December 10, 2023
Inside the Indiana Fever’s 2024 WNBA Draft lottery win — and what’s next
The Indiana Fever won the 2024 WNBA Draft Lottery. It will likely change their franchise.
INDIANAPOLIS — There stood Indiana Fever star Aliyah Boston on ESPN, ready for the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery. Boston was the Fever’s prize for winning the 2023 lottery, and she won Rookie of the Year in the WNBA last season. She is the face of the Fever right now.
As Indiana’s lottery representative, though, she was more than that. She was tasked with bringing fortune to the Fever franchise. “She is the good luck charm,” general manager Lin Dunn said deep inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon. “She was the Rookie of the Year, the No. 1 pick. I felt like that was about as lucky a charm as I could send.”
Indiana was lucky to land Boston last year. She was the clear prize in the 2023 draft, a clear No. 1 pick and several cuts above the other players. 2024 is a more talented draft overall with the likes of Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Paige Bueckers, and others near the top. “I think it’s an extremely talented draft class,” Dunn said.
But there is once again a clear top prize in Iowa star guard Caitlin Clark, should she declare for the draft. The team that lands the number one selection could have the chance to grab the 3,000-point scorer.
“I think it would be really special,” Boston said on ESPN of what getting the first pick again would mean for her team.
The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom
The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
There was a 44.2% chance that the Indiana Fever would win the draft lottery — the top odds. They earned that opportunity by having the worst record in the league across the last two seasons combined, though they are clearly ascending and happy with their direction. If things go according to plan, this could be the last season that the Fever are in the lottery. They’ve been in the lottery every season since 2018.
The team from the Circle City held a watch party for the lottery, so there were hundreds of fans in the concourse of Gainbridge Fieldhouse to watch the ESPN broadcast. Dunn as well as Fever guard Lexie Hull and Grace Berger joined. The Fever couldn’t end up with the fourth overall pick in the lottery, so there was little stress as the first reveal was done on ESPN.
Had the Phoenix Mercury ended up with the fourth selection, Indiana would have known instantly they were picking third. But the Seattle Storm card flashed on the screen. Exhales filled the room. All of the possibilities were still on the table.
Prior to the commercial break, it was revealed that the Mercury would be picking third. That meant Indiana was in the top-two, at worst. ESPN went to commercial at that point, only adding to the suspense in the arena.
Dunn shared that she wasn’t nervous. Hull very clearly was, though. She was gripping the sides of her chair and rocking back and forth, eager to see the upcoming result. There was a lot at stake for the Indiana Fever.
“I was not expecting to be nervous,” Hull said. She had butterflies in her stomach once the third pick was revealed. “Relax,” she had to tell herself.
Berger shared a similar feeling. She was surprised how nervous she was and equated the emotions to being at the draft itself. The broadcast returned, and they were ready to announce who would be picking second overall in the 2024 WNBA Draft.
A card showing the Los Angeles Sparks logo was shown. That meant the Fever would be picking first for the second year in the row. Before their logo even reached the screen, the room erupted.
Dunn’s arms shot up. Someone right behind her fell down, and The Next found the fan and can confirm she is alright. She got caught on her coat in the process of celebrating. It was a fitting moment. Nobody could control themselves at the time.
“So exciting,” Hull said. “Everyone’s itching for the draft to come.”
It’s a significant moment for the Fever franchise. Obviously, having the first overall pick is preferable to not, but having it two years in a row is direction altering. After a half-decade of bad lottery luck, Indiana is trending in a new direction.
In fact, every team that has had consecutive first overall picks has won a WNBA championship within four years of the second top pick: Seattle in 2001 and 2002 (title in 2004); the Storm again 2015 and 2016 (title in 2018); and the Las Vegas Aces in 2018 and 2019 (title in 2022). The Fever have a chance to form an incredible core with Boston, NaLyssa Smith, Kelsey Mitchell and whoever they draft first overall.
“I know what an impact it can have on a franchise,” Dunn said of having consecutive first overall selections. She was the coach and GM of the Storm in the early 2000s when they grabbed Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird at the top of the draft in back-to-back years. “It’s huge.”
Dunn instantly followed up by saying that in the past, players haven’t had the fifth year of NCAA eligibility that clouds this draft. Clark, Brink, Bueckers and several others could return to the NCAA ranks and not be in the 2024 Draft. It’s not a lock that the draft is as talented as it could be.
But if it is, or even partially is, it’s huge for the Fever. They can land another premier talent next to Boston and build a long-term powerhouse if things go well for them.
The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up
The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribe to The Next now and receive 50% off your subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.
Clark, specifically, could be among the best players in the league one day. She would pair incredibly well with Boston, and her boyfriend — former Iowa men’s basketball guard Connor McCaffrey — works for the Indiana Pacers. They are owned by the same group that operates the Fever.
She is not a lock to go pro. Neither was Boston last year. The Fever had to meet with Boston and try to convince her to make the right decision for herself while hinting that said decision is joining the WNBA. That could be the mission again this time around with Clark.
“I would imagine that our pool of potential top draft picks, whoever they might be, we’ll definitely see them play in person. And our approach will be just like it’s been in the past and just like it was with Aliyah Boston,” Dunn explained. “You have to do what you need to do. You have to do what’s best for you. We’re not going to beg anybody to come out, we’re not going to coerce anybody to come out… but we’ll do our due diligence.”
The pre-draft process can now begin for the Fever, who also own picks 15 and 27. The hope will certainly be that said process ends with Clark in Indiana and is the start of a potential dominant run. The Indiana Fever haven’t been to the postseason since 2016.
“It’s pretty obvious she’s a generational player,” Berger said of Clark, who she played against in the Big Ten. “She’s extremely talented.”
After lady luck smiled on Indiana Sunday afternoon, it’s possible that said extremely talented player is headed to the Fever.
Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine
Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.