Why UConn star Paige Bueckers is not eligible for the 2021 WNBA draft
Numerous talented players are available for the 2021 WNBA Draft Class. Top prospects like Charli Collier, Awak Kuier, Arella Guirantes, Rennia Davis and Aari McDonald are expected to fall off the board at the beginning of the first round.
A name you won’t hear during the Thursday night show? Paige Bueckers.
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The UConn guard averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from 3-point range. She was the first newcomer to ever win the AP Player of the Year award and led the Huskies to the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Bueckers would undoubtedly be the biggest star in this year’s group of prospects, but she doesn’t qualify for the 2021 WNBA draft due to the rules set in the league’s most recent collective agreement.
Why is Paige Bueckers not eligible for the 2021 WNBA draft?
Unlike the NBA, the WNBA does not have a one-time policy. The current collective agreement provides that a player will be eligible if she is at least 22 years old in the calendar year in which the draft takes place and either has no remaining college eligibility or waives her remaining college eligibility.
The freedom guard Sabrina Ionescu, for example, could have signed up for the 2019 WNBA draft because she turned 22 that year. Instead, she decided to return to Oregon for her busy season.
A player is also eligible if she graduates from four year college or university within three months of the draft. An international player is eligible if she is at least 20 years old in the calendar year in which the draft takes place.
Bueckers is only 19 years old and was born in October 2001. So it will not be approved until 2023.
Will the WNBA change its draft admission rules?
The WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association reached an agreement on a collective agreement in January 2020. The new CBA, which runs through 2027, represented a significant improvement in player compensation and benefits, but WNBPA Vice President Sue Bird admitted that the draft was not an essential part of the negotiations.
“The truth is, when there is so much to address or fix in CBA conversations, sometimes you don’t get it all,” said Bird (via ESPN’s Kevin Pelton). “And unfortunately that was one thing. If someone was involved in a negotiation, they know that you have to have a list of priorities.”
However, WNBA players generally seem to be helping to give prospective customers the option to leave early if they are comfortable waiving their college eligibility. This topic is likely to be part of future discussions between the WNBA and the WNBPA.
“I think the next step is that option,” said Mercury star Diana Taurasi. “Will kids? Probably not. But you should have that option. It’s a career path that you are going to take and if you are the best at your job you should be able to keep getting better. Not to say that they won. I’m not in college, but it’s just another level when you get to the pros. “