The WNBA Draft is an annual draft held by the WNBA through which WNBA teams can select new players from a talent pool of college and professional women's basketball players. The first WNBA Draft was held in 1997.


The WNBA "requires players to be at least 22, to have completed their college eligibility, to have graduated from a four-year college or to be four years removed from high school".[1][2] Since the WNBA draft is currently held in April, before most U.S. colleges and universities have ended their academic years, the league considers anyone scheduled to graduate in the 3 months after the draft to be a "graduate" for draft purposes. The current rules for draft eligibility have been in place since at least 2014.[3][4]

The specifics of this rule differ in several ways from those used by the NBA for its draft.

For the 2021 draft only, the league and its players union, the Women's National Basketball Players Association, agreed to modified eligibility rules due to changes brought on by COVID-19. The most significant change is that all age-eligible college players who wished to enter that draft had to opt in. Because the NCAA ruled that the 2020–21 season would not count against the eligibility of any basketball player, everyone who played in that season, regardless of class, had remaining athletic eligibility at the time of the draft. Players who wished to enter the 2021 draft had to renounce college eligibility and notify the WNBA offices by email no later than April 1 of that year. Players involved in the 2021 Final Four had 48 hours after the completion of their final game, instead of the normal 24, to notify the league of their intent to enter the draft.[11]


The 1997 WNBA draft was divided into three parts. The first part was the initial allocation of 16 players into individual teams. Players such as Cynthia Cooper and Michelle Timms were assigned to different teams. The second part was the WNBA Elite draft, which was composed of professional women's basketball players who had competed in other leagues. The last part would be the 4 rounds of the regular draft.

The next three seasons to follow 1998, 1999 and 2000 would all have expansion drafts. There would not be another expansion draft until the 2006 season.

All seasons before 2002 had 4 rounds. Since 2003, all drafts are 3 rounds.

In 2003 and 2004, there were dispersal drafts due to the folding of the Cleveland Rockers, Miami Sol and Portland Fire. The players from Rockers, Sol and Fire were reallocated to existing teams. There were also dispersal drafts in 2007 with the folding of the Charlotte Sting, 2009 with the shuttering of the Houston Comets, and in 2010 when the Maloofs cast off the Sacramento Monarchs to focus their resources on the Kings franchise in the NBA.

Players selected

There are no restrictions on what part of the world the players come from (though under varying rules, international players have been subject to tighter age restrictions within the draft than college players). However, college sports governing bodies, most notably the NCAA, prohibit players from competing in professional leagues simultaneously with their college eligibility. Once the player has joined the WNBA, she is eligible to participate in overseas leagues during the WNBA offseason (many WNBA players play in Europe, Australia, or more recently China).

First picks

See also: List of first overall WNBA draft picks

Dena Head is the oldest No. 1 draft pick (she was 27 years old), having graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1992 and the first player ever drafted to the WNBA. Lauren Jackson is the youngest No. 1 draft pick, being drafted at the age of 19. As of 2012, six first picks have gone on to win WNBA Championships, with 12 rings among them. In the seventeen seasons that the WNBA has been in existence, eight No. 1 draft picks have helped lead their teams to a playoff berth in their rookie year.

Year Player Country College/Club Drafted by
1997 Elite Dena Head United States Tennessee Utah Starzz[a]
1997 Tina Thompson United States USC Houston Comets
1998 Margo Dydek Poland Wychowania Fizycznego (Poland) Utah Starzz[a]
1999 Chamique Holdsclaw[b][c] United States Tennessee Washington Mystics
2000 Ann Wauters Belgium Valenciennes (France) Cleveland Rockers
2001 Lauren Jackson[d] Australia Canberra Capitals (Australia) Seattle Storm
2002 Sue Bird[c] United States UConn[e] Seattle Storm
2003 LaToya Thomas United States Mississippi State Cleveland Rockers
2004 Diana Taurasi[b] United States UConn[e] Phoenix Mercury
2005 Janel McCarville[12] United States Minnesota Charlotte Sting
2006 Seimone Augustus[b][d] United States LSU Minnesota Lynx
2007 Lindsey Harding United States Duke Phoenix Mercury (traded to Minn.)
2008 Candace Parker[b][f] United States Tennessee Los Angeles Sparks
2009 Angel McCoughtry[b] United States Louisville Atlanta Dream
2010 Tina Charles[b] United States UConn[e] Connecticut Sun
2011 Maya Moore[b][c] United States UConn[e] Minnesota Lynx
2012 Nneka Ogwumike[b] United States Stanford Los Angeles Sparks
2013 Brittney Griner United States Baylor Phoenix Mercury
2014 Chiney Ogwumike[b] United States Stanford Connecticut Sun
2015 Jewell Loyd[b] United States Notre Dame Seattle Storm
2016 Breanna Stewart[b] United States UConn Seattle Storm
2017 Kelsey Plum United States Washington San Antonio Stars[a]
2018 A'ja Wilson[b][d] United States South Carolina Las Vegas Aces
2019 Jackie Young United States Notre Dame Las Vegas Aces
2020 Sabrina Ionescu United States Oregon New York Liberty
2021 Charli Collier United States Texas New York Liberty (traded to Dallas via Seattle)
2022 Rhyne Howard United States Kentucky Atlanta Dream
  1. ^ a b c This franchise now competes as the Las Vegas Aces.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Named WNBA Rookie of the Year.
  3. ^ a b c Started in the WNBA All-Star Game in her rookie season.
  4. ^ a b c Named as an All-Star Game reserve in her rookie season.
  5. ^ a b c d At the time of this draft, the University of Connecticut used "Connecticut" as its primary athletic brand, with "UConn" as a frequently used short form. "UConn" became the sole athletic brand in the 2013–14 school year.
  6. ^ Named WNBA MVP in her rookie season.
Sue Bird, on offense
Sue Bird, on offense

See also


  1. ^ Bishop, Greg (June 16, 2009). "Rutgers Basketball Star to Turn Pro in Europe". The New York Times. Retrieved December 6, 2009.
  2. ^ Analyzing the WNBA's Mandatory Age/Education Policy from a Legal, Cultural, and Ethical Perspective: Women, Men, and the Professional Sports Landscape See Note No. 100
  3. ^ "Article XIII, Section 1: Player Eligibility" (PDF). 2014 Women's National Basketball Association Collective Bargaining Agreement. Women's National Basketball Players Association. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Article XIII, Section 1: Player Eligibility" (PDF). 2020 Women's National Basketball Association Collective Bargaining Agreement. Women's National Basketball Players Association. pp. 110–11. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  5. ^ Coon, Larry (July 1, 2018). "76. What are the rules relating to international players and teams?". NBA Salary Cap FAQ. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  6. ^ "Article X, Section 1(b)(ii)" (PDF). 2017 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. National Basketball Players Association. January 19, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  7. ^ "Article X, Section 1(b)(ii)(F)" (PDF). 2017 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. National Basketball Players Association. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  8. ^ Goodman, Jeff (January 13, 2016). "College players given extra time to mull NBA draft decision". Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  9. ^ "Flexibility for going pro and getting a degree". NCAA. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
  10. ^ Litman, Laken (April 10, 2019). "Jackie Young, Future Players Need More Than 24 Hours to Enter WNBA Draft". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  11. ^ "College players will need to opt-in to upcoming WNBA draft". Associated Press. March 8, 2021. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  12. ^ ", White, Irvin Go First in the 2005 WNBA Draft". Retrieved April 16, 2016.