The first WNBA draft took place on January 22, 1997. Unlike all subsequent drafts, this one was divided into three drafts: Initial Player Allocation, Elite Draft, WNBA Draft. The first part was the initial player allocation, in which 16 players were allocated to the individual teams in no particular order. The second part was the Elite Draft, which consisted of professional players who played in other leagues. This time the 8 teams could choose their players themselves. There were 2 rounds, where each team could choose a player in each round. The last part was the WNBA Draft, where the teams could again draw a player in 4 rounds.
From 1998 to 2002 there were always 4 rounds in the WNBA draft, since 2003 there are only 3 rounds.
The WNBA consists of twelve teams (as of 2013 ). In each round of the draft, each team has a so-called draft pick , with which the individual teams can secure the rights to one player per round. The order in the draft basically corresponds to the reversed final table of the previous season, whereby the team with the worst record has the first right to vote in the draft, while the team that ended the season with the best record has the last right to vote in each round.
In order to avoid deliberately losing franchises in order to secure a better position in the draft, the draft lottery was introduced, with which part of the order for the first round of the draft is determined. This lottery, which takes place after the regular season, includes all four teams that missed the playoffs in the previous season, with the worst of the four teams in first place before the lottery and the best in fourth place in the Draft order is set. Since this is a weighted lottery, the team placed in first place has a higher chance of being awarded the first right to vote than the other three teams. Consequently, the team in fourth place has the lowest chance of receiving the first right to vote. The rest of the order in the draft basically corresponds to the reversed final table of a season. So the rest of the worst team has the fifth choice in the draft and the best the last. The order determined by means of the draft lottery is only valid for the first round, while the draft order for the remaining two rounds corresponds to the reversed final table of the previous season.