May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor
By Chris Kwiecinski
Playing in the playoffs in what could possibly be the best WNBA season of the decade is nothing to sneeze at. But, alas, there had to be four that didnt make the cut.
Those four - Indiana, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York - still have one chance for a postseason win, however. On August 28, the WNBA Draft Lottery will determine who will have the top four picks of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Here, WNBAinsidr will detail the four teams left out of the playoffs, and their chances (out of 1,000) in the lottery come the 29th to land the top pick.
Indiana Fever - 442 chances for the No. 1 overall pick with a two-year record of 15-53
The Fever are a peculiar bunch. They have a solid veteran presence in Candace Dupree, a 12-year veteran, and youth power in third-year center Natalie Achonwa and rookie Kelsey Mitchell. Mitchell can score, while Achonwa provides a solid post presence.
However, head coach Pokey Chapman said it didn’t help that a rigorous schedule saw the Fever win only six out of 34 games in 2018.
“It would be easy for them to lose confidence, but they just kept coming back for more and more,” Chapman said. “I credit them for that, you know some of these six wins I believe that the way they stayed connected to me and to each other is going to serve us beautifully in the WNBA season.”
Should the Fever win the No. 1 overall pick, they’d do well to add any kind of dynamic factor to their team. Preferably one that can bump up the league-low 76.4 points per game.
Las Vegas Aces - 276 chances for the No. 1 overall pick with a two-year record of 22-46
The Aces, by virtue of their 8-26 final season in San Antonio, have the second-best odds for the top pick. In retrospect, that’s a very good 8-26 season.
Considering the Aces were one win away from the playoffs this year, getting a high pick to pair along with rookie sensation A’ja Wilson, All-Star guard Kayla McBride and budding point guard Kelsey Plum would undoubtedly put the Aces square in the playoff picture in 2019.
Considering Wilson’s stellar first season, pairing her with another talented post player would wreak havoc among the WNBA. However, this is assuming Plum takes the next step as a point guard and ups her four assist per game total from 2018.
Chicago Sky - 178 chances for the No. 1 overall pick with a two-year record of 25-43
The Sky had two first-round picks last year, but will have no such luxury in 2019. However, it’s pretty clear that their youth is the focal point of their team.
Rookies Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams were regular starters for the Sky, pairing them with post presence Stefanie Dolson. These players were led by veteran guards Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot.
“With this roster, there’s a lot of opportunities to coach,” Sky head coach and general manager Amber Stocks said. “As a coach who loves to teach, there’s a lot of opportunities to teach things to the players and then the players teach me as well. We all learn from each other.”
Stocks now has her work cut out for her, especially as the Sky gave up a league-high 522 turnovers last year. A way to do that could be through drafting another ball handler, which could put Quigley back into the sixth man role, where she’s flourished in the past.
New York Liberty - 104 chances for the No. 1 overall pick with a two-year record of 29-39
The one thing that first-year head coach Katie Smith could really use is that No. 1 pick. That would really ease the sting of a 13-game losing streak to close the season.
Smith already has the team’s low post presence established: there’s a dynamic scorer in Tina Charles, a veteran rebounder in Kia Vaughn and young, athletic player in Kia Nurse. However, the Liberty could really use help in the backcourt.
Specifically, a shooter would help. The Liberty shot 31 percent from 3-point range in 2018, which was second worst in the league. That goes along with the league’s third-worst 43 percent shooting from the field.
There’s still an entire NCAA season to play this winter, as well as free agency, so projecting players now seems a tad premature. But looking at these four teams, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Louisville’s Asia Durr, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu or UCONN’s Katie Lou Samuelson be in the contentions for the No. 1 overall pick.
It just comes down to who gets lucky on the 29th.