WNBA Draft: Caitlin Clark unsurprisingly goes first overall

The WNBA rolled out the orange carpet to welcome the Class of 2024 into the league at this year's WNBA Draft.

The WNBA held maybe their most successful draft event of all time Monday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, as the next generation of players were officially welcomed to teams.

For the first time in the league’s history, tickets were sold to the general public for the event, and sold out. What resulted was an electric atmosphere for the draftees, their families and the teams picking up their newest stars.

While the number one overall pick was pretty much a lock from the start, fans still erupted when Caitlin Clark’s name was called and she officially became a member of the Indiana Fever. From there, the draft continued to prove just how talented this year’s class of players is.

For the record, this writer got the first seven picks 100% correct in my final prediction of how it would shake out:

Other than the fact that I know ball, teams were spoiled with the talent afforded to them, allowing them to pick the best fits for their team.

Sparks go big, Wings grab guards

It was a very deep pool of front court players in the draft this year, great for teams looking for size. The Los Angeles Sparks had the number two AND four picks in the first round of the draft, and they went big with both picks.

The first choice was Cameron Brink of Stanford at number two. Brink has been a big name on the college scene for years and just recently won National Defensive Player of the Year in the NCAA. Her ability to guard the post and her quick feet make her a great asset for a Sparks team that just lost their decade-long forward in Nneka Ogwumike.

With the fourth pick, the Sparks grabbed Rickea Jackson from Tennessee. Rickea is unique in the way she is able to impact the offence at her size. She’ll end up impacting both ends of the floor for the LA Sparks.

The Dallas Wings also had a few first round picks, and with their fifth overall pick, with with Jacy Sheldon. The fifth year out of Ohio State University brings a high shooting ability to the Wings, who have prioritized finding backup guards to fit around Arike Ogunbawole.

10’s across the board for Chicago

The Chicago Sky, deep in a rebuild after losing Kahleah Copper most recently, had two picks in the first round of the draft. They started at number three, where they had the chance to draft the most-recent National Champion in Kamilla Cardoso. The 6-foot-7 Brazilian center brings force and scoring ability to the offence, while being a threat defensively with her ability to block shots.

It’s a great pick for the Sky, as Cardoso not only has the raw talent to go far, but the experience of being coached by Dawn Staley to help her out. Now, she’ll be coached by another great in Teresa Weatherspoon.

The Sky traded up in the draft earlier in the week, moving from 8th to 7th overall, their target in mind. Angel Reese was predicted to go 7th overall, and her fit in Chicago is indescribable. Not only is the team searching for a new identity, and Reese brings personality and star power, they also need front court support – which Reese undeniably brings.

Fans unfamiliar with the talent depth in this draft may be confused why Reese did not go earlier, but in the WNBA it’s more about fit with the team than number you were drafted. Reese has a lot to work on offensively when it comes to finding a more consistent midrange/long-range shot, and the current climate of the Chicago Sky (no pun intended) will allow her room to develop. Add in the fit with TSpoon as her coach, and Reese fans should be thrilled with the fit.

Both Reese and Cardoso wore number 10 at their respective colleges, but it seems that Cardoso will take the number when they get to Chicago.

Washington gets their girl, and Vegas drafts from the audience

The Washington Mystics are also in a little bit of a flux. They lost Natasha Cloud in free agency, and Elena Delle Donne is sitting out this season. They have an undeniable star in Shakira Austin, and added to that by drafting Aaliyah Edwards at number six.

Edwards bring offensive energy to her position as a forward, while also be able to bring it to the defensive end as well. She has the experience of being a UConn Husky, the tough program churning out professionals for decades, but also has the added experience of already being an Olympian for Team Canada at the Tokyo Games. The fit in Washington is fantastic, as the franchise turns towards their younger players.

One of the best moments of the night though, came from the Las Vegas Aces. The 2022 and 2023 WNBA champions didn’t pick until no.16 overall, where they grabbed Dyaisha Fair off the board in a steal. When they picked again at no.18, they made a move that would go viral.

Iowa’s Kate Martin stunned fans and media alike in the team’s Final Four journey, described as the “glue of the team.” Yet, with the overflow of talent entering the draft, she was not sure if her name would be called or not as was not invited as one of the draftees on stage. Still, she headed to the draft as a guest of Caitlin Clark, sitting in the audience to witness her friend go first overall to the Fever.

It was in the second round when a staff member came to the Iowa row and told Martin to move seats to be closer to the aisle, and to give her phone to a friend. So, when Cathy Engelbert came out to announce Las Vegas’ 18th pick, Kate Martin was plucked from the crowd and brought on stage.

It was an endearing moment proving that these players work so hard and deserve all the success that comes to them. Martin will now head to Aces training camp to fight for a roster spot, hoping to defy the odds once again.

Let the games begin…

Through the glitz and glam of draft night, some forget that the real work begins now. While these players drafted now get to go join their team’s training camps, their spots in the WNBA are still not guaranteed.

Each of the 12 current WNBA teams only has 12 available roster spots, many of those already used for current players. On top of that, a lot of teams will opt to only keep 11 players rostered in order to grant them salary flexibility.

During the course of training camp, teams will evaluate players and make tough decisions on the final roster spots. Final rosters go through during the last week before the season. Players that are waived become free agents and some are then picked up by other teams throughout the season when things like injuries come up. Some players take years to find permanent places in the WNBA, if they ever do at all.

In this draft, it’s likely that most of the players drafted in the first round will end up on the final rosters for their teams, but even that is not truly 100% guaranteed. A lot of these teams have space for these younger players, but as the draft goes on, the spots get more limited. Second-rounders are hit or miss for making rosters, while third-rounders and undrafted training camp signees very likely won’t make it.

This all proves how tough the WNBA really is, with the most elite players in the world on every team. You have to be the best of the best to make it. Next year, the number of spots will go up with the addition of the Golden State expansion team, but at the same time, another talented draft class will be entering the league.

For now, the focus turns to training camp, and seeing how these newly minted professional players fit in with their new teams.

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