The 2015 WNBA Draft is projected to be a weak class compared to other recent drafts, like the 2013 class which featured Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins. It's also weaker than future drafts like the 2016 class that will feature UConn junior Breanna Stewart and Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd.
Speaking about Loyd, check out this Twitter exchange between a Seattle Storm fan, Storm head coach Jenny Boucek, and others. Perhaps some of this could be interesting:
@ZenDoc They have until April 6th or 24 hrs after their last game.— Jenny Boucek (@jboucek) April 3, 2015
@ZenDoc it is a possibility— Jenny Boucek (@jboucek) April 3, 2015
@ZenDoc I'll look it up again, but I believe Jewell Loyd & Amanda Zahui B. said they're returning for their senior seasons... #WNBADraft— Jayda Evans (@JaydaEvans) April 3, 2015
@ZenDoc @jboucek @seattlestorm It was great to have you out last night! #DriveToTheDraft #TogetherWeRise— Alisha Valavanis (@AlishaValavanis) April 3, 2015
Wow. That was a lot to digest. For a moment, it appeared that Jewell Loyd may have been considering leaving college a year early, but this appears to be shot down in later tweets in the exchange. So let's break the logistics of this down.
Why could and should Jewell Loyd leave college a year early?
First, let's tackle the "could" in this question. Let's take a look at which players are eligible to declare for the WNBA Draft altogether. From Article XIII, Section I, Part (b) in the current WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, college draftees must be:
- A college graduate, is "set to graduate" from college in the year she is drafted or has no collegiate eligibility remaining.
- Is at least 22 years old during the calendar year of the year she is drafted and declares for the draft ten calendar days before the Draft or 24 hours after her last game, whichever is later. That's why we love playing that Taylor Swift song when it's a rookie's birthday.
Loyd was born on October 5, 1993, so she can declare a year early for the WNBA Draft if she does so by Monday, April 6, or ten days before the 2015 WNBA Draft on April 16 if the Irish lose to South Carolina on Sunday in their national semifinal game.
Since April 6 is one day before the NCAA championship game, if Notre Dame defeats South Carolina on Sunday, Loyd can delay that decision until Wednesday, April 8. Article XIII, Section 1, Part (c) of the CBA specifically allows for that whenever that situation arises. Now, we know where Boucek was coming from with that "24 hrs after their last game" statement.
Second, let's look at the reasons why Jewell Loyd should leave college a year early now that we know she can:
- Loyd will be the first pick in the 2015 Draft to the Seattle Storm, no questions asked. If Loyd were to be drafted in 2016, there is a good chance that she will be picked second after Stewart, who will not turn 22 this calendar year.
- Loyd will get to play alongside and be mentored by Sue Bird. The Storm's going through a major franchise rebuild around a good number of young players. They also still have current franchise player Sue Bird, who is as good of a leader as anyone out there. For the Storm's selfish interest, this also gives them a clear player to build around for the future.
- Better competition. Loyd will get to play against players who are at least as good, if not better than she is today. Playing in the WNBA a year early will give her a leg up on Stewart and other 2016 Draftees.
Why would Loyd stay at Notre Dame for her senior season?
- Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans shot it down in one of the above-mentioned tweets. That just made this post moot for a lot of you. But still, the following reasons can help explain why Loyd (or Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B.) wouldn't go pro a year early.
- The money isn't there in the WNBA. A 2015 WNBA Draft Lottery pick (first through fourth) will earn $49.644, and a 2016 WNBA Draft Lottery pick will earn $50,617 according to pages 277 and 278 of the CBA. That's a far cry from the $4,753,000 and $4,919,300 that the first picks in the 2015 and 2016 NBA Drafts will make respectively according to Exhibits B-5 and B-6 of the NBA CBA. That salary disparity between NBA and WNBA rookies is a primary reason men's college basketball players will often leave early when they can.
- Even if Loyd withdraws from Notre Dame this spring and plays overseas this winter, she isn't going to earn millions of dollars right away like Diana Taurasi does for UMMC Ekaterinburg. It is going to take several years of WNBA and overseas experience before she can earn an annual salary even close to the $1,500,000 that the Phoenix Mercury point guard makes for her Russian team. In addition, younger WNBA players are often journeymen in international play before a team signs them long term. Washington Mystics guard Bria Hartley talked about that in a December 2014 interview on SourceLifeRadio's La Diva Latina Show.
- If Notre Dame doesn't win the National Championship in 2015, Loyd's going to be even more motivated to win it all in 2016. Even if the Irish win it all this year, wouldn't Loyd want to repeat? The Fighting Irish have been one of the nation's top women's college basketball programs of this decade where they have made five straight Final Four appearances. However, they have never been able to win a national championship in any of them. If Loyd can win a championship this year and/or the next, we will probably be talking about her as the best player in Notre Dame history instead of Skylar Diggins.
I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Loyd go pro a year early since it makes the 2015 WNBA Draft just that much more exciting. But the lack of money available to young WNBA players, whether domestically or internationally is enough of a reason for her to stay and play four years at Notre Dame.
NOTE: Jewell Loyd declared for the 2015 WNBA Draft on April 8, 2015.