With our team cities and names selected, all that’s left in our expansion exercise is to conduct an AI-powered WNBA Expansion Draft.
One of the main reasons fans are clamoring for WNBA expansion is because there are too few roster spots compared to how many deserving women can compete in the league. That makes a potential WNBA expansion draft all the more fun.
And so, the Nashville Rhythm and Vancouver Vortex are on the clock. With some help from ChatGPT (and a little more hand-holding than we needed before), we conducted a full-on WNBA expansion draft to fill their rosters. For added measure, we asked AI to give us a coaching staff for each team and some priorities for the WNBA’s traditional first-year player draft.
WNBA Expansion Draft Rules & Assumptions
The WNBA CBA does not outline exactly what an expansion draft would look like. There also hasn’t been one in the league since 2008, and there hasn’t been one involving multiple teams since 2000. We do, however, want to ensure a few things:
- Current WNBA teams should be able to protect some of their players from being taken.
- There should be a maximum number of players from a current team that can be taken.
- The expansion teams still need to adhere to salary minimums and maximums.
To do that, we decided that each current team would be allowed to protect 50% of its roster. Additionally, no more than three players from a current team would be allowed to be drafted. After that? We just gave ChatGPT the list of available players, their salaries, positions, and basic stats and let the bot go nuts.
We asked that ChatGPT consider roster construction when drafting players but didn’t elaborate. If AI thinks a team of 12 centers is the best way to win in the WNBA, well, who are we to challenge our future overlords?
We also had to make some assumptions, partly because we don’t know exactly how an expansion draft would work in real life and partly because we need to simplify the process for our own sanity.
- Unrestricted free agents this offseason will just be eligible with their 2023 teams.
- The draft will be 12 rounds to equal the size of a WNBA roster. When you throw in regular WNBA draft picks and free agents, that’ll be plenty for training camp competition.
Without further ado, here is how ChatGPT ran the expansion draft.
WNBA Expansion Draft Results
Round 1: Nashville Rhythm select: Monique Billings, Vancouver Vortex select: Kiah Stokes
Round 2: Nashville Rhythm select: Danielle Robinson, Vancouver Vortex select: Natalie Achonwa
Round 3: Nashville Rhythm select: Sug Sutton, Vancouver Vortex select: Shay Peddy
Round 4: Nashville Rhythm select: Kayla Thornton, Vancouver Vortex select: Jade Melbourne
Round 5: Nashville Rhythm select: Katie Lou Samuelson, Vancouver Vortex select: Ruthy Hebard
Round 6: Nashville Rhythm select: Tiana Hawkins, Vancouver Vortex select: Isabelle Harrison
Round 7: Nashville Rhythm select: Kristi Toliver, Vancouver Vortex select: Lexie Hull
Round 8: Nashville Rhythm select: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Vancouver Vortex select: Nia Clouden
Round 9: Nashville Rhythm select: Haley Jones, Vancouver Vortex select: Kadi Sissoko
Round 10: Nashville Rhythm select: Bridget Carlton, Vancouver Vortex select: Sika Kone
Round 11: Nashville Rhythm select: Dearica Hamby, Vancouver Vortex select: Joyner Holmes
Round 12: Nashville Rhythm select: Nikola Milic, Vancouver Vortex select: Alaina Coates
WNBA Draft Needs
One of ChatGPT’s drawbacks is that it does not have much knowledge about events 2021-present. That makes it impractical to let it simulate a WNBA Draft of current college players. So, instead, we asked it to come up with draft priorities for each team based on the rosters it compiled. From there, we simulated a mock draft ourselves in which the Rhythm and Vortex got the first two picks. Nashville had the first pick in the expansion draft, so here, that pick goes to the Vortex.
- Playmaking Guard: While Danielle Robinson is on the roster, adding another playmaking guard could provide more depth and versatility in the backcourt.
- Outside Shooting: The Rhythm could benefit from more consistent outside shooting to stretch the floor and open up driving lanes for their guards and forwards.
- Wing Scorer: Adding a versatile wing player who can create their own shot and contribute on both ends of the floor would enhance the team’s offensive and defensive capabilities.
- Frontcourt Depth: Although the roster has solid frontcourt players, adding depth in the post could provide more options in terms of matchups and rotations.
- Interior Defense and Rebounding: The Vortex could prioritize adding players who excel in interior defense and rebounding to complement their existing roster, especially in protecting the rim and controlling the boards.
- Versatile Wing Players: Players who can play multiple positions on the wing and contribute on both offense and defense could enhance the team’s flexibility and lineup options.
- Perimeter Shooting: Adding players who can consistently knock down three-pointers would help space the floor for the team’s interior players and create more offensive opportunities.
- Backup Point Guard: While they have solid guards, having a backup point guard who can manage the offense and relieve the starting guard could be beneficial.
- Depth Across Positions: Building depth at various positions would provide the Vortex with more flexibility in terms of rotations and matchup strategies.
What good is it to have a roster of players if there’s no one around to coach them? We weren’t about to pull names out of thin air to lead the Rhythm and Vortex, so we entrusted ChatGPT to do this for us as well. To start, we simply asked who the coaches should be, and let’s just say the AI aimed rather high, suggesting the likes of Dawn Staley, Geno Auriemma, and Eric Musselman, to name a few candidates.
So we refined the criteria, limiting the candidates to current WNBA head and assistant coaches, NBA assistant coaches, and college head coaches who have never won a national championship (this would get Geno and Dawn out of the mix).
Ultimately, ChatGPT settled on two highly qualified candidates with strong assistant staffs to match.
Head coach: Adia Barnes
Assistant coaches: Salvo Coppa, Tamisha Augustin, Cameron Newbauer
Head coach: Lindsay Gottlieb
Assistant coach: Jackie Stiles, Tamika Catchings, Vickie Johnson
Pre-training camp cuts that would be needed to get the rosters down to 12 each.
G Daniell Robinson
G Sug Sutton
G Kristi Toliver
G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough
G Haley Jones
G Nika Muhl
F Monique Billings
F Kayla Thornton
F Katie Lou Samuelson
F Tiana Hawkins
F Bridget Carlton
F Dearica Hamby
F Nikola Milic
F Angel Reese
F DeYona Gaston
G Lexie Hull
G Nia Clouden
G Shay Peddy
G Jade Melbourne
G Caitlin Clark
G Diamond Johnson
F Kadi Sissoko
F Sika Kone
F Joyner Holmes
F Ruthy Hebard
F Isabelle Harrison
F Natalie Achonwa
F Aubrey Griffin
C Kiah Stokes
C Alaina Coates
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