Fever will pick first in WNBA draft for second straight year

AP file photo by Morry Gash / Iowa star Caitlin Clark could be available when the Indiana Fever pick first in the WNBA draft next April 15. Clark hasn't said whether she will leave college after this season, her fourth with the Hawkeyes, or use an available fifth year of NCAA eligibility.
AP file photo by Morry Gash / Iowa star Caitlin Clark could be available when the Indiana Fever pick first in the WNBA draft next April 15. Clark hasn't said whether she will leave college after this season, her fourth with the Hawkeyes, or use an available fifth year of NCAA eligibility.

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Indiana Fever won the WNBA draft lottery for the No. 1 pick for the second consecutive season Sunday.

The Fever took Aliyah Boston ahead of last season with the top pick, and the former South Carolina star impressed on her way to being honored as the league's rookie of the year.

"This is tremendous news for our franchise to receive another No.1 overall pick," Fever general manager Lin Dunn said.

Now the Fever will have to wait to see who decides to enter the draft. Connecticut's Paige Bueckers, Iowa's Caitlin Clark and LSU's Angel Reese all could head back to school for another year thanks to the extra season of eligibility allowed by the NCAA to athletes who were in school early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Clark, a generational talent, has said she would trust her gut when deciding whether to stay in school for a fifth year. Players have a few days after the national championship game and before the draft, which will be held on April 15, to declare.

Indiana, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2016, had a 44% chance of getting the No. 1 pick. The Fever became only the third franchise to win the draft lottery in consecutive seasons, joining the Seattle Storm (2001-02 and 2015-16) and the Las Vegas Aces (2017-19).

The Los Angeles Sparks have the No. 2 pick, with the Phoenix Mercury choosing third and Seattle fourth. The Sparks, who had an 18% chance at getting the top pick, have missed the postseason two straight years and last had No. 1 in 2012, when they drafted Nneka Ogwumike.

Phoenix had the worst record in the WNBA last season and was trying to earn the first pick for the first time since the Mercury chose Brittney Griner in 2013. They had a 28% chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

"This is a deep draft class and having the third pick will give us multiple options to add talent to our team," Mercury GM Nick U'Ren said in a team release. "We have the most amazing fans who have been so supportive as we continue to build to return to our championship-caliber play, and we look forward to what's to come on draft night and beyond when we add another talented player to the Mercury."

The Storm, who will pick fourth, benefited from back-to-back No. 1 selections in 2015 (Jewell Loyd) and 2016 (Breanna Stewart) to win titles in 2018 and 2020.

"We are excited to have received the 4th pick in the 2024 WNBA draft as this will be a critical piece of the future of our team," Storm GM Talisa Rhea said in a release. "As we continue our off-season, ignited by Jewell's commitment to stay in Seattle, we know this draft pick, coupled with our strategy in free agency, will be essential to building a roster ready to compete in the upcoming season."

The Dallas Wings will pick fifth. The Washington Mystics, Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream are next. The Wings, Connecticut Sun, New York Liberty and Sparks will close out the first round.

The WNBA hasn't released its schedule yet for next year, but it will definitely be a challenging one with teams playing 40 games as well as taking a break for the Paris Olympics in July.

There's a lot of momentum in women's basketball between college and the WNBA. Last season's NCAA final between Clark's Hawkeyes and Reese's Tigers was the highest-rated ever, drawing nearly 10 million viewers as LSU won its breakthrough championship.

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