Anatomy of Top WNBA Draft Picks

— Indiana is the only WNBA club without a top-four pick in more than a decade; 2012 Fever were only championship team since 2010 without at least two No. 1 draft picks.

History of No. 1, 2, 3 Overall Draft Selections:

No. 1
9 MVPs
6 Finals MVPs
3 DPOYs
11 ROYs
80 All-WNBA
24 WNBA Titles
10 Scoring Leaders
28 Olympics

No. 2
3 MVPs
4 Finals MVPs
5 DPOYs
1 ROYs
24 All-WNBA
13 WNBA Titles
4 Scoring Leaders
11 Olympics

No. 3
1 MVPs
1 Finals MVP
5 DPOYs
3 ROYs
21 All-WNBA
6 WNBA Titles
1 Scoring Leaders
5 Olympics

* Totals do not include players who were allocated to rosters prior to amateur drafts in 1997 or 1998; or players in an Elite Draft of players already gone from college prior to the WNBA’s first amateur draft in 1997.

Tamika Catchings is unquestionably the WNBA’s greatest No. 3 pick of all-time. The third overall selection of the 2001 WNBA Draft, she is the only No. 3 pick to garner MVP honors in the regular season or Finals, and she did both. She also earned an Olympic-record four gold medals, 2002 Rookie of the Year honors, an unprecedented five Defensive Player of the Year awards and 12 All-WNBA selections.

Catchings also is the only No. 3 selection in league history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and she joins Natalie Williams as one of just two No. 3 overall draft selections to play for the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team. As a rookie in 2002, Catchings led the league in total points and still remains the only No. 3 overall draft pick ever to lead the WNBA in points.

But beyond Indiana’s success with its top selection in 2001 – the second year of their existence, how much annual success has come from having those top picks, and how have the Fever fared among the top picks of the draft?

Top Indiana Draft Picks by Overall Selection
No. 1 — none
No. 2 — Tan White, 2005
No. 3 — Tamika Catchings, 2001
No. 4 — none
No. 5 — Natasha Howard, 2014
No. 6 — Briann January, 2009; Gwen Jackson, 2003

Fever Draft Facts
By virtue of their WNBA-record 12 consecutive playoff appearances, and 13 playoff berths in their first 17 seasons, the Fever have endured a withering stretch of nearly two decades without ever benefitting from top draft selections. The Fever and New York Liberty share a remarkable dearth of top draft selections, with Indiana being the WNBA’s only team without the benefit of a top-four pick in more than a decade.

▶️ Among teams in existence more than 10 seasons, Indiana joins New York with just two top-four draft choices, the fewest of any team.

▶️ Neither the Fever or Liberty have ever owned the No. 1 pick, and among franchises in existence more than 10 years, they are the only teams with just one top-two pick in their history.

▶️ Indiana is managing a 13-year drought without a top-four selection, claiming a No. 3 pick in 2001 and a No. 2 pick in 2005. The Liberty had a No. 2 pick in 2007 and a No. 4 choice in 2014.

▶️ Indiana and New York are among just four teams NEVER to secure a No. 1 draft selection. The Fever or Chicago Sky could secure their first No. 1 pick in this year’s lottery. The Dallas Wings have been a lottery team in four of the past five seasons, but never have garnered the top selection.

Top Four WNBA Draft Picks By Franchise

TEAM FIRST DRAFT #1 #2 #3 #4 TOTAL
ATL 2008 1 0 0 0 1
CHI 2006 0 3 3 1 7
CON 1999 2 0 2 4 8
DAL 1998 0 4 4 4 12
IND 2000 0 1 1 0 2
LA 1997 2 0 1 1 4
LV 1997 2 1 2 2 7
MIN 1999 3 1 2 3 9
NY 1997 0 1 0 1 2
PHO 1997 2 1 1 1 5
SEA 2000 4 1 1 0 6
WAS 1998 1 3 2 2 8
* Last updated November 12, 2017.

The Value of a Top Draft Pick
▶️ Championships are elusive and many of the game’s best players never win a title. Only 11 of 21 top draft picks in WNBA history have ever won a title. Eight No. 2 selections have won titles, just four No. 3 picks own championship rings and six No. 4 picks have claimed titles.

▶️ Since 2009, the only WNBA champion without a No. 1 draft pick on its roster was, coincidentally, the 2012 Indiana Fever. Every other champion roster since 2010 has had at least two No. 1 draft picks.

▶️ Two trivial notes: (1) A 10th overall draft pick has earned All-WNBA honors four times, all by Indianapolis product and former Fever star Katie Douglas. (2) Similarly, an undrafted player has also earned All-WNBA honors four times, all by Becky Hammon.

▶️ Jersey sales often measure the popularity and success of top picks. Among the top 10 jerseys to be sold during the 2017 season, seven were former No. 1 draft picks, two were No. 2 picks and one was a No. 3 selection.

▶️ League MVP awards have been dominated by No. 1 picks. Eight of the first 10 MVP awards were presented to Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper who were allocated to their assigned rosters when the league was first established, prior to the 1997 amateur draft. Of the other 13 MVP awards, nine have been won by No. 1 draft choices. No. 2 selections have won three MVPs and Catchings is the only other MVP recipient.

▶️ Since 2006, the Rookie of the Year award has been presented to a top-four pick every season. Eleven of 20 Rookies of the Year (none presented in 1997) have been the top pick in the draft, 15 have come from the top three picks and 17 of 20 have been top-four picks.

▶️ The Defensive Player of the Year award has been earned by a top-three draft selection in all but one season.

▶️ Since 2010, no player drafted out of the top 10 picks has ever earned All-WNBA honors. All-WNBA voting has been dominated by former No. 1 draft selections, earning more than three times the number of awards won by No. 2 or No. 3 picks. Similarly, top-three picks have earned 125 out of 166 All-WNBA selections outside of early seasons dominated by allocations such as Leslie, Swoopes, Cooper or Katie Smith.

▶️ Through 2016, every No. 1 selection has won a WNBA title, earned the Rookie of the Year award at least one All-WNBA selection except for Lindsey Harding (2007), LaToya Thomas (2003) and Margo Dydek (2000). Dydek was, however, a two-time All-Star and Harding was named to the 2007 All-Rookie Team.