The 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament drew some record ratings on ESPN, as Stanford went on to win the national title and a number of college basketball’s best players put on some sensational performances along the way. A number of those players still have a few years of college hoops to play, most notably UConn freshman Paige Bueckers, and watching those young women play caused many to wonder why the WNBA doesn’t allow early entry for the draft in the same way the NBA does.
On the NBA side, the current battle is over getting rid of the one-and-done rule, but even that allows players to make the change to being a pro much sooner than on the women’s side. There are a variety of reasons why the WNBA doesn’t have an early entry option, but chief among them is the fact that there simply aren’t that many roster spots available with just 12 teams in the league. Many have called for expansion to add more teams, and thus more roster spots in the WNBA, because it is a ridiculously competitive market for players to try and break in with so few spots available.
On Tuesday, the WNBA released their 2021 schedule, starting on May 14, and commissioner Cathy Engelbert met with the media on a conference call to discuss the state of the league heading into the draft this Thursday and the season next month. Of significant note was her willingness to broach the topic of expansion, saying it’s something the league can look into seriously provided 2021 is a “successful season.”
Cathy Engelbert on possible #WNBA expansion in the near future: "If we have a successful season this year, we can certainly start talking about expansion and what that would look like."
— Hannah Withiam (@HannahWithiam) April 13, 2021
Success, of course, means financial success, as the WNBA has seen its ratings climb in recent years and more interest in the women’s game. A continued uptick in ratings and coverage can hopefully reach whatever benchmark is needed to bring more teams to the league. What that looks like is another conversation, with the where and how many still to be determined. In any case, expansion seems inevitable for the WNBA, and hopefully we aren’t too far away from more teams and more roster spots for what has become a player market overflowing with talent.