The Indiana Fever announced on Wednesday morning that they cut 2022 No. 4 pick Emily Engstler. As a rookie, the forward averaged 5.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 35 games.
The cut comes as a surprise because … she’s just entering her second season. Though she had just a so-so rookie campaign, she wasn't given any time to develop from it. It's worth noting there is reporting that Engstler is suffering from a back injury overseas, though the extent of it is unclear as of now. Still, it's an odd choice to cut a second-year top pick due to injury.
Engstler's cut wasn't the first and won't be the last surprise of this WNBA season either.
Indiana's drafting history is disappointing to say the least. Engstler's cut marks three consecutive years where a top-4 pick has been cut starting with 2020 No. 3 pick Lauren Cox and then 2021 No. 4 pick Kysre Gondrezick. While neither of those players have proven to be key WNBA players elsewhere, it still stings to cut a top pick so soon... so often.
This is a league-wide issue, and it's due to the small roster sizes. Each WNBA team can hold a maximum of 12 players, and the reality is many can only hold 11 due to salary restrictions. That means there are even fewer than the maximum 144 roster spots are actually available.
In contrast, NBA rosters can hold 15 players plus two, 2-way contract players (includes G League developmental play). The league also has 30 teams compared to the WNBA's 12, and the WNBA does not have a developmental league.
In April, when asked about roster expansion, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said: "We think today our rosters are the right size."
The WNBA and the WNBPA have an early opt-out date before the 2025 season to re-negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
(Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)