Washington Mystics win WNBA draft lottery for 1st time

Sports

Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith (1) and Michigan’s Naz Hillmon (0) look for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Washington Mystics have won the WNBA draft lottery for the first time in franchise history.

Washington had the third best chance — 17.8% to get the top pick — and with star guard Natasha Cloud in attendance, the Mystics bucked the odds on Sunday.

“This is a huge moment for us,” Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault said. “I remember 10 years ago sitting and watching Sheila Johnson’s face when I was still not with the team, when the team had the best odds, and she was sitting there so sad when they got the fourth pick. … So this is a changer for us.”

The Indiana Fever, who had a 44.2% chance to earn the top pick, will draft second. Atlanta will pick third and Dallas fourth.

“Although we did not get the first pick, we have two first-round picks and with this deep draft class, I am confident we will secure very talented players who will be great additions to our team,” said Tamika Catchings, the Fever’s vice president of basketball operations and general manager.

Washington had the first pick in the 1999 draft, but there was no lottery back then. Chamique Holdsclaw was the Mystics’ pick.

“We’ve been studying very carefully eight to 10 players and I don’t know who we’ll pick,” Thibault said. “We’re open to anything right now. I think the biggest thing is that you have to pick the best player.”

NaLyssa Smith of Baylor could go No. 1. A few minutes after her fifth-ranked team lost to Michigan, Smith said she’d be thrilled to go to Washington.

“That would be great. I have family in D.C., too,” she said. “That’s where my dad’s from. That’s looking pretty right now.”

The Mystics already have a loaded roster that suffered through one of the worst runs of injuries in Thibault’s storied career. Former MVP Elena Delle Donne missed most of the season while recovering from back surgery. There were games when Thibault barely had enough healthy players to field a team.

New York will pick fifth, followed by Dallas, Chicago, Minnesota, Seattle, Indiana, Las Vegas and Connecticut. The Lynx acquired Phoenix’s pick via New York and Seattle. The Fever got Minnesota’s No. 10 pick.

Lottery odds are based on the cumulative records of the two most recent regular seasons (2020 and 2021). With a cumulative record of 12-42, the Fever had the best shot at No. 1.

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