Historical Draft Selection Awaits Indiana Fever

The 2018 WNBA Draft Lottery will occur on Monday, November 13 at 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN’s SportsCenter in advance of the South Carolina at Maryland women’s NCAA game.

The answer to the trivia question will be Tan White with the #2 overall pick in 2005. The question, of course, will be, “What was the highest Indiana Fever draft selection prior to 2018?”

With a little luck this month, the Fever may earn their very first No. 1 draft pick. Let me say it again: the Indiana Fever have NEVER owned the very top pick in the WNBA Draft. Should one of the Fever’s 276 out of 1,000 ping-pong balls drop into the right spot during the upcoming WNBA Draft Lottery on Monday, November 13, the Fever may own that distinction.

When the WNBA Draft Lottery is conducted, Indiana will have the third-best odds to land the No. 1 pick. The newly relocated Las Vegas franchise, by virtue of San Antonio posting the league’s worst two-year record, will have 442 out of 1,000 chances to get the top choice. Indiana would have the next best chance, except that Chicago owns 178 chances with its third-worst, two-year record plus 104 from Atlanta’s fourth-worst record.

The Sky possess the Dream’s 2018 first-round pick because of a trade-deadline deal that sent Tamera Young and Imani Boyette to Atlanta, in exchange for Jordan Hooper and the Dream’s first-round selection. Therefore, Chicago boasts 282 chances which will result in two of next year’s top four picks.

The Fever are guaranteed their first top-four choice since choosing White with the No. 2 pick in 2005. The 2004 season was the last time Indiana failed to reach the playoffs. The only other top-four selection in franchise history was perhaps the league’s greatest No. 3 pick of all time — Tamika Catchings followed Lauren Jackson (1) and Kelly Miller (2) in the 2001 draft.

The entire women’s basketball world is familiar with Catchings’ 16-year career and her 15 active seasons. Indiana took a chance on the Tennessee grad who was hurt during her senior year of college and did not play until the second year of her contract in 2002.

Tan White is not as well-known, though the former Fever guard played 10 WNBA seasons and was a 34-game starter through four years in Indiana. A crowded backcourt resulted in her waiving during training camp in 2009, but she was quickly picked up by Connecticut, for whom she played five more seasons. She finished her career in 2014 with Minnesota. In all, she scored over 2,500 points during her career. She was the fourth-leading rookie scorer in Indiana history, and remains eighth on the Fever’s all-time scoring ladder (1,240 points). She was a member of the Fever’s All-Decade Team, selected by fans in 2009.

Should a player of White’s or even Catchings’ caliber be selected by Indiana in 2018, that would be a great thing for the future of the franchise. The Fever are certainly in reloading mode after their nine-win season of 2017, if not even more of a rebuilding mode. Time and circumstance will dictate the volume of moves to be made this offseason, but certainly the biggest move will be the action taken with the draft pick the Fever earn in the lottery.

The lottery may open a gateway into the Fever’s offseason strategies. A No. 3 or 4 selection will be a valued asset. A No. 2 pick will bear the excitement and comparison among every top candidate for the next six months. The top pick will be gold for an Indiana club that has coveted a top pick for nearly two decades. It will bring notoriety, scrutiny, excitement, nervousness and draft prestige — and immediate momentum for a franchise hoping to begin a new playoff streak.

No. 1 picks in the last decade include Kelsey Plum (2017), Breanna Stewart (2016), Jewell Loyd (2015), Chiney Ogwumike (2014), and Brittney Griner (2013); Nneka Ogwumike (2012), Maya Moore (2011), Tina Charles (2010), Angel McCoughtry (2009) and Candace Parker (2008). It is a veritable Who’s Who of All-Stars, Olympians, MVPs, and former Rookies of the Year.

No. 2 picks in the same span include Alaina Coates (2017), Moriah Jefferson (2016), Amanda Zuhui B. (2015), Odyssey Sims, (2014) and Elena Delle Donne (2013); Shekinna Stricklen (2012), Liz Cambage (2011), Rebekkah Brunson (2010), Matee Ajavon (2009) and Sylvia Fowles. Ten years later, all of them still have careers intact, with five-time WNBA champion Brunson and Olympians Fowles and Delle Donne owning the largest profiles. Cambage, a widely heralded 6-7 Australian star, is said to be planning a return to Dallas and the WNBA in 2018.

An early prognosis for a deep 2018 draft suggests Indiana could cultivate not just one, but two players with impact by next season. Two picks in the draft’s top 16 selections will be a stark contrast to Indiana’s first choice at No. 17 last season. Early candidates for 2018 lottery consideration are UCLA point guard Jordin Canada, Oklahoma State double-double machine Kaylee Jensen, Ohio State scoring star Kelsey Mitchell, Tennessee post Mercedes Russell and former UT guard Diamond DeShields (who left her senior season of college to play overseas). Center Azura Stevens (fourth-year junior) and forward Gabby Williams of Connecticut are perhaps the next Husky stars to impact the WNBA. South Carolina center A’Ja Wilson paced the Gamecocks to a 2017 NCAA title and could be the country’s most versatile and dominant post during her senior campaign.

The upcoming draft lottery, scheduled to take place on Monday, November 13, will signal the next step in Fever planning for their historical 2018 draft.