November 13, 2022 

Indiana Fever win WNBA Draft Lottery for the first time in franchise history

The Indiana Fever finally won the WNBA Draft Lottery on Friday for the first time in franchise history

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday night, Indiana Fever leadership gathered at Ale Emporium on the northside of Indianapolis to watch the 2023 WNBA Draft lottery. The Fever had not won the lottery for five straight seasons and have never had the number one overall pick, but they entered the event with the best odds (44.2%) of securing the No. 1 selection in the 2023 draft.

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Even before the draft lottery began, it was an eventful day for the Fever. Christie Sides was introduced as the new head coach of the franchise that morning and interim general manager Lin Dunn discussed her good luck charms at the introductory press conference. Indiana had a chance to push their franchise ahead significantly in one day by hiring a new head coach and grabbing the best pick in the draft.

On top of Fever decision-makers and coaches, Destanni Henderson was on hand to watch the draft lottery. It was fitting, as, during the lottery broadcast, Henderson ended up on several highlights for potential number one overall pick Aliyah Boston. During one highlight, Henderson set a screen for the South Carolina big and it led to a bucket. The room all cheered.

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

Prior to the 2023 Draft lottery, Indiana had better than a 10% chance of getting the top pick in the WNBA draft in each of the previous five lottery events. But the odds have never been in their favor. They finished with the second pick twice, the third pick twice and the fourth pick once. “Luck” has not been a part of Fever vernacular.

When the proceedings began, the back room inside of Ale Emporium was tense. It wasn’t even possible for Indiana to end up with the fourth overall pick, but when the Washington Mystics logo was shown on the broadcast on ESPN2, there were some smiles in the room. That’s how bad the Fever’s luck has been. They couldn’t rule out the impossible.

The Fever could have picked third, though, so there were some small cheers when it was revealed that the Atlanta Dream would pick in the number three slot. Lin Dunn was guaranteed a top-two pick and the room was at the edge of their seats.

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

Indiana Fever players and brass
Indiana Fever players and executives celebrate the team winning the WNBA Draft Lottery (Photo Credit: Tony East – The Next)

Sides paced the room and high-fived or fist-bumped several people. Dunn’s arms shot up — higher than anyone else’s. Henderson was quick to shoot out messages on 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 have the number one position,” Henderson said. “To get the number one person coming out of college, it’s just exciting.”

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

“How exciting!” Sides said of an unforgettable day for her between being introduced as the head coach and winning the Draft Lottery. She was on the Atlanta Dream staff last season that coached 2022 No. 1 pick Rhyne Howard. “With the number one pick, there are so many options that can happen. Lin and I are going to get together, roll our sleeves up, get to work [and] figure out what best fits this team.”

The Indiana Fever will pick number one overall for the first time in franchise history. It will be a terrific chance for the franchise to accelerate their rebuild and escape the WNBA basement, where they have been stuck for a few years. They will also pick seventh in the 2023 WNBA Draft.

In the last nine months, the Indiana Fever have 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 its home games in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

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

Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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