Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
If — when — she's taken with the No. 1 pick in tonight's WNBA draft, Sabrina Ionescu will become the face of a rebuilding project in America's biggest market, a role she's uniquely suited to play.
The player: Ionescu finished her Oregon career with 26 triple-doubles, more than twice as many as anyone else, male or female. She's the only player in NCAA history to accumulate 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds.
- The team: The New York Liberty are expected to take Ionescu first overall, and after trading away All-Star Tina Charles on Wednesday, they own five of the top 15 picks in the draft. The roster is primed for a rebuild and Sabrina will be handed the keys.
- The venue: Nets owner Joe Tsai bought the Liberty from James Dolan in 2019, and is moving the team — which just got a fresh rebrand — from a small arena in White Plains, New York, to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
The big picture: Ionescu redefined women's college basketball and will enter the WNBA with as large a profile as any player in recent memory.
- The Ionescu-led Ducks outdrew Oregon's nationally-ranked men's team in home attendance, and her achievements were frequently amplified by NBA admirers like Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant, who she grew close with before he died.
- Tonight, with the WNBA draft airing on ESPN's main network for the fist time, Ionescu will be the star of the show — and it's hard to imagine a better landing spot. The stage is set.
"I'm definitely, hopefully excited for the opportunity to play there at Barclays Center, and just the marketability that there is in New York. ... [T]he hustle and bustle is something that I think could be not only beneficial to myself as a person but as a brand and for women's basketball."— Sabrina Ionescu, via WSJ
What to watch: The draft will be held virtually, and ESPN has sent players lighting kits and tripods so they can be interviewed following their selections.
Top 10 prospects:
- Sabrina Ionescu, PG, Oregon
- Satou Sabally, SF, Oregon
- Lauren Cox, PF, Baylor
- Chennedy Carter, SG, Texas A&M
- Bella Alarie, SF, Princeton
- Tyasha Harris, PG, South Carolina
- Megan Walker, SF, UConn
- Ruthy Hebard, PF, Oregon
- Crystal Dangerfield, PG, UConn
- Beatrice Mompremier, PF, Miami