Thursday, May 23, 2024

The 2024 WNBA Draft order is set. Indiana won the draft lottery Sunday, giving the Fever the first pick in what could be one of the deepest drafts in league history.

Could is the operative word, as every draft-eligible senior in this class has the opportunity to return to college for a fifth season due to the COVID-19 bonus year given to every player who suited up in 2020-21.

Indiana is the fourth team in the last decade to earn consecutive No. 1 picks after Seattle had the top selections in 2015 and 2016, Las Vegas had a three-year stretch of picking first from 2017-2019, and New York won the lottery in 2020 and 2021. The Storm won two titles with the duo of Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart, and the Aces have done the same with the trio of Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young. The Fever hope to shortly follow in their footsteps with the inside-outside combination of Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark.

Clark going first has been the expected outcome since the end of last season, but what happens afterward? The Athletic’s first 2024 mock draft attempts to answer that question. This exercise includes every player who is eligible for this year’s draft, though we know some of them will choose to stay an extra year in school. We’ll cross that bridge later in the year. For now, let’s assume every senior who can go pro will do so.

The Sparks are ecstatic to be in the position, even if Clark is off the table. The Fever earning the first selection makes it more likely that Clark declares for the draft, giving L.A. its pick of every other player in the country. Although fan sentiment is in favor of Cameron Brink (think about the last time the Sparks selected a Stanford frontcourt star in the lottery), right now, we have the Sparks taking Bueckers.

It would be more poetic if the Stanford big went to L.A. and the Connecticut guard went to Phoenix, but Brink lands with the Mercury in this mock. It isn’t so much about fit because Phoenix has two starter-level bigs in Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner, but she’s the best player available. Brink is the best frontcourt option in this draft. She’s an absolutely terrifying defensive presence who stifles post players and also sticks with guards on the perimeter. She has a versatile offensive game, mixing in guard skills with the traditional interior scoring of a 6-4 player.

Seattle’s main problem in 2023 was a dearth of offensive options, leaving Loyd to fend with suffocating defensive coverages. Jackson can alleviate that pressure. What she does best is put the ball in the hoop.

Normally, I try to shy away from international players in the first round given their national team commitments and the difficulties of prioritization. But it’s much easier for Australian players to make the move to the WNBA because their domestic league, the WNBL, doesn’t conflict at all with the WNBA calendar. As a result, Puoch is a strong selection for Dallas at No. 5.

The Mystics love a guard who gets after it on defense, and even if she were subbing in for Brittney Sykes (or potentially Natasha Cloud), there would be no defensive drop-off with Sheldon. She’s been an active full-court defender for five years at Ohio State and absolutely outstanding off-ball in the half court, which fits seamlessly next to the point-of-attack pressure of Sykes. For a team that prides itself on stopping opponents, Sheldon makes a ton of sense.

Washington needs to improve its spacing on offense, and Sheldon also fills that slot perfectly.

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