NEW YORK (AP) — Bill Laimbeer and the Las Vegas Aces are on a hot streak.
The franchise will have the first pick in the WNBA draft for a third straight year after barely missing the playoffs this past season. No team had ever had the No. 1 pick in three consecutive years.
“Well, you know, our franchise is an up-and-coming franchise,” Laimbeer said. “We were the youngest team in the league this year. With the No. 1 pick this year it gives us multiple options. I’m sure our phone will ring off the hook.”
Las Vegas had the second-best chance (27.6 percent) to secure the top choice after finishing with the second-worst combined record the past two seasons. They drafted Kelsey Plum in 2016 when the team was still in San Antonio and took A’ja Wilson with the No. 1 pick this past season. Now, Laimbeer has a chance to add another piece to a talented young team.
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Laimbeer, the Aces’ president and coach, said he will explore trading the top pick if the right offer comes along.
“I’m not overly excited as there’s no consensus No. 1. There’s no A’ja Wilson,” Laimbeer said. “There are a lot of quality players. There’s no lock-solid ‘this player will be unbelievable’ pick out there.”
Las Vegas was 14-20 this past season, a game out of the final playoff berth. Laimbeer didn’t think his team would get the top pick again. He thought it was going to New York, despite the Liberty having the worst chance to win the lottery. His premonition almost came true as the Liberty got the No. 2 pick.
“I had a piece of paper that had New York with the top pick, Indiana second and then a coin flip between us and Chicago,” he said.
The Liberty were thrilled to get the second pick. The team had the second-worst record in the league, but since the lottery is based on a two-year mark, they had only a 10 percent chance of getting the No. 1 selection.
“I was definitely getting a little bit anxious,” Liberty coach Katie Smith said when she saw Chicago had the fourth pick. “I was getting a little greedy in my head, ‘Why not us?’ Getting number two was awesome.”
Indiana, which had a 44 percent chance to get the top pick, will go third and Chicago will pick fourth.
“Obviously it’s not the pick that we wanted,” said Fever general manager and coach Pokey Chatman, “but it’s a good draft class and we know that each player that sits atop that board will definitely fill a need that we have. The last time this organization drafted No. 3, it turned out extremely well in the form of Tamika Catchings. There is a lot of time between now and April, so we’re looking very forward to evaluating players.”
While there may not be a marquee player in this season’s draft like Wilson, there are a lot of talented seniors led by centers Kalani Brown of Baylor and Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State. Louisville guard Asia Durr and Final Four MVP Arike Ogunbowale are also in the class. As usual, UConn also has two potential lottery picks in Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.
Dallas will pick fifth and Minnesota sixth. The Lynx will be followed by Los Angeles, Phoenix, Connecticut, Washington, Atlanta and Seattle.
Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg