Thursday, December 7, 2023

WNBA expansion: Joe Lacob guarantees title for new Golden State team in first five years

Joe Lacob is no stranger to making bold promises and building winning teams. Now, the man who helped turn the Golden State Warriors into a dynasty — with four titles and six Finals appearances since he bought the franchise in 2010 — is hoping to do the same in the WNBA. 

On Thursday, the WNBA officially granted Lacob and the Warriors an expansion franchise that will begin play in 2025. The yet unnamed team will play at Chase Center and practice at the Warriors’ facility in Oakland. If all goes to plan, they’ll be hoisting a trophy sooner rather than later. 

“First press conference with the Warriors, I said we will win a championship in the first five years,” Lacob said during a press conference to officially announce the team on Thursday. “I’m telling you right now, we will win a WNBA championship in the first five years of this franchise.”

Lacob’s claim may be audacious, but that’s the kind of mindset any owner should have. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility. The Seattle Storm won a title in their first five years of existence, and the Atlanta Dream got to two Finals in their initial five seasons. 

For a full historical account, here’s a look at the timeline for the most recent expansion franchises. Note: This only includes teams that are still in operation and joined the league since 2000. 

Indiana Fever

  • First season: 2000
  • Wins in first season: Nine
  • Record in first five seasons: 66-98
  • Playoff appearances: One
  • Finals appearances: None
  • Championships: None

Seattle Storm

  • First season: 2000
  • Wins in first season: Six
  • Record in first five seasons: 71-93
  • Playoff appearances: Two
  • Finals appearances: One
  • Championships: One

Chicago Sky

  • First season: 2006
  • Wins in first season: Five
  • Record in first five seasons: 61-109
  • Playoff appearances: None
  • Finals appearances: None
  • Championships: None

Atlanta Dream

  • First season: 2008
  • Wins in first season: Four
  • Record in first five seasons: 80-90
  • Playoff appearances: Four
  • Finals appearances: Two
  • Championships: None

As you can see, there is a wide range of outcomes for expansion franchises. The one common denominator is you’re almost certainly going to be bad in your first season. From there a lot depends on draft luck, developing players, coaching and resources. On the latter, it’s clear Lacob and Co. will spare no expense. The team isn’t even playing yet and has its own dedicated practice facility, which some current teams can’t claim. 

That kind of commitment doesn’t guarantee success, but it goes a long way. 

“We’re coming in here, number one, to win,” Lacob told ESPN in an interview. “Number two, we want to see this league and women’s basketball grow, and we hope to be a big part of it. We think it’s a watershed event for us to come in and commit to it in a big way. We’re going to bring all of our resources. We can put this machine to work, and we’re going to do that.”

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