Las Vegas is on a hot streak in the lottery. The team is already on the cusp of being a playoff team, having only missed out this year by one game, and adding a No. 1 pick to the core of A’ja Wilson, Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum almost seems unfair.
On Sunday, Wilson was named the 2018 WNBA Rookie of the Year, making Las Vegas more intriguing for prospects and the team’s potential even brighter.
To put this in Vegas terms, the Aces are playing with house money. The possibilities the Aces hold with the pick are endless, and head coach Bill Laimbeer has already hinted at trading it away.
"The sky's the limit."@LVAces President of Basketball Operations & head coach Bill Laimbeer on landing the No. 1 pick in April's #WNBADraft 2019 pic.twitter.com/8mQE0fuEMv— WNBA (@WNBA) August 29, 2018
A trade could give the Aces an immediate path to contention. The Aces were already knocking on the door of the playoffs, but winning the lottery for the third year in a row gives the them a chance to knock it down.
The trio of Plum, McBride and Wilson, on their best day, can go toe-to-toe with any tandem in the league, and the potential to add another game-changing piece around the core has accelerated the timeline. The Aces’ complementary pieces this year were fine, but youth and inconsistency plagued them at pivotal moments in the season, which is why bringing in some veteran leadership by virtue of trading the top pick would be ideal.
Finding a trade partner won’t be easy, but if I’m the Aces, I’d pinpoint four teams to try and talk with: the Minnesota Lynx, the Los Angeles Sparks, the New York Liberty, and the Dallas Wings. The reason I chose those teams is because they are four veteran teams that are knocking on the door to contention, but the path to get there is murky. One of those teams may feel inclined to began a rebuild, and what better way to do that than to acquire the number one pick?
The Lynx and the Sparks have established a dynasty and one of the best rivalries in sports. However, they both showed their age a bit this season and were knocked out in the single-elimination rounds of the playoffs. Either could realistically entertain a trade package for the number-one pick if they felt it would lead them back into championship contention.
The Wings are another realistic option. They barely got into the playoffs this year, and with the looming possibility of Liz Cambage leaving the WNBA, the Wings could want a fresh start. A possible trade for Skylar Diggins-Smith perhaps? It would take some flexibility to make it work, but on paper, it is a trade that makes sense for both sides.
The Liberty are another intriguing trade partner, as they may want to find a young star to build around, so a package for star Tina Charles could be in play. She recently re-signed with the Liberty, but with the move into a new arena and with no quick route to playoff contention, New York may opt for a fresh start.
Of course this is all speculative, but the point is that the Aces have options. They are in a rare position and have been afforded a luxury most lottery teams don’t have. If they love a player, then they can take her and plug her right into an already growing nucleus, or trade the pick and round out their roster with veteran leadership to make a championship push.
Vegas didn’t need the number-one pick, but now they’ve got it and are playing with a stacked hand. As of now, the Aces hold all the cards, but it will be how they play them that will determine if they hit the jackpot.