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". 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.
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.
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.
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).
Dena Head is the oldest #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 #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 amongst them. In the seventeen seasons that the WNBA has been in existence, eight #1 draft picks have helped lead their teams to a playoff berth in their rookie year.
|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||Connecticut||Seattle Storm|
|2003||LaToya Thomas||United States||Mississippi State||Cleveland Rockers|
|2004||Diana Taurasi[b]||United States||Connecticut||Phoenix Mercury|
|2005||Janel McCarville||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][e]||United States||Tennessee||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2009||Angel McCoughtry[b]||United States||Louisville||Atlanta Dream|
|2010||Tina Charles[b]||United States||Connecticut||Connecticut Sun|
|2011||Maya Moore[b][c]||United States||Connecticut||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||Connecticut||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|