Teams must trim their roster size to only 12 players.
By Alex Holmes
The WNBA began its preseason Sunday, and the league’s 12 teams now have the task of trimming their rosters to 12 players. Some teams will have an easier time making final cuts, while others are fortunate enough to have an embarrassment of riches that will make waiving players a bit more difficult. There are simply too many talented players that will be left off a roster, which prompts the discussion surrounding much needed league expansion. Here’s how the preseason is shaping up for each team and which outlying players could make some noise in camp.
The Dream should be ecstatic about the arrival of Aari McDonald. No player in the country built up her draft stock quite like McDonald did in the NCