2022 WNBA Draft: By the Numbers


Anyone in the mood to talk about number sense and basketball? With the 2022 WNBA Draft less than two weeks away, and 88 players filing for inclusion as candidates for the draft, the league has some not so logical number problems going on.

WNBA Number Basics

The first problem, there are only 36 draft choices per WNBA season so simple subtraction states that 52 players will not be drafted. However, this is not the only math problem the WNBA has. The league allows 12 players per team and there are 12 teams so that means there are a total of 144 players in the WNBA.

Currently, 11 of the 12 teams have over 13 players on their roster. The one exception, the Las Vegas Aces, have 11 players on their roster.  Right now there are 168 players in the WNBA. If you are a numbers geek, this is so much fun. If you are the WNBA, this numbers game is becoming a bigger math issue. Considering that no players retired after the 2021 season, where are all of these current players going to fit into the 144 roster spots? Additionally, what exactly is the value of the WNBA draft in 2022 or any season for that matter?

Things to Consider

There are a few factors in play when researching the logic of all these numbers. One, the average career of a WNBA player is roughly three and a half to five years, so even though the league is 25 years old, it was not advantageous to push past the five year mark. However, going back another five drafts (2016-2012) produce the following percentages: 48% of first-rounders, 10% of second-rounders, .5% of 3rd rounders are on a present WNBA roster.

Another factor to take into account are the 17 players that have 10 or more years of experience that are on current WNBA rosters. They may be considered outliers, especially Sue Bird with 18 years experience and Diana Taurasi with 17 years of experience. Also, there are 18 “Rookies” on current WNBA rosters that classify as outliers as well.

Draft History

After viewing the current WNBA rosters and researching the previous five drafts, the numbers tell no lies.

Taking a peak at the 2021 draft, 68% of the players chosen in the first-round, 75% from the second-round, and 17% from the third-round are on a roster today. The 2020 draft has 83% of its first-round picks, 75% of its second-round picks, and 17% of its third-round picks on a current WNBA roster.

Moving on to the 2019 WNBA draft, there are 92% first-rounders, 67% second-rounders, and 8% third-rounders on a roster, presently.  The 2018 WNBA draft produced 67% first-round picks, five second-round picks and zero third-round picks currently on a roster. Finally, 2017 shows eight first-round picks, three second-round picks, and zero third-round picks on a WNBA roster.

On average about 75% of players chosen in the first-round over the last five years are on a WNBA roster today. For those players chosen in the second-round that average drops to roughly 58% on a WNBA roster. As for the third-round success of players on an active roster, that average is a dismal 8%.

Number Sense

At this point, these 2022 WNBA Draft numbers feel like one big word problem. Eighty-eight players want to be drafted in the 2022 WNBA Draft and there are 36 draft slots available. There are 168 players in the WNBA and only 144 positions available. How many potential players will not make an WNBA roster in 2022? The sad answer to that problem is 112 potential players will not be in the WNBA this season. That number, 112, is equivalent to over nine WNBA teams.

On the one hand these numbers definitely shout out the need for WNBA expansion, even if it is only two teams added to the league. The talent is not the issue, nor will it ever be an issue when it comes to women’s basketball. Of course, some of the 112 players will find overseas teams to play for. At least they will be able to extend their playing careers.

When compared to NBA rosters that allow for 450 total players in the league, 144 players is a really small number. Even if all of the 112 potential players made a WNBA roster, that is still only 256 players total, a little more than half of an NBA roster. In order to accommodate all those players, the WNBA would have to expand to include at least 10 more teams. Expansion makes the numbers make sense logically.

Illogically Logical Solutions

If expansion is not the answer, then there is no real answer to where all of these potential players are going to fit into the WNBA. The only viable answer is, they are not going to fit in the WNBA and especially not this 2022 WNBA Draft. Good luck in other countries and maybe one year you can try again to make a WNBA team.

This all leads back to the value of the WNBA Draft after the 1st or 2nd round. A simple solution is to get rid of the 3rd round altogether. The research illustrates that in the last five seasons (2021-2017), on average only one player drafted in the 3rd round is on a current roster. Going back another five years (2016-2012), basically there are zero players on an active WNBA roster. The numbers clearly show that the 3rd round does not produce WNBA players.

Go ahead and keep the 1st and 2nd round of the WNBA draft and allow 24 players to be chosen each season. In addition, put a cap on how many players are able to declare each year, so that all of these talented, young ball players can pursue other playing options or other career options in general.

It is crystal clear that the numbers in any other scenario besides WNBA expansion do not make any sense. There is no equity or room for growth in women’s professional basketball when the numbers do not add up. The WNBA draft, overall, will reflect true value when the game is allowed to grow, flourish, and is inclusive of the many talented basketball players primed to shine.







About Sharon Ostrom

    Recommended for you

    Powered by themekiller.com