The WNBA will still hold its 2020 draft on on April 17 as originally scheduled, just in virtual form due to the spread of Covid-19, the league announced Thursday. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce picks live on ESPN2, and top prospects will be interviewed remotely. The exact format is still being worked through.
Finally, we’re going to have a slice of sports back in our lives.
The WNBA’s announcement comes before the NCAA has made official word about the eligibility status of its winter sports athletes, though CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported last week seniors were unlikely to be granted an extra year of eligibility. The W had to proceed to give its players and teams time to prepare for the draft process. The deadline for players to declare for the draft is still April 7.
The league also said it will honor Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, as well as WNBA advocate Kobe Bryant — all who died tragically in a helicopter accident in January — at the draft.
Why is the WNBA Draft happening so soon?
Many around the league were actually happy this draft was scheduled to be a week later than usual. The turnaround is typically a matter of days, not weeks, in previous seasons. In 2019, the draft was three days after the NCAA championship game. This schedule had to stay this way if the WNBA has any hope of playing its 2020 season.
Seniors and underclassmen have had a heartbreaking end to their season, unable to play out the NCAA tournament, showcase themselves at Final Four weekend combines, and missing the chance to gather in New York City to hear their names called. But if they want to play this year, it had to work like this.
WNBA training camps are still scheduled to start April 26, with the season starting May 15. The league is scenario-planning alternatives in the likely event it can’t go as hoped, but teams need to have some idea of how their rosters will look if the league intends to play games as quickly as possible once Covid-19 is under control.
Will the WNBA even play in 2020?
We’re still not sure, though the W might have an easier time rescheduling than other, larger leagues. The league has just 12 teams and 144 players. The postponement of the Olympics will also help matters. The W has a three-week July hiatus built-in to the current schedule, which is no longer necessary.
Engelbert told The New York Times’ Howard Megdal that she’d be willing to play games with no fans, if necessary. “Getting live sports back on television, I think we have almost a public service responsibility to do everything we can,” she said. “Because it’s clear that everybody’s missing live sports.”
Who are the best players in this draft?
There’s no way Oregon’s point guard Sabrina Ionescu, one of the best college basketball players all-time, won’t go No. 1 overall to the New York Liberty. She’s the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, the first DI player to reach 3,000 career points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds, and plays the sport’s most sought after position.
After Ionescu, her Oregon teammate Satou Sabally and Baylor forward Lauren Cox are expected to go Nos. 2 and 3 in whatever order. We’re still waiting to hear if Texas A&M guard Chennedy Carter will declare early.
What’s the draft order?
1. New York Liberty
2. Dallas Wings
3. Indiana Fever
4. Atlanta Dream
5. Dallas Wings
6. Minnesota Lynx
7. Dallas Wings
8. Chicago Sky
9. Dallas Wings
10. Phoenix Mercury
11. Seattle Storm
12. Washington Mystics
We have live sports!
The WNBA Draft is always exciting, but with no other sport around the world playing, there’s extra reason to be amped for this draft. If you haven’t followed the WNBA before, now’s the perfect time.