For just the second time in WNBA history, the Washington Mystics have earned the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft following the draft lottery.
Washington entered with just the third-best odds to receive the No. 1 overall pick with 17.8%. The Indiana Fever had the best chance with 44.2% to earn the top pick, followed by the Atlanta Dream with 27.6%. The Dallas Wings had the worst odds at 10.4%.
Washington guard Natasha Cloud was a rare player to represent her team at the lottery ceremony. Needless to say, she was hyped for the selection.
After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016 with a 12-20 record, the Mystics were one of four teams in the lottery. A combined 21-33 record over the last two seasons earned them the third-best odds.
There is great opportunity abound for the organization jumping up in the draft order. Two star college players in Rhyne Howard (G, Kentucky) and electric scorer NaLyssa Smith (F, Baylor) are the consensus top-two selections at this point in the collegiate season. Both would be strong additions to an already loaded roster consisting of Elena Delle Donne, Alysha Clark, Cloud and Ariel Atkins.
One drawback, however, of both prospects is that neither are considered 'franchise players' to build a team around. While the Mystics don't need to draft a franchise player with their talent level, there could be some doubt on the quality of players available to them with the top selection.
"When you come into a team like ours, they aren't expected to be saviors," head coach Mike Thibault told reporters after the lottery. "A lot of times when you're in a lottery, in any sport, that pick is supposed to be that person that turns it around. We don't need this draft pick to be somebody that turns us around. We need somebody to fit in and make us better, but they aren't going to carry the same weight maybe that somebody would going to another organization that hasn't been winning. We feel like we have a winning culture and a winning group of players that are already signed. This just enhances that more than anything. "
At the end of the season, Thibault did make it clear that he wanted this lottery pick to help return the Mystics to championship form. That included leaving the option of trading away the pick for a player (like they did in 2017 for Delle Donne) open.
However, that was when the expectation was the third overall pick.
"Now we hold the cards. We hold the cards if we want to make a trade. It allows us to be really clear with ourselves about what's important to us with this pick and so you're not playing a guessing game," Thibault said.
This will be the Mystics' lone selection in the 2022 draft. Both their second and third-round picks were traded away. They also did not have a pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft. Their last first-round selection was Kiara Leslie in the 2019.
The only other No. 1 pick for Washington came back in 1999 when the Mystics selected Chamique Holdsclaw. Holdsclaw was supposed to be the team representative at the lottery but could not participate this week due to the birth of her daughter.
If Washington retains the pick through April, they do have success with their recent first-round selections. Their last four picks dating to 2016 were Leslie, WNBA All-Star Ariel Atkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper.