There won’t be any Anthony Bennett-type gasps after the first selection of the 2020 WNBA Draft.
That’s not only because Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu is a sure bet to go to the New York Liberty at No. 1, but also due to the virtual format of the draft to be broadcasted on ESPN at 7 p.m on Friday.
Washington Mystics Head Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault came on the Wizards Talk Podcast with Chris Miller to discuss the updated look of the upcoming draft.
“lt’ll be different,” Thibault said. “Probably, we’ll do the picks a little bit ahead of the actual broadcast to some degree just so the people on the broadcast, ESPN, can have the players they normally would have on the stage.”
While the logistics of actually drafting players won’t change much due to the coronavirus pandemic, as teams will still be selecting players on a league-wide conference call, the separation of each teams’ staff is what’s different.
The league announced on March 26 that the draft would go on as scheduled, only without players, guests, and media.
"I feel sorry for the players, the excitement that goes away with actually going to New York and walking on the stage and doing all that," Thibault said.
The Mystics are coming off their first WNBA title in team history, and therefore will have the final pick in each of the draft's three rounds - “a good problem to have” for Thibault and Co.
The nature of the WNBA calendar occurring during the summer months gives Thibault, and coaches all around the league, an advantage NBA coaches don’t: Time to scout college players during the offseason.
“I have all winter to literally focus on free agency and the draft,” he said. “I’ve been watching film on players, going to practices and games since early November.”
Fortunately, Thibault got a grasp of what his team needed heading into the draft before the COVID-19 outbreak turned the world upside down. With a championship squad returning, Thibault said he isn't looking for someone to come and contribute right away.
“We don’t need a player to come in and change our team," he said. “That’s just not a necessary thing. They’re probably not going to play a ton, and we would consider trading the pick if the right trade was there.”
Despite the title, Washington has been busy during the offseason. After losing star guard Kristi Toliver to LA, Thibault found a familiar replacement in Leilani Mitchell. Mitchell, a Mystic in 2016, was the 2019 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year with Phoenix, and her ability to space the floor with Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman will be essential for another postseason run.
Look for Thibault and the Mystics to focus on securing a player who can handle multiple positions and can help maintain the team’s chemistry, which is already among the best in the league.
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