WNBA Draft 2024’s biggest winners and losers with Caitlin Clark to Fever, Angel Reese to Sky

There was no stunning surprise at the top of the 2024 WNBA Draft, just stunning fits.

On Monday night, the Indiana Fever selected Iowa’s Caitlin Clark with the No. 1 pick. That fortune, of course, makes the Fever certain winners. But, who else is departed the Brooklyn Academy of Music feeling satisfied? Should anyone be feeling a bit sheepish?

Here are three winners and three losers from the 2024 WNBA Draft:

Winner: Caitlin Clark

Ask not what Caitlin Clark can do for the Indiana Fever, ask what the Indiana Fever can do for Caitlin Clark.

Yes, the anticipated arrival of Clark in Indianapolis has resulted in 36 nationally-broadcast games and a demand for tickets so intense that the team has had to limit sales of single-game tickets to two games per day. But for all the ways that Clark will benefit the Fever, it’s important to recognize how fortunate she is to be landing in Indiana. She could be coming into the WNBA with mountains of popularity and pressure, only to be drafted to a team with a poorly-constructed roster ill suited to amplify her prodigious talents. Instead, the Fever are fit to elevate Clark.

That begins with Aliyah Boston, who, after posting one of the most efficient scoring seasons in WNBA history as a rookie, profiles as a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Clark. Boston’s defensive intelligence and instincts also will cover for Clark’s weaknesses on that end of the floor. Then, there’s Kelsey Mitchell, one of the players Clark passed on her way to the all-time NCAA Division I scoring record and one of the purest shooters in the game. Mitchell owns a share of the WNBA record with nine 3-pointers made in a single game, guaranteeing she will demand the attention of defenders and create space for Clark to work her magic. The Fever also added Katie Lou Samuelson, a shooter with size, during the offseason. NaLyssa Smith brings the kind athleticism at the power forward position that makes her an ideal target for Clark’s hit-ahead passes. Add in the leadership of Erica Wheeler, the two-way versatility of Grace Berger and the perimeter defensive tenacity of Lexie Hull. While the Fever might not be poised for a playoff breakthrough, they are set up for Clark to succeed.

Winner: Rivals to Teammates

The 2024 WNBA Draft, where former college competitors become professional collaborators.

The Fever’s dynamic duo of Boston and Clark pairs a South Carolina Gamecock and Iowa Hawkeye, uniting two fanbases who were on opposite sides during the 2023 Final Four, when the Hawkeyes upset the Gamecocks, and the 2024 national championship game, when South Carolina got revenge. Indiana also added one of Clark’s Big Ten foes with the No. 15 pick in Celeste Taylor, a defensive-first guard who spent her senior season at Ohio State.

The Chicago Sky turned SEC rivals Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese into teammates, with the forward from LSU, selected No. 7, expressing excitement about playing with the center from South Carolina, who was picked at No. 3. Reese told ESPN’s Holly Rowe, “I’m just so excited. I get to play with Kamilla, I’ve been playing against her since high school, so I’m excited to play with Kamilla.”

Winner: The Los Angeles Sparks

Although a Cam-Kam twin towers of Cameron Brink and Kamilla Cardoso would have been fun, the draft board fell perfectly for the Los Angeles Sparks. After LA selected Stanford’s Brink at No. 2, Chicago went with Cardoso at No. 3, a mild surprise as most projections had Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson at the third spot. That allowed the Sparks quickly to snag Jackson at No. 4.

The combination of Brink and Jackson, in contrast to one of Brink and Cardoso, addresses a wider variety of positional needs for a Sparks team searching for its next star after Nneka Ogwumike took her talents to the Seattle Storm during the 2024 free agency period. Operating as either a center or power forward, Brink has the potential to be a generational defensive talent (as long as she avoids excessive foul trouble) with a modern offensive game. Jackson is a pro-ready power wing with a penchant for playing her best in big games; she’s ready to get buckets right away and has the frame required to be a positive on the defensive end. The two give LA a developing, dynamic frontcourt that can form the core of the next, great Sparks team.

Loser: Sidelined head coaches

Nobody puts Dawn in the corner! (Except at the WNBA Draft.)

Surely the WNBA could have made room for South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder and LSU head coach Kim Mulkey to be seated with their draftees? While UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and assistant coach Chris Dailey joined Nika Mühl, selected No. 14 by the Seattle Storm, and Utah head coach Lynne Roberts accompanied Alissa Pili, who went to the Minnesota Lynx at No. 8, Staley, Bluder and Mulkey were huddled off to the side, unable to squeeze into the tables of Cardoso, Clark and Reese, respectively. Nevertheless, hugs still were shared and tears still were shed.

Loser: No “BIG 3”

Basketball’s best “BIG 3” was denied an opportunity to do their thing on Monday night. The trio of Elle Duncan, Andraya Carter and Chiney Ogwumike earned rave reviews for their vibrant studio show during ESPN’s coverage of the women’s NCAA Tournament, providing on-point analysis and overflowing vibes. The draft seemed like a perfect time to revive the combination. Instead, Ogwumike held down the pre-draft show with Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson, while Carter provided analysis during the draft alongside Rebecca Lobo and Ryan Rucco. That said, the broadcast was a success, avoiding Caitlin Clark over-saturation and amplifying the stories of all draftees.

Loser: The WNBA

What? Monday night likely will be the most-watched draft in league history by a large margin. The league also appears to be entering a new era, one where the WNBA no longer is shunted to the periphery of the American sports landscape but approaching the interior. And yet, there could be more. There should be more. Specifically, more roster spots.

In all likelihood, a number of the players who heard their names called on Monday night will not be on a WNBA roster when the 2024 season begins in approximately one month. The hype of draft night quickly becomes a harsh reality, as a maximum of 12 roster spots per team discourages organizations from investing in the development of young players. This, in turn, denies fans an opportunity to emotionally invest in the development of their new, favorite draftee, watching her go from out of the rotation to earning a few minutes here and there to emerging as a positive contributor by season’s end.

Instead, only the most ready-made rookies receive requisite opportunity, with others likely to find themselves bouncing around on hardship contracts, getting a chance with one team this week and another team next week. Yes, stars drive interest in the league, but good stories help sustain that interest. Because of the limitations of WNBA rosters, the league keeps missing out on some good stories—and great players.

However, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert discussed the league’s expansion plans during her pre-draft media availability, indicating the league would like to reach 16 teams by 2028. The WNBA or WNBPA also can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2024 season, which could result in an increase in roster spots.

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