The Indiana Fever might opt out of the WNBA draft lottery in perpetuity.
Despite having the best odds of getting the No. 1 overall pick, the Fever once again lost out and had to settle for No. 2.
The Washington Mystics leapt to the front of the field to win Sunday's lottery.
With the draft order set, here's how the first round looks.
WNBA Draft Order
- Washington Mystics
- Indiana Fever
- Atlanta Dream
- Dallas Wings (via Sparks)
- New York Liberty
- Chicago Sky (via Wings)
- Dallas Wings (via Sky)
- Minnesota Lynx (via Mercury)
- Seattle Storm
- Indiana Fever (via Lynx)
- Las Vegas Aces
- Connecticut Sun
This is a bit like the San Antonio Spurs winning the 1997 NBA draft lottery after an injury to David Robinson left them as one of the league's worst teams.
The Mystics finished 12-20 in 2021, a record that was in no small part due to Elena Delle Donne appearing in just three games. Emma Meesseman, the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP, also skipped the entire season.
Prior to the lottery, Washington's future looked a little murky. Delle Donne's back problems are concerning, while Tina Charles is due to hit free agency and seemed to imply she wants to suit up for a title contender.
Putting the Mystics atop the 2022 power rankings might be a little premature before the biggest dominoes fall in free agency, but their outlook is a lot more positive following Sunday.
For many, Kentucky's Rhyne Howard is the best player in the 2022 draft class.
The Wildcats guard is averaging 18.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists through nine games. She's also shooting a personal-best 45.9 percent from the field. She also boasts a 4.2 steal percentage and 3.5 block percentage, per Her Hoops Stats.
Howard's ability to score at all three levels, combined with her 6'2" frame, is bound to make her a prized asset.
If anybody is going to dethrone Howard atop draft boards, it will probably be Baylor's NaLyssa Smith.
"The major consensus is that these two are far and away the two best prospects, and it's a 1a-and-1b situation while there's a significant decline with the rest of the field," The Athletic's Chantel Jennings reported.
Smith is perhaps the best all-around player eligible for the 2022 draft. She ranks 14th in offensive win shares (2.7) and 11th in defensive win shares (1.5), according to Her Hoops Stats.
The Bears forward is averaging 20.4 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Baylor might have fallen just short of taking down Maryland on Nov. 21, but it was through no fault of Smith as she finished with 30 points and 15 boards.
Opinions on the 2021 draft class were generally lukewarm. The New York Liberty moved out of the No. 1 spot in a sign-and-trade for Natasha Howard, and the Seattle Storm immediately flipped the pick as part of a sprawling four-team swap.
Considering how talented Rhyne Howard and Smith are, it seems unlikely there will be the same kind of movement this spring. The Fever may have lost out on No. 1, but they're bound to get an impact addition regardless of whether it's Howard or Smith falling into their lap.
In general, the WNBA's new collective bargaining agreement has also placed a higher premium on young players with cost-controlled contracts. Veteran players are earning more than they ever did, but that's leaving a lot of teams in a financial crunch against the hard salary cap.
Given the surplus value rookies provide, it would likely take a lot to pry one of the first two selections away from the Mystics or Fever.