WNBA Draft lottery, explained: How Fever got opportunity to select Caitlin Clark with back-to-back No. 1 picks

It’s a quick turnaround for college basketball players heading into the WNBA Draft.

South Carolina won the national championship on Sunday, April 7, and the WNBA Draft is scheduled for Monday, April 15. That’s just a week to celebrate — or decompress from — the end of the college hoops season.

Players such as Caitlin Clark and Kamilla Cardoso are a couple of names headlining the draft on Monday. Clark, the presumed No. 1 overall pick in the draft, would be heading to the Indiana Fever if selected first.

The Fever own the No. 1 overall pick for a second consecutive season after another poor year of basketball. They improved from 2022 but still found themselves near the bottom of the standings. Clark would join the 2023 No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston in Indiana, forming a duo that would hopefully rejuvenate the franchise.

But why does Indiana have the luxury of selecting first two seasons in a row? Here’s the explanation and how the WNBA Draft lottery works.

MORE: WNBA Mock Draft 2024

How the WNBA Draft lottery works

The WNBA Draft lottery follows a unique format that other professional leagues don’t use.

Typically, the lottery will take the previous season’s record into account when calculating odds. The WNBA combines the past two seasons to create a cumulative record. The team with the worst cumulative record earns the best odds for the upcoming WNBA Draft.

WATCH: Stream the WNBA Draft on Sling TV

Since the WNBA only consists of 12 teams, the lottery is just the four teams with the worst records over the past two seasons. That’s the Fever, Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm this year.

The Fever, who had the worst cumulative record, had the best odds to land the No. 1 pick.

Here’s how the odds shaped up before the drawing in December:

Team Odds for No. 1 pick Combined 2022-23 record
Indiana Fever 44.2% 18-58
Phoenix Mercury 27.6% 24-52
Los Angeles Sparks 17.8% 30-46
Seattle Storm 10.4% 33-43

The top four picks are decided based on a four-digit combination. Balls numbers 1-14 are selected at random to form a four-digit code. Whichever team has that combination earns the top pick and so on until the top four is finished.

Since the Fever have a higher percentage chance at the top pick, they had more four-digit combinations.

Picks 5-12 of the first round are decided by record, so it’s not possible for the best team to get lucky and rise up in the draft. The second and third rounds mirror the first-round order.

How the Fever won No. 1 picks in 2023 and 2024

The Fever haven’t had a winning season since 2015 but only selected No. 1 for the first time in 2023.

Boston, a former South Carolina forward, was the coveted player from the 2023 class. It helped the Fever improve from 5-31 to 13-27. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep Indiana out of the lottery.

The Fever compiled the worst cumulative record over the past two seasons, which gave them the best odds at the top pick in a stacked 2024 class. Barring something catastrophic, Indiana will select Clark with the first overall pick.

A Clark and Boston pairing is what the franchise hopes can take the team out of the league’s basement. It’s already poised to draw in a much larger audience from in-person and at-home viewers.

MORE: How Caitlin Clark, Aliyah Boston can form a WNBA powerhouse

Given the two-year cumulative record rule for the WNBA lottery, it’s not uncommon for a team to earn the No. 1 pick in back-to-back seasons. This is the fourth occurrence.

The Seattle Storm did it twice, picking first in 2001 and 2002, then in 2015 and 2016. They landed Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart with those four selections.

The Las Vegas Aces picked first three times in a row between 2015 and 17 — the most consecutive No. 1 picks in history. They selected Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young. Plum was selected as a member of the San Antonio Stars before the franchise moved to Las Vegas.

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