Lin Dunn made it clear last summer the Indiana Fever were not tanking for a chance at the top overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft. And the struggling franchise didn’t, finishing 10th of 12 teams with a promising future regardless of their lottery draw or which players entered the draft.

Instead, the stars aligned for the Fever general manager. In December, the Fever won their second consecutive No. 1 pick in the lottery.

And on Thursday, Caitlin Clark said she would renounce her extra year of NCAA eligibility allowed under the COVID-19 guidelines and go pro following this season. She is 18 points from passing Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record, which she’ll likely do on Sunday in the regular season finale.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark signs autographs for fans after a game against Minnesota on Feb. 28. (David Berding/Getty Images)

It was a decision expected, but not assured, and one that is a near-perfect scenario for all parties. Assuming the Fever pick her first, Clark will stay in the Midwest within an easy drive of the rabid Iowa fans who have sold out arenas all over the country.

The WNBA will acquire a made-for-household-TV marketing giant they’ve never before had. And, most importantly for everyone, the Fever will pair a generational point guard with a generational post to become a long-term, quality league contender.

Clark grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa, and attended Minnesota Lynx games as a child since it was closer.

The Lynx, Fever and Chicago Sky are all within about four to six hours drive, an easy one to make for the Iowa fans who have embraced the home star they honorably carved into butter for the Iowa State Fair.

It’s no further than many Big Ten opponents. Fans traveled to Seattle and Dallas to see Clark lead Iowa’s magical run to the title game last year and sold out Carver Hawkeye-Arena with season ticket sales. They line up hours before road games and beg for her autograph.

That fan fervor won’t stop because Clark is in the WNBA, and there’s an added benefit that the league tips off in May, after the NCAA tournament. Attendance is up in the league, but there’s still room to grow in a place like Indianapolis.

The Fever ranked second to last in attendance in 2023, averaging 4,067 fans, according to Across the Timeline. Dunn told Yahoo Sports last summer she wants to see a bump to 6,000 this year as the franchise grows back closer to the 8,000 it was regularly averaging in the 2010s. Indiana won its only WNBA title in 2012 with Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings.

Veteran guard Erica Wheeler alluded to a potential boost in ticket sales within an hour of Clark’s announcement.

The league already recognized this week it should lean into Clark mania sooner rather than later. It announced on Wednesday that for the first time since 2016, the draft will be held with fans in attendance. Tickets go on sale on March 7.

“As the official start to the WNBA season, we knew the WNBA Draft 2024 presented by State Farm should be transformed into a larger, fan-focused event to celebrate the incredible talent set to enter the draft,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a release as a direct nod to Clark’s fan draw.

Clark is the biggest name to enter the league because she is the first with name, image, likeness deals that reach an audience broader than sports. She is on national State Farm commercials and the center of Nike banners in New York City’s Times Square. Her quest for the scoring crowns are on every major news outlet.

That name recognition wasn’t there for superstars like Maya Moore or Candace Parker, because they couldn’t sign endorsement deals until after leaving college. Clark has a jump start the WNBA — which is focused on building household names — has never experienced before in draft picks. Clark will keep most, if not all, of her NIL deals at the professional level.

As exciting as Clark’s play is, fans clamoring to see her will only stick around so long if the product on the court isn’t good. The Fever and WNBA shouldn’t have that issue. This Indiana squad has the talent to reach the playoffs, and could contend in games with the “super-team” trio of the Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty and Seattle Storm.

Indiana (13-27) just played its best season since 2019 and only the second since 2016 in which it won double-digit games. Aliyah Boston, the 2023 No. 1 overall pick out of South Carolina, won unanimous Rookie of the Year honors and played in the All-Star game with veteran guard Kelsey Mitchell.

Pairing Clark, a 6-foot point guard whose court vision is overshadowed by deep triples, with Boston is reminiscent of her three years with center Monika Czinano in Iowa when the duo dominated opponents. They’ll also have NaLyssa Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, in the frontcourt.

Clark and Boston faced off in the 2023 Final Four when Iowa upset then-undefeated South Carolina. And Boston spent the NCAA regular season in the Peacock studio for Big Ten games where she regularly interviewed Clark postgame on the air.

The Clark-Mitchell backcourt pairing is even more interesting. Mitchell ranks third on the NCAA women’s all-time scoring list with 3,402 points at Ohio State.

She ranked top-10 in scoring the last four WNBA seasons. The Fever’s offense ranked seventh (81 ppg) last year after ranking dead last in 2022 and bottom two in five of the last seven. That average will jump with Clark at the helm, as will their assists average (18.0) that has ranked second-worst since 2021.

It was the improvement Dunn wanted to see in the Fever. Now the final year of her three-year plan is here. It’s off to a good start with Clark about six weeks from lifting the Indiana jersey in front of more roaring fans at the draft.