With the start of another WNBA season comes the annual race for players to claim a very limited number of roster spots. After accounting for returning veterans, rookies have to immediately prove that they can contribute to their teams. Fortunately, not all veterans arrive in training camp when it starts due to overseas play so there are additional roster spots up to the limit of fifteen that can be filled by rookies until other players join. Coming off their final college seasons and often still with school commitments, training camp is a quick introduction to the nonstop seasons that those who make rosters can expect to continue to experience.
Now that opening day rosters are set, let’s take a look at a breakdown of their composition. The late running overseas season has resulted in three additional players being carried to opening day, while Minnesota is only carrying eleven players. That leaves 146 players, including 107 who were on a roster in some capacity to end last season and another 10 with previous WNBA experience. That leaves 29 rookies. Two of the those players were draft picks from previous seasons who have signed for the first time while six were from previous drafts, including some with previous training camp experience. This draft class provides twenty-one players. Injuries leave one first round pick unsigned while the other eleven players have made it to opening day. In the second round, there was one unsigned pick and one international pick, leaving four players who made it through training camp and one who was waived and then claimed by another team, meaning that five of the drafted players were let go by the end of training camp.
The third round is usually a very tough path to catching on in the WNBA, but this year’s group starts off in a strong position. One player was not signed and another was an international pick, but four of the remaining ten made it to opening day. In the twelve team era, the previous high was the three from the very successful 2014 class, although some of those years have been played with smaller maximum roster sizes. Of course, simply making it to opening day is not the only goal. Of the fourteen players to be drafted in the third round who played on their initial contract, half were waived before the end of that season. Only four players made it to a second season, with only two of them making it to a third season. This year, an undrafted player also made it to opening day, an even bigger longshot.
Grabbing one of exclusive roster spots in the WNBA continues to be a tough task. With so many veterans already establishing a place in the league and teams invested in finding out how their high draft picks fit in, only a small number of places are truly up for grabs when training camp starts. Like every year, a number of players have defied those odds and survived as a late draft pick or an undrafted free agent. Several players return to league after an absence while others who were overlooked at the start of their professional careers have finally worked their way into consideration. Those players who did not make the cut will be hoping that new players are needed during the season while many will head overseas in order to prove that they should get another chance next year.