genuinely be a big-name program!
- Through 2013, the WNBA also drew a ping pong ball to decide the No. 3 pick. That year’s draft featured the second-best consensus top three in WNBA history (Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins-Smith — appropriately nicknamed the “Three to See”), a feeling universally shared entering the lottery; by contrast, the depth of the class behind those three was acknowledged as historically weak. Washington had the top odds, but ended up with the No. 4 pick, the second-straight year that the worst team in the league fell to fourth in the draft. The system of assigning the Nos. 3 and 4 picks was changed within a couple years.
- Taurasi has not yet announced any intention to retire, but given her signing a two-year contract last winter and previously indicating that she was sticking around for the 2024 Paris Olympics, there is widespread assumption that 2024 will be her final season.
- Bah gawd that’s Greg Bibb’s music!