Paige Bueckers, Caitlin Clark, Hailey van Lith. 3 NCAA women’s basketball stars who also are freshmen in college. Bueckers, being the best out of the 3 has claimed almost every award than a college basketball player could want, winning AP Player of the Year, Naismith Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. She’s only missing a title. In an interview with Sue Bird, a 17 year WNBA veteran, Bueckers was said “to probably be the number 1 pick in this year’s draft.” Sadly, we won’t get a chance to know that this year as the WNBA requires its draft entrants to play all 4 years in college or be 22 and forgo eligibility. This rule clearly should mirror the NBA and allow for one-and-dones to benefit the student athlete but the real issue is with the WNBA itself: there simply isn’t enough room.
Chantel Jennings, a senior writer for all things women’s basketball at the Athletic recently tweeted about the difficulty in making a WNBA roster stating that “realistically there are only fewer than 9 spots”. That’s less than the number of picks in the first round of the draft. I’ll let you do the math on that one to find out how many first round picks, the 12 best players that college ball could offer to the league (under their rules), won’t make a team. Now there’s two logical solutions to this problem but only one is truly feasible. Option 1 is that the WNBA can add roster spots, further stacking teams and shoving talent down to the far left (or right) of the bench. From a logistical standpoint, this would force the W to spread their already small revenue pool further to each team in a way that they simply cannot afford. Option 2 is to introduce more teams. With only 12 WNBA teams and 3 of them being the only professional basketball team in the city, there is LARGE potential for expansion. Big NBA cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami and more have the infrastructure to not only obtain but support a WNBA team. The introduction of new teams in new markets would help to not only increase total league roster spots, but also potentially increase league revenue and vanity.
Popularity for women’s basketball is increasing. The potential for revenue is there; the question becomes who will be brave enough to expand the league and continue the growth of the W.