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If you have somehow missed this week's news, the WNBA is really expanding.
Led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the Golden State Warriors have been approved to bring a WNBA team to the Bay Area, marking the league's first expansion since 2008 when the Dream took root in Atlanta.
This is a full-circle moment for Lacob, in particular, who was a major investor in the American Basketball League (ABL) in the late '90s and operated the San Jose Lasers for a period of time before the league folded. He felt he was part of the future and better league at the time (as any investor should).
The WNBA is no longer the "other league" but the preeminent American league, and it's good to see groups led by people like Lacob and Gruber -- seemingly willing to open their wallets and truly invest at the same level as what we've seen lately with the likes of the Tsais in New York and Mark Davis in Las Vegas -- join the next phase and hopefully be a part of pushing the league even further.
About the expansion Dream (2009): "...[Owner] Terwilliger agreed to pay the WNBA $10 million. He paid $1 m. upfront, and then agreed to pay at least another $1 m. during the next 4 years and the remaining $8 m. in annual installments beginning in 2010."https://t.co/lo5yV9R9Eb https://t.co/JgW9DXLRFv— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) October 5, 2023
Without naming a specific city, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert made it clear during the press conference that the WNBA doesn't plan to stop there. Separate reports indicate Portland is currently the leading target for a 14th team to also join in 2025, alongside the yet-to-be-named "Golden State" franchise.
Story with the latest on where Portland stands as a WNBA expansion candidate following today's San Francisco announcement, including details on the prospective ownership group and timing of upcoming renovations to the Moda Center:https://t.co/D4T0bCPzRl— Sean Highkin (@highkin) October 5, 2023
Some may question why the league would go back to Portland, given the Portland Fire were there for three years and folded after the 2002 season, but there are some things to consider:
Support in Portland (SupPortland?) was great at the time, with their average attendance consistently above 8,000 per-game over each of their three years in the league. Those numbers were middle-of-the-league at the time and would have made them fourth in attendance this past season.
The time period in which the Fire (and Miami Sol) folded was a turbulent one in the WNBA, with the NBA looking to ownership groups to take over control of the league's franchises. The Sol and Fire folded in 2003, and the Orlando Miracle and Utah Starzz each relocated (to Connecticut and San Antonio, respectively). The end of the Fire did not indicate a lack of interest in the franchise. More details from this newsletter less than a year ago: https://letter.acrossthetimeline.com/archive/wnba-coaching-extensions-and-a-fizzling-fire/
While any new teams won't be joining until 2025, there's plenty of minutiae for the league and its competition committee to work out in the meantime, including, but surely not limited to:
How will this next expansion draft work? It'll be the first expansion since 2008 but likely the first multi-team expansion since 2000, in a time when there wasn't yet (1) free agency (!) or (2) a draft lottery. Fair to say the machinations will be different this time. (Richard Cohen had some good thoughts based on the last expansion in 2008.)
Will the Commissioner's Cup change at all? Reports have suggested that with the next two expansion teams likely both adding to the Western Conference, the Minnesota Lynx would be shifted to the Eastern Conference. While you don't have to expand the schedule just to accommodate new teams, if the Cup format doesn't change, it would shift the number of Cup-contributing (trademarking that term immediately) regular season games from 10 per team to 12, which could slightly impact the footprint of the schedule. The league likes to decide the finalists before the All Star break, so it could make the first half of the season an even larger percentage of intra-conference games.
How much does the draft change? Right now two more teams means six more picks in the draft, from 12 per round and 36 total to 14 per round and 42 total. Many have suggested in the past that a three-round draft is too much for the WNBA, particularly given how much (or the lack thereof) success third-round picks tend to have (regardless of the outliers). Cutting the third round could leave the new draft at 28 picks, only cutting the last 8 spots from its recent 36-pick form. (Those hypothetical players could enter the league as free agents, of course, and may have a better shot that way.) However, it's hard to see the league making a change that might come across to the public as cutting down on opportunities for players to enter the league, though (despite that not really being the truth of the matter).
