NEW YORK (AP) — Bill Laimbeer and the Las Vegas franchise hit the jackpot, winning the WNBA draft lottery on Monday.
“Having the first pick will help to grow a fan base and this will go a long way towards that,” Laimbeer said in a phone interview. “I’m excited that we’ll add a great piece to the puzzle.”
Las Vegas had the best odds (44 percent) to win Monday’s lottery after finishing with the combined worst record the past two seasons while the franchise was in San Antonio. The team moved to Las Vegas last month and hired Laimbeer as its coach and president. It’s the second consecutive year that the franchise has the top pick. The Stars took Kelsey Plum No. 1 last season.
Laimbeer was happy to have good fortune in the draft lottery. In 2003, he was the overwhelming favorite to get the top pick and his Detroit Shock ended up getting the No. 3. It didn’t turn out that badly as Laimbeer took Cheryl Ford and the Shock went on to win the WNBA championship that year, going from worst to first.
“You expect the worst, hope for the best,” Laimbeer said. “You don’t know.”
Laimbeer said that he heard that the draft is already planned to be held in New York next spring, but he wouldn’t mind seeing Las Vegas try and host it.
“It’s the league’s call. We’re open for anything. It’s a good destination place,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it here.”
Indiana will pick second with Chicago getting the third and fourth picks.
It’s just the second time in Fever franchise history that they own one of the top picks in the draft. Indiana saw its record run of 12 straight playoff appearances end this year.
“We have the opportunity to bring in one of the top two available who we can develop and build around for years to come,” Fever president and general manager Kelly Krauskopf said. “There is a lot of talent in this draft. It is an exciting time for our franchise and our fans.”
The Sky acquired the third pick from the Atlanta Dream in a trade.
“With these two prized draft picks, we can add potent impact players to our already talent-rich roster,” Sky GM and coach Amber Stocks said. “We will keep a keen eye on evaluating the upcoming draftees while also assessing the latent potential of these valuable assets.”
The Sky are the fourth team in league history to have both the third and fourth picks.
With a stellar senior class, this should be a pretty deep draft headlined by South Carolina star A’ja Wilson.
“Consensus is she’s the No. 1 pick,” Laimbeer said. “Time will tell. In our league, there’s some really big players.”
Wilson said earlier this month that she had been to Vegas before but couldn’t enjoy it at the time since she was only 14 years old.
“It’s nice. I’ve seen it,” she said. “I guess it will be better now that I can participate if I get drafted there. I’m just trying to play the game I love no matter the location.”
Seattle will pick fifth and Dallas sixth. The Wings will be followed by Washington, Phoenix, Connecticut, New York, Los Angeles and Minnesota.