May 26, 2019 By: Matt Gutierrez
The Las Vegas Aces were awarded the number one overall pick in the WNBA draft for the third straight year. It’s the first time a WNBA team has received three consecutive number one overall picks, and only the third time it’s happened in any of the major North American sports.
The previous team to have three top picks is the ’10, ’11, and ’12 Edmonton Oilers of the NHL when they selected Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov. The 2012 NHL season was shortened due to a lockout thus delaying the debut of Yakupov. By 2016, Yakupov and Hall were both playing for other teams.
The Aces three numbers one’s all played a major role in Sunday night’s 83-70 win over the LA Sparks. Last season’s WNBA rookie of the year, A’ja Wilson led the way for Las Vegas with 22 points and 11 rebounds. The ’17 top pick, Kelsey Plum added 11 points and 6 assists. Rookie G, Jackie Young had 8 points (all in the 2nd half) in her WNBA debut.
It’s an extremely rare circumstance the three young Aces are in, and one that’s not lost on any of them.
A’ja Wilson was asked about being that “big sister” to Young:
“Just making sure that she’s comfortable. When she’s comfortable, then she’s the Jackie Young that we drafted. She’s the person we need to see.”
“Always being in her ear. I’ll probably bug her 1,000 times, but KP (Kelsey Plum) bugged the living crap out of me, so that’s what I want to do…I wanna make her comfortable and (let her) know that she’s not in it alone.”
Kelsey Plum had a much different take on her and Wilson’s situation last year:
“I didn’t do a thing for A’ja,” said through a smile suggesting she was there for Wilson whenever she needed her. “She’s being really sweet.”
As for her take on Young: “Jackie’s gonna be great. She knows how to win, she knows how to play. She’s a great teammate. I’m really impressed how poised she is, and just the way she learns things…how quickly she picks thing up. She’s super talented. I just tell her good job.”
Jackie Young gave us her thoughts on what role her mentors will play as she acclimates herself to the pro game:
“They’ve definitely given me a lot of advice about being the number one pick, (and) what to expect. They just helped me a lot early on. They’ve definitely been someone that I can lean on. Just talk to about anything that I needed. They’re just really helping me on the court, helping me outside of basketball, and just really being there for me.”
In addition to the three young stars, the Aces will also start ’11 number two (Liz Cambage ) and ’14 number three (Kayla McBride) overall picks this season. Cambage did not play on Sunday as she is still recovering from an achilles injury. She led the WNBA in scoring last season and and finished second in the MVP vote. McBride had 20 points and 7 rebound in Sunday’s game, and is coming off of an All-Star ’18 season.
It’s rare to have a number one, two, and three overall pick on your roster. It’s even more rare to have three number one’s all on your roster. To have all five in your starting lineup is unicorn territory. It means that the Aces franchise has struggled in recent years, but also means they are primed for a deep playoff run in 2019. Sunday night’s 13 point win was a great start.