A’ja Wilson may not be participating in the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game but that didn’t stop her from being the star of the televised All-Star draft on ESPN.
Wilson has a massively entertaining personality, both on and off the court, and watching her banter a bit with opposing captain Elena Delle Donne while the two made their picks is precisely why fans clamored for these drafts to be televised.
It’s another example of the W learning that letting players express themselves fully and showing it to the audience is an excellent way to boost coverage of the league. Sue Bird and Wilson appeared on an alternate broadcast of a game between UConn and South Carolina on ESPN during the college season and the takeaways were the same: Giving these players a platform to be themselves and allow them to talk a little spicy in a regulated environment is a smart bet.
Tuesday night’s draft offered a similar vibe. Maria Taylor helped move each captain from pick to pick as EDD and Wilson got their jokes off and there were certainly jokes to be had. For starters, Delle Donne held the first pick and selected Brittney Griner, expressly leaving Wilson with a choice to draft one of her teammates (Kayla McBride or Liz Cambage) with her first pick. Instead, Wilson opted to take the Sparks’ Chelsea Gray, prompting jokes for the remainder of the show.
Wilson didn’t draft Cambage—who will be the DJ during Friday’s beach party with Snoop Dogg and Iggy Azalea—until the third round, encouraging Taylor to say “Y’all were teammates before you waited so long to pick her up, now I’m in the DJ booth.”
Having events like this on national television, as well as the “Smack Talk” broadcasts with Bird and Wilson and “Match My Fly” really bring fans closer to the athletes they watch and help grant the league more exposure. Here’s hoping Cathy Engelbert brings even more ideas to the table to help the league grow further.
Now let’s briefly get to the actual rosters, which can be found here.
There’s one thing that's for sure, both of these teams have plenty of size and are capable of shooting a lot of threes. Watching Cambage operate from the high post while Natasha Howard slashes, McBride spots up on the perimeter and Gray pulls the strings for the starters is going to be loads of fun. Who will guard Cambage? (Can anyone really guard Cambage?) Who gets hot first, McBride or Nurse?
Team Wilson may not have many pure guards but seeing how it uses Odyssey Sims and Erica Wheeler will be interesting. And we all know Allie Quigley is going to be bombing away from three. But with so many long wings and bigs, who will see the lion share of the minutes?
Meanwhile on Team Delle Donne, expect Kristi Toliver and Courtney Vandersloot to get loose with the reserves and serve up plenty of easy finishes for Tina Charles and Nneka Ogwumike. DeWanna Bonner is going to get buckets from everywhere on the floor. The myriad of matchups and situations are incredibly fun to think about: Which club teammates will go the hardest at each other? (There aren’t many teammates on the opposite team but seeing Howard block Jewell Loyd’s shot into Reno or Vandersloot somehow stifle a Quigley three would make for engaging television.)
How will Napheesa Collier fare in her first All-Star game after getting added on such late notice? Who will talk the most smack? Will there be any more dunks to silence the haters?
It’s going to be an entertaining weekend in Vegas.