When prepping for your fantasy women's basketball draft this season, it's vital to consider the ramifications of the WNBA's new "Prioritization" rule and its potential impact on the league in 2023.
It's well known that many players in the WNBA go overseas to play in the offseason because they'll get paid more than they do in the WNBA. Many players end up returning after their overseas season is done about two to three weeks into the WNBA regular season, especially if their team abroad made it far in the postseason.
That whole process changes now with this new rule.
What is the "Prioritization" rule and when is it being implemented?
This rule was agreed upon by the league's owners and the players' union in the 2020 CBA agreement to help push players to put the WNBA first. It will be implemented this year and will have a slight alteration for the 2024 seasons and beyond.
Players beyond their third year in the league will be fined if they miss the designated start of training camp or May 1, whichever is later (fined 1% of their base salary for every day of camp they miss)
If they miss the start of the regular season in 2023, they will be suspended for the entire season.
In 2024, the mandatory arrival stretches to the designated start of training camp or May 1, whichever is later. If players aren't there by then, they will be suspended for the season.
Exceptions to the rule
Players are still allowed to arrive late or leave temporarily during the season to represent their national teams in major international competitions without falling foul of these rules as long as it's for no more than two weeks of training before the relevant competition begins, and they return to their WNBA team within 48 hours of their national team's play being completed.
Players are also allowed to leave or be late due to "a significant life event" (a graduation ceremony or death in the family are the examples given).
How could this impact drafting players for fantasy?
According to the Associated Press, 67 of the league's 144 players were playing in Australia, Turkey, Italy and about a half-dozen other countries this offseason. That is 46.5% of the league that is playing abroad.
This new rule will force a lot of players to decide whether to sign a contract overseas and possibly miss out on the WNBA season, depending on how far their team goes in the postseason, or to miss out on getting paid overseas to make sure they can report to WNBA training camp and the regular season on time.
This will impact how we draft our fantasy teams because now instead of worrying about players missing the first couple weeks of the season when we draft them and finding replacement players, we will have to figure out which players could potentially be suspended for the entire season based on their play overseas.
We don't want to draft a player who could potentially not play the entire season because she didn't report back for the regular season. It's going to be important to keep up with any players you are thinking of drafting and what their overseas schedule is and if they are planning on being back in time for the regular season.
What big-name players are currently playing overseas?
Breanna Stewart (Turkey, Fenerbahçe S.K.) - The league's leading scorer in 2022 (21.8 PPG & 7.6 RPG last season), she has averaged 20+ PPG in each of her past two seasons and averaged 2.0 3-point FG per game in 2022.
Jonquel Jones (Turkey, CBK Mersin) - The 2021 MVP and a 2022 All-Star, Jones averaged 14.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG and 1.1 SPG last season and was traded to the New York Liberty on Jan. 16.
Alyssa Thomas (Czechoslovakia, ZVVZ USK Praha) - The 2022 All-Star can fill up a box score. She had four triple-doubles last season including the playoffs and was one of just two players in the league to average 10+ PPG, 5+ RPG and 5+ APG. She also tacked on 1.7 SPG (second most in the league).
Chelsea Gray (Turkey, CBK Mersin) - She was one of the most impactful point guards in the league last season, averaging 13.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.2 RPG and 1.0 3-pointers per game. She was also one of the best pickpockets in the league, averaging 1.6 SPG (fourth most in the league).
Jackie Young (Turkey, Hatayspor) - Young was the third-leading scorer on the best offense in the league last season on her way to being selected to her first All-Star team averaging 15.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG and 1.5 3-pt FG per game.
Rhyne Howard (Italy, Beretta Famila Schio) - The 2022 Rookie of the Year, Howard finished the season averaging 16.2 PPG (12th most in the league) and led her team in scoring and steals per game.
Brionna Jones (Czech Republic, ZVVZ USK Praha) - She was the best player off the bench last season, averaging 13.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 1.2 SPG on a team that made it to the Finals.
Emma Meesseman (Turkey, Fenerbahçe S.K.) - The 2019 Finals MVP finished the season as the "do-it-all" player for the Chicago Sky. She averaged 12.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.4 SPG.