The team rosters for AT&T WNBA All-Star 2019 are set after the selections made by All-Star captains Elena Delle Donne and A’ja Wilson were revealed on Tuesday night in the first televised WNBA All-Star Team Selection Special.
Here are seven takeaways form how the draft played out and the teams that will meet this Saturday in Las Vegas for the 16th WNBA All-Star Game, which tips off at 3:30 ET on ABC.
In case you missed the Selection Special, you can see how it all went down here.
1. Captains Select The Teammate … Again
In the second year of the new All-Star format with players selecting their own teams regardless of conference, both team captains selected their WNBA teammates rather than splitting up for the day. Elena Delle Donne selected Kristi Toliver with the 10th overall pick (her first selection of the reserve round), while Wilson picked Kayla McBride and Liz Cambage with her second and third picks in the starters round.
2. Did Delle Donne’s Favor Backfire?
By being the overall leading vote getter by fans, Elena Delle Donne held the first overall pick in the starters round, and rather than selecting one of Wilson’s Aces teammates in Cambage or McBride, she went with Phoenix’s Brittney Griner. In addition to getting a great big to build her team around in Griner, Delle Donne was also doing Wilson a solid by keeping Wilson’s Aces teammates on the board for her to select.
Then A’ja didn’t pick an Ace with her first selection, going with Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray instead. I wish ESPN had used the split screen view when Wilson announced that pick just to see the look on Delle Donne’s face as her gesture backfired on her.
Delle Donne bursted out: “What?! What?! So no Liz, we’re not doing that, what’s going on? A’ja, I left you your teammate and you went with Chelsea Gray, and I left you your teammate.”
Delle Donne could have gone for payback and taken Cambage or McBride with her next pick, but she stuck to her original plan of not choosing any Aces and went with Seattle’s Jewell Loyd instead. Delle Donne taking Cambage would have been fun. First, a frontline of Delle Donne, Cambage and Griner would have been awesome to see. Second, it could have led to a blockbuster All-Star draft trade at the end of the night if Wilson was determined to unite her Aces squad. Third, would it have cost A’ja her spot in the DJ booth next to Cambage during Friday night’s All-Star Beach Party?
3. Teammates Sticking Together
It wasn’t just the players on the captains’ teams that stuck together in this draft, most teams with multiple All-Stars had all their players end up on the same squad.
- Mystics: Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver on Team Delle Donne
- Aces: A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Kayla McBride on Team Wilson
- Lynx: Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier* and Odyssey Sims on Team Wilson
- Mercury: Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner on Team Delle Donne
- Liberty: Kia Nurse and Tina Charles* on Team Delle Donne
- Sun: Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas on Team Delle Donne
4. Opponents For the Day
Only three teams saw their All-Star split between Team Delle Donne and Team Wilson. Both teams will feature a Los Angeles Spark with Chelsea Gray as a starter for Team Wilson and Nneka Ogwumike as a reserve on Team Delle Donne. Seattle has two starters in the game with Jewell Loyd on Team Delle Donne going up against Natasha Howard on Team Wilson. Finally, Chicago featured three reserve guards that were split with Allie Quigley and Candice Dupree on Team Wilson and Courtney Vandersloot on Team Delle Donne.
5. Post-Draft Trades
Delle Donne and Wilson executed two trades after their selections were complete. The first made total sense with the teams swapping coaches.
Let’s begin with the rules to establish why this trade went down. The All-Star coaches were selected by virtue of having the top two records in the WNBA as of July 12. Bill Laimbeer and the Aces had clinched the best record at that point, which assigned Laimbeer to coach the team captained by the top vote-getter (Delle Donne). Mike Thibault and the Mystics had clinched the second-best record through July 12, which assigned Thibault to coach the team captained by the second-leading vote-getter (Wilson).
So rather than have the Aces coach lead a squad captained by a Mystic, while the Mystics coach was captained by an Ace, Delle Donne and Wilson agreed to swap coaches and keep their squad and coaching staffs together.
After the coaching swap, the captains also agreed to a player swap with New York’s Tina Charles heading to Team Delle Donne and rookie Napheea Collier heading to Team Wilson. This also reunited teammates – Charles with Kia Nurse on Team Delle Donne, and Collier with Fowles and Sims on Team Wilson. It also sent Collier – the player selected by new WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to replace the injured Wilson onto Wilson’s team.
6. Experience vs. Youth
During the Draft Selection Special on ESPN, Rebecca Lobo made a great point that young All-Stars making their debut on the All-Star stage are eager to play and make their mark on the game while veterans are looking to manage playing as well as getting some rest during the break.
If that reasoning holds true, expect to see a lot of energy coming from Team Wilson, which features five of the six first-time All-Stars in this year’s event.
First Time All-Stars
- Kia Nurse (New York Liberty) – Team Delle Donne
- Natasha Howard (Seattle Storm) – Team Wilson
- Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx) – Team Wilson
- Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky) – Team Wilson
- Odyssey Sims (Minnesota Lynx) – Team Wilson
- Erica Wheeler (Indiana Fever) – Team Wilson
Team Delle Donne holds the experience edge with her 11 players combining for 40 All-Star appearances, compare to Wilson’s 12 players combining for just 32.
7. Roster Composition
Throughout the draft, Wilson touted the size of her squad as she loaded up on frontcourt players early in the draft. However, when the draft was complete and the trades were executed, it was Team Delle Donne that ended up with the size advantage as she has seven frontcourt players and just four guards on her team. Team Wilson has an even split with six frontcourt players and six guards, but when you account for Wilson being unable to play, that shifts to a 6-5 split in favor of guards.
While the captains were required to pick their starters from the eight-player starters pool, followed by their reserves from the 13 player reserves pool, they were not required to make any selections based on conference or position.
When it comes to height, Wilson has five players under 6-feet tall, while Delle Donne has just three. Meanwhile, Delle Donne has five players that are at least 6-foot-4 (Griner at 6-9, Jones at 6-6, Delle Donne at 6-5, Bonner and Charles both at 6-4), while Wilson has just three such players (Cambage at 6-8, Fowles at 6-6 and Wilson at 6-4) and only two that will play on Saturday.
The average height of Team Delle Donne is 6-foot 1.91 inches; the average height of Team Wilson is 6-foot 0.83 inches when including Wilson and drops to 6-foot 0.55 inches without the captain.
Overall the Western Conference holds a 12-11 edge in All-Star selections after the addition of Collier to replace the injured Wilson. The team captains both leaned heavy on their respective conference for their picks with Team Delle Donne featuring seven of its 11 players from the East and Team Wilson having eight of its 12 players from the West.