How much does the draft lottery change? Like I said, this will likely be the first multi-team expansion in the WNBA since the draft lottery was added ahead of the 2002 Draft. For over a decade the league has had a 4-team lottery, and that will presumably become a 6-team lottery (no reason to expand the playoffs yet). After the Washington Mystics' major letdown in the 2013 WNBA Draft Lottery the league introduced the two-year cumulative record concept in their draft lottery, with the added adjustment that the team with the worst two-year record cannot end up with a pick worse than 3rd. Effectively, the lottery determines the first two picks, and the other two are filled based on worst two-year record. Does the league continue picking two and fill the remaining four based on record, or do they start determining the top three picks with the lottery balls and then fill the remaining three based on record? It's a small but impactful decision to be made.
Where do the new teams fit in to the draft process? The expansion teams would start drafting in 2025, but what picks are they given, or are they given odds in the lottery? In 2008, Atlanta was not a part of the lottery directly but was given the 4th pick (in the middle of the 6 lottery picks), but prior to that expansion teams had been placed in the draft just after the non-playoff teams. Given a multi-team expansion, who's in charge of the "lottery" that decides the order the new teams pick in? Even ahead of the 2026 Draft, the new teams will only have one year of play in the WNBA compared to the two-year record currently used for lottery odds. Do the new teams just use their one-year record?
One last thought on expansion (for now): of course a lot of people jump to the increase in opportunity for players (11-12 new roster spots added per team), but it shouldn't be lost the additional opportunities opened around the team: they'll need a general manager (and hopefully even more dedicated front office staff), a head coach, likely three assistant coaches, strength coaches, medical staff, video coordinators, PR staff, a local broadcast team, and more. That's potentially a ton of new jobs and a lot of new (or maybe not all new...) minds injected in to the WNBA space.
A lot of folks have asked over the years, and it's finally here: tracking technical fouls, flagrant fouls, and more!
Tracking Techs (and Flagrants)— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) October 4, 2023
You can now track the following play calls by WNBA season:
- Technical Fouls
- Flagrant Fouls
- Defensive 3 Seconds
- Delays of Game
View by individual, by team, and by game!https://t.co/kQday2vX3p pic.twitter.com/zEC3gYA73F
As far as I can tell, this is a first-of-its-kind data set for the WNBA, and it won't stop here. This is a first step in tracking as much as possible about who gets called for technical fouls or flagrant fouls (or defensive 3 seconds), and it's all free and open:https://acrossthetimeline.com/wnba/misc.html
DePaul has been doing a great job on social media celebrating their upcoming 50th season. These glimpses in to some of the program's great players and moments are great to see:
50 moments for 50 seasons.— DePaul Women's Basketball (@DePaulWBBHoops) September 28, 2023
One of the biggest wins in program history - Kim Williams led the Blue Demons to a 70-67 win over then-No. 3 LA Tech inside Alumni Hall on Dec. 14, 1996.
Williams finished with 29 points while Mfon Udoka added 14. #DePaulWBB50 pic.twitter.com/yerhmwxsqu
And they aren't alone:
Throwback Thursday!— Brown Women’s Basketball (@BrownU_WBB) October 5, 2023
As we gear up for our 50th season, we are taking a look back at some of the best moments and players from Brown Women's Basketball history.
Today we celebrate the first Ivy League Champions in program history, the 1983-84 Bears!#EverTrue pic.twitter.com/If1G9IFkU8
50 DAYS TIL OUR 50th SEASON OF SIMPSON WOMEN'S BASKETBALL!!— Simpson Women’s Basketball (@SCStorm_WBB) September 22, 2023
14 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
14 NCAA TOURNAMENT APPEARANCES
700+ PROGRAM WINS
1 COACH NIEMUTH & 1 FAMILY pic.twitter.com/wHqq5pMczZ
Today is our first official practice of the 2023-24 season! This upcoming season is also special as we will be celebrating 50 years since the start of the Triton College women's basketball program! Below is our special 50th Anniversary logo! pic.twitter.com/wpIEeAXRMU— Triton College Women's Basketball (@tritonwbb) October 2, 2023
Looking forward to more of these.
(There was a lane violation or something...?)
Since 2018, Across the Timeline has operated in service of a distinct mission: Enhance the view in to the history of women's basketball and its connections to the modern game.
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