NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA is giving its general managers more tools they can trade.
The league changed a longstanding rule last week, allowing teams to swap first-round draft picks in consecutive years for the first time.
“It gives opportunity to be creative about trades and player movement. That was the primary reason for doing it,” Washington Mystics general manager and coach Mike Thibault said. “It’s huge for us.”
In the past, teams couldn’t trade opening-round picks in successive years. Teams could still make deals on draft day by selecting a player and then trading her as well as a pick, but that didn’t help marketing or really create an offseason buzz.
“Our free agency is before the draft,” Thibault said. “Now you can do a deal and get publicity and help sales and you don’t have to wait until draft day.”
The league also changed the way it chooses its All-Star Game coaches. In the past, the coaches were determined by which team won each conference the previous year, assuming the coach was still in that role the following season. Now, in a process similar to the one the NBA uses, the WNBA will pick its All-Star coaches based on the best record in each conference two weeks before the event.
In another move to mimic the NBA, officials can assess a delay-of-game penalty if a free throw shooter goes beyond the 3-point line between attempts.
“We are trying to mirror as many rules to simplify it for our officials,” Thibault said. “It helps in training officials and keeps the flow of the game going. Honestly, it won’t happen more than once or twice a season.”
The final change was a rule intended to promote player health. Previously, if a player was unable to shoot free throws or participate in a jump ball due to injury, they couldn’t return to the game. Now, if a player leaves the game for a concussion evaluation and completes the locker room evaluation under the WNBA’s concussion policy and is deemed not to have a concussion, they can re-enter the game.
“I’m a big proponent of any change that helps the welfare of players that play all year round,” Connecticut Sun coach and GM Curt Miller said. “We should do whatever we can to take care of them now.”
All the rules were recommended by the WNBA’s competition committee at its meeting on Nov. 7. Thibault and Miller are both members of that committee.
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