PHOENIX MERCURY

Phoenix Mercury land No. 3 overall pick in 2024 WNBA Draft

Dec 10, 2023, 2:58 PM | Updated: Dec 11, 2023, 5:20 pm

Paige Bueckers #5 of the UConn Huskies defends Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the se...

Paige Bueckers #5 of the UConn Huskies defends Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second half in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 27, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury will pick third overall in the 2024 WNBA Draft. The Indiana Fever were awarded the first overall pick after Sunday’s draft lottery.

The Fever won the lottery for the second time in franchise history after they selected Aliyah Boston, who last year went on to be named WNBA Rookie of the Year. Indiana also owns the WNBA’s longest playoff drought, having last made the postseason in 2016.

Only Indiana at 44.2% had better odds than Phoenix (27.6%) at nabbing the first pick. Lottery odds are based on the cumulative records of the two most recent regular seasons (2022 and 2023). Phoenix’s combined record over that stretch was 24-52, while Indiana’s was 18-58.

The Fever, Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm all took part in the WNBA Draft Lottery after missing the postseason.

The Sparks will pick second overall and the Storm will select fourth overall.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark is widely expected to be the first overall selection. Entering Sunday, she is averaging 29.6 points per game (the most in the nation). She is also averaging 7.6 assists per game (the fourth most). Clark, who has NIL deals with Nike, Bose and State Farm, has the option to return to Iowa to play a fifth season with the Hawkeyes.

Clark is the reigning winner of the AP Player of the Year, the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith College Player of the Year, USBWA National Player of the Year and the Wade Trophy. She was also the first player to be unanimously named Big Ten Player of the Year.

In 2023, Clark scored 191 points in the NCAA Tournament which broke the scoring record for a single NCAA tournament (men’s and women’s), but her Hawkeyes came up short in a loss against LSU in the national championship, despite Clark’s 30 points and eight assists.

Paige Bueckers is projected to be the second overall pick in many mock drafts. The UConn guard was eligible for the 2023 WNBA Draft but opted to return to school and is averaging 19.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.9 steals in eight games this season.

During her freshman campaign in 2020-21, Bueckers had one of the best seasons in college basketball history. She started all 29 games and averaged 20 points, 5.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds. She became the first freshman to win the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, AP Player of the Year and USBWA Player of the Year. The Huskies ended that season with a 28-2 record but were upset in the Final Four by the third-seeded Arizona Wildcats.

However, during her sophomore and junior seasons, Bueckers dealt with two significant knee injuries.

Bueckers missed all of last season due to an ACL tear she suffered in her left knee while playing in a pickup game in August 2022.

She also missed 19 games as a sophomore in 2021-22 due to a tibia plateau fracture and torn meniscus also in her left knee. Bueckers recovered to help lead UConn to the Final Four that season before losing to South Carolina in the national championship.

This season UConn is 5-3, but the Huskies’ three losses have all come to teams that are currently ranked in the top 5 of the latest AP poll.

Bueckers, who has NIL deals with Nike, Gatorade, Crocs and StockX, is eligible to remain at UConn through 2025.

Stanford forward Cameron Brink or South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso are possible fits for the Mercury at No. 3. The Mercury finished last in the league in rebounding last season and need front-court depth.

The No. 3 overall pick will be a helpful addition to Phoenix who finished last in the WNBA at 9-31 and failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012.

In addition to owning the No. 3 pick, the Mercury will take very different shape next season, organizationally. Not only with first-year coach Nate Tibbetts, whom the Mercury hired in October after a long career as an NBA assistant coach, but also with Arizona native Nick U’Ren who was hired as the Mercury’s general manager in July from the Golden State Warriors.

“This is a deep draft class and having the third pick will give us multiple options to add talent to our team,” U’Ren said. “We have the most amazing fans who have been so supportive as we continue to build to return to our championship-caliber play, and we look forward to what’s to come on draft night and beyond when we add another talented player to the Mercury.”

All-star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith is an unrestricted free agent but is unlikely to return. Diggins-Smith led the Mercury in minutes (34.0), points (19.7) and assists (5.5) per game in 2022 but hasn’t played for the team since Aug. 4, 2022, and missed the entirety of last season while on maternity leave.

The Mercury last picked in the lottery in 2013 when Brittney Griner was selected with the top pick. Griner went on to win a championship with the Mercury in 2014.

In 2009, the Mercury picked DeWanna Bonner at fifth overall and went on the win the championship the same season.

The Mercury were also in the lottery in 2006 when they picked Cappie Pondexter at No. 2 overall, in 2005 when they took Sandora Irvin with the third pick and in 2004 when they selected Diana Taurasi first overall.

When is the 2024 WNBA Draft?

The 2024 WNBA Draft is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 15.

2024 WNBA Draft order

1. Indiana Fever

2. Los Angeles Sparks

3. Phoenix Mercury

4. Seattle Storm

5. Dallas Wings (from Chicago Sky)

6. Washington Mystics

7. Minnesota Lynx

8. Atlanta Dream

9. Dallas Wings

10. Connecticut Sun

11. New York Liberty

12. Los Angeles Sparks (from Las Vegas Aces)

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