Starting Five: Thoughts on ’24 WNBA Draft announcement at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Like many of us, we have the WNBA app on our phones with the notifications turned on, of course. 

So…when we got the notification mentioning that this year’s WNBA Draft would be in an entirely different venue with fans available to purchase tickets, it certainly had us thinking. 

After a few years where the draft was held at Spring Studios in New York City, the scene for this year’s Draft is moving to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 

And as one may have guessed, guess what is only a hop, skip and a jump from the Brooklyn Academy of Music? Barclays Center – the home venue of the WNBA’s flagship franchise in the New York Liberty. 

And that draft is only in a month and a half so it will be here before we know it. 

Welcome Back, Fans!

The return of fans to the WNBA Draft makes the WNBA Draft feel more like….the WNBA Draft. 

It is another indication that the WNBA is ready to do things with a more big-budget mindset. 

The WNBA optimists among us love it for fans because, like any sporting get-together, fans are the essence of sports. Fans make an event feel more like an event and there are few events that are on the WNBA calendar that are more high-profile than the draft. 

Not to mention the draft, unlike its NBA equivalent, occurs a month prior to the season. The hype train begins for our WNBA season and those fans at the draft get clearer visions of what their teams will look like when play tips off the following month. 

Caitlin Clark

But we are also not naïve. 

One cannot ignore the timing of the announcement that this would be the first draft in some years available for fans to attend. In addition, it is at a big venue. 

About 24 hours later, Caitlin Clark who has a 99.999999999999999 percent chance of being drafted first overall by the Indiana Fever, declared for this year’s draft. 

Most years, who the No. 1 overall draft pick will be is a poorly kept secret. In 2018, we knew the Las Vegas Aces were drafting A’ja Wilson. In 2020, we knew the Liberty were selecting Sabrina Ionescu. 

In 2022 after the Atlanta Dream engineered a trade with the Washington Mystics for the No. 1 overall selection, we knew it was going to be Rhyne Howard. Last year, there was no doubt the Fever were selecting Aliyah Boston with the first pick. 

The WNBA also knows that Clark is a massive draw and it wants its piece of the pie. Early and mid-April will see lots of people taking flights from Des Moines to one of New York’s airports and there will be lots of Hawkeyes black and gold in the building that April evening. 

In addition to there being lots of black and gold in Brooklyn, expect there to be a sizable helping of black, seafoam and copper there as well. 

In the same way that the NBA draft is populated by many a New York Knicks fan as well as Brooklyn Nets fans, expect many of those that purchase tickets to this year’s draft to be Liberty Loyals. 

Those Lib Loyals probably may not put as much stock in the draft as they would have a few years ago when New York was in the midst of what was a full-scale organizational rebuild. 

The Liberty does have three selections – all 11th picks. Todd Roman’s latest mock at Beyond Women’s Sports has New York selecting Taiyanna Jackson out of Kansas. Getting drafted is one thing, but making the roster on a team as stacked as New York is another even though the Liberty need interior depth after Stefanie Dolson left Atlantic and Flatbush for the Washington Mystics. 

With this being an entirely new venue for the WNBA, the questions turn to if this will simply be a one-off situation or a sign of things to come in terms of what the WNBA’s long-term plans for the draft are. 

Other sports have made their drafts more of an event by bringing them to more cities. Imagine if the WNBA did the draft one year in Las Vegas or one year in Los Angeles or one year in Chicago. Or one year in a city that has become a major hub for the college game such as Knoxville, Hartford/Storrs or Columbia. 

One can guess that Cathy Engelbert will be asked about this the next time she has a media availability session.

Background info on venue

According to the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s website, it has been around for for over 150 years – certainly making it among the oldest and most venerable buildings in Brooklyn. 

Its founding year? That was 1861.

Gina Duncan is its current president. She previously was at the Sundance Institute and had a previous tenure with the Brooklyn Academy of Music as the Associate Vice President for Film. She also previously worked at NFL Films where she worked on Inside the NFL when it was on HBO. 

Because of its location close to Barclays, one could arrive at BAM utilizing the same Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center stop utilized by Lib Loyals to get to game days at The Clays. As New Yorkers know, nine subway lines – the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, and R trains all travel through that MTA hub.