The way Friday’s WNBA draft will be conducted will be much different from years past, for obvious reasons. But the way Lynx General Manager and coach Cheryl Reeve prepares for it won’t change much.
The coronavirus pandemic ended the women’s college basketball season before the NCAA tournament got a chance to start. But Reeve — and, certainly, the staffs of the rest of the teams around the 12-team league — already had a good idea who was atop their prospect boards.
Teams don’t work out draft picks. There is no pre-draft combine. Teams assess talent by watching prospects play during the season.
“I would say it’s largely unaffected, other than not being able to enjoy the finishing touches of watching an NCAA tournament,” Reeve said. “And finishing up at the Final Four, that ending to the process. But most of us, from an evaluation standpoint, have things under control.’’
In a national conference call with the media, WNBA analysts Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe said the lack of an NCAA tournament might have hurt a handful of prospects who don’t usually get a lot of national attention.
“Usually this time of year, when we’re talking to coaches or GMs, there’s one or two players who they talk about, [how] their draft stock soared throughout the course of the NCAA tournament,” Lobo said. “And because we didn’t have a tournament, we didn’t have a chance to see those players or have those experiences.”
But Reeve is confident she will know what to do when the team’s first draft pick — sixth overall — comes up.
She is far less sure about the way the actual draft will be run.
It will be a virtual draft. It is expected that nobody will be able to work at their team’s headquarters on draft night. That means everybody who is usually in the draft room will be working remotely.
“This certainly will be a big challenge,” Reeve said.
On a normal draft night, the Lynx room includes Reeve, assistant GM Clare Duwelius, the assistant coaches (Katie Smith, Plenette Pierson and Rebekkah Brunson), analytics specialist Paul Swanson, the team’s medical staff, the social media team and the public relations specialist, among others.
There is a big board of prospects and how the team ranks those players, and a chart addressing the personnel on the league’s other 11 teams. The team is on a draft-long conference call with the league, on which draft picks are made.
And then, usually, Reeve is busy from start to finish fielding and making calls, stepping in and out of the room to make those calls, returning and getting an update on how things are going.
That process will be more difficult. What if there is a surprise pick ahead of them that requires a change of course? What if a trade offer comes in with the clock ticking?
Everyone will need to be connected on a conference call. Everyone will need a duplicate of the main prospect board, prospects ranked by position and team rosters. Everyone will need to be able to communicate quickly and Reeve will need to be running the team video conference, the conference call with the league, and fielding calls from around the league.
“Say you want to trade down at six,” she said. “All these conversations are being had. But sometimes you get a call. Like last year, second round, [Connecticut coach] Curt Miller called out of the blue to do the Lexie Brown deal [the Lynx traded one of their second-round selections, Marquette guard Natisha Hiedeman, to the Sun for Brown]. So your ability to move quickly and sift through information, that will be incredibly compromised. What if there is a disconnection? You can’t say there won’t be one. There will have to be a plan in place.”
The Lynx only have two picks this year, sixth and 16th overall. Only having two makes it a bit easier. But Reeve is working hard figuring out how to set up a system with multiple lines, feeds and devices.
“I’ll have to transform a room, make a room in my house,” she said. “My own draft room.”