On to the Draft

The 22nd WNBA Draft will take place Thursday, April 12. The first round will be broadcast on ESPN2 starting at 7:00 EDT, followed by the second and third rounds on ESPNU. The Draft marks the transition from the college basketball season to the WNBA season, which tips off in May.

In honor of the coming draft, I have compiled the first version of my WNBA Draft Database to assist in capturing the history of the draft and WNBA seasons as well as finding interesting facts and trends around the WNBA Draft.

At this time, the database contains the following information:

  • Each WNBA season, including that season’s MVP, the Finals MVP, the Rookie of the Year, and the Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Each WNBA franchise, including the year they joined the league, previous names associated with the franchise, and the year the franchise folded (if applicable).
  • Each WNBA draft pick, including the WNBA franchise making the pick, the player chosen, and that player’s primary position and prior team

This allows for automatically and very easily pulling some interesting data, like:

  • How many draft picks has each school had
  • For each WNBA team, how many of each of the following have they had: top picks, first-round picks, overall draft picks?
  • How many foreign players have been drafted, and how many have been drafted by each team?
  • What is the average number of picks for a given team?
  • What is the average draft pick for a team? (More on this later…)
  • How many of a team’s picks have gone on to win an MVP award?

I said earlier this is the first version because it is very much open to expansion. The more data included about each player allows us to analyze the picks based on other criteria, like height, years in the league, whether or not they made a roster in that season or later seasons, and much more.

Additionally, it would be great to break down how many of a team’s picks have gone on to be an All-Star or an All-WNBA team selection. Or, on average how many picks end up making the roster of the team that picked them? How many picks end up making a roster at any point in their career? To go even a step further, how many picks earned as the result of a trade result in a player that goes on to win a postseason award, be voted an All-Star, etc.?

That said, let’s start breaking down the info compiled at this point, keeping in mind the following:

  • This data could still stand to be checked for accuracy one last time. I have made multiple passes through the data while populating players’ positions and prior teams, but there is still the possibility of minor inaccuracies in the data.
  • The data is pulled from what I could find on the WNBA’s website (more on this at the end…), college teams’ archived rosters, and Basketball Reference.
  • This data does not include expansion or dispersal portions of any draft or any initial player allocations. That means you won’t see players like Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo, or Lisa Leslie here.
  • Every player’s team immediately prior to the Draft is listed. For scenarios involving players drafted from the ABL or someone like Epiphanny Prince who played overseas before being drafted, their college is not listed. That is a planned future extension.
  • Each franchise is listed with its current name, but all data from its history is merged. This means there is no separate data at this time for the Detroit Shock. That data is available under the Dallas Wings, combined with data from its time as the Tulsa Shock.

Let’s start with a simple data set: number of top draft picks, by WNBA team:

TeamTotal #1 Picks
Seattle Storm4
Phoenix Mercury3
Cleveland Rockers2
Connecticut Sun2
Las Vegas Aces2
Los Angeles Sparks2
Minnesota Lynx2
Atlanta Dream1
Charlotte Sting1
Houston Comets1
Washington Mystics1
Chicago Sky0
Dallas Wings0
Indiana Fever0
Miami Sol0
New York Liberty0
Portland Fire0
Sacramento Monarchs0

Note there are four current WNBA teams who have yet to have a top draft pick: Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, Indiana Fever, and New York Liberty. The Seattle Storm have the most #1 draft picks with four. The Las Vegas Aces will tie the Phoenix Mercury this year with three, assuming no last-minute trade.

Next, let’s take a look at the total number of picks each team has had in the history of the league. I’ve coupled this with average number of picks per draft to account for the fact that some teams have been involved in many more drafts than others.

TeamTotal PicksAverage # of PicksAverage Pick
Portland Fire134.330.2
Cleveland Rockers273.925.1
Minnesota Lynx753.921.2
Charlotte Sting363.623.0
Dallas Wings703.519.1
Houston Comets423.527.2
Connecticut Sun633.321.9
Washington Mystics673.419.4
New York Liberty703.323.3
Phoenix Mercury703.324.4
Sacramento Monarchs423.227.0
Las Vegas Aces663.121.7
Los Angeles Sparks663.124.5
Chicago Sky36317.7
Indiana Fever54324.3
Miami Sol9330.2
Atlanta Dream292.919.7
Seattle Storm492.721.7

Two now-defunct teams have the most draft picks per draft, with Portland Fire having made 4.3 picks per draft in its three seasons. The Cleveland Rockers made 3.9 picks per draft in its seven seasons. The Seattle Storm have had the most top picks (4) but the fewest picks per draft in the history of the league (2.7). Not too surprisingly, for the most part the teams are right around the three picks-per-draft mark.

On the other hand, the Portland Fire have the highest average pick number at 30.2, tied with the Miami Sol. The Chicago Sky have the lowest average pick number at 17.7. The Dallas Wings (19.1), Washington Mystics (19.4), and Atlanta Dream (19.7) follow. While the Atlanta Dream have had only 2.9 picks per draft, but more often than not those picks have come in the first and second rounds.

How about success of colleges in producing draft picks? There are 154 different colleges which have produced WNBA draft picks. Shown below are the 26 schools that have produced at least 10 WNBA Draft picks as well as the average of their picks. For example, Tennessee has produced the most draft picks at 34, and they average being picked 17th or 18th overall.

School# of Draft PicksAverage Pick
North Carolina1717.1
Notre Dame1520
Penn State1424.8
Louisiana Tech1422.7
Texas A&M1322.7
Iowa State1330.6
Florida State1224.3
Ohio State1222.1
NC State1223.1

Connecticut comes in close behind Tennessee with 31 total picks and has the highest average pick at 11.6. Iowa State is the only school which produces an average pick over 30th overall.

As always, along the way I found major gaps of information surrounding this data:

  • On the more minor end, on the List of WNBA seasons page, last season (2017) was missing, and I have now filled it in.
  • As I made my way through the list of draft picks, I found many that do not have a Wikipedia page.
  • I then proceeded to the WNBA’s list of historical players, I found many players with little to no data or even typos in their names. I am adding this to my list of areas to address, first by creating their Wikipedia pages and filling in as much data as possible and then sending a comprehensive list of issues to the WNBA so that their resource can be corrected.

While the database is not complete, if you are interested in seeing it or using it for your own purposes, email me at wbbtimeline@gmail.com. If you have any suggestions for areas to explore and/or data to include, email me or let me know on Twitter @wbbtimeline.

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