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Inside the W with Michelle Smith: Draft Lottery Preview

Four teams will have the chance to draft a player that could impact their team’s fortunes for years to come as the annual WNBA Draft Lottery is scheduled to take place on December 19 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The 2022 Lottery field features three teams that finished outside the playoff picture in 2021 – Indiana, Atlanta, and Washington and one made the playoffs but earned its spot via a trade in the Dallas Wings. Lottery odds are based on the cumulative records of the two most recent regular seasons (2020 and 2021).

While each of these teams has specific needs to address in 2022, the lottery isn’t really about that. It’s about the opportunity to draft and develop one of the best collegiate players in the nation. Utilizing that player’s already substantial skills and talents to better your team, no matter what position they play.

Let’s take a look at the state of our four lottery teams heading into the draw.

Indiana Fever. The Fever have the best chances of earning the No. 1 pick in the 2022 Draft at 44.2%. That would be a first for the franchise, who despite recent struggles and finishing with either the league’s worst or second-to-worst record in four of the past five seasons, have never had the luck of the draw to put them in the No. 1 spot.

Indiana has to like the idea of getting a shot at another player who could improve their fortunes.

Last year, the Fever ended up with the No. 4 pick and took West Virginia’s Kysre Gondrezick, a surprise choice who missed the final 14 games of the season after leaving for personal reasons. Gondrezick later revealed her leave was due to mental health struggles.

A No. 1 draft pick would add nicely to a roster that includes a lot of young talent, including fourth-year guard Kelsey Mitchell, who led Indiana in scoring last season and was the only player on the roster to see action in all 32 games. In her third season in 2021, center Teaira McCowan had her best season as a professional, finishing among the league’s rebounding leaders at 9.6 rebounds a game. Indiana has six players who are not under contract currently. The Fever need more of a scoring punch next season. Drafting another young scorer can either add depth, offer trade possibilities for more veteran leadership or provide a level of excitement and anticipation that the Fever could definitely use.

Atlanta Dream. The Dream, under new head coach Tanisha Wright and new GM Dan Padover, have a chance to make an early splash with a No. 1 pick and a player that can help them in their rebuilding process. Atlanta has a 27.6% chance to nail down the No. 1 pick. With a No. 1 pick, questions about this team can begin to be answered: who will replace veterans Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford? What’s second-year guard Chennedy Carter’s status? Carter missed the final 15 games last season because of a suspension.

Washington Mystics. The Mystics’ injuries that plagued the 2021 season have landed them in the lottery for the first time since 2016. Washington has a 17.8% chance. The Mystics need to hit a “reset” button, according to head coach Mike Thilbault, who just received a contract extension. 2x MVP Elena Delle Donne was limited to three games this season following back surgery, which followed her missing the 2020 season in the bubble. The Mystics’ free-agent signee from the Seattle Storm, Alysha Clark missed the 2021 season with a foot injury. 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman stayed overseas in an Olympic year. And Tina Charles, who is still seeking the first WNBA title of her illustrious career, is a free agent. A No 1 pick might not answer every question for Washington, but it would definitely provide a boost and the opportunity to begin setting expectations for something better in 2022.

Dallas Wings (from LA). The Wings earn the final lottery spot thanks to an April trade with Los Angeles and have a 10.4% chance of landing the No. 1 pick. The Wings owned the No. 1 pick last year, drafting Charli Collier. High draft positions have defined the franchise’s talent base over the past few years including Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally, and Collier. They also have the No. 6 pick this season. But this is a team, under head coach Vickie Johnson, that wants to go from the fringes of the postseason picture to the center of attention. And they need a veteran starter to do it. So it might be time to start leveraging all of these young picks for some trade possibilities.

Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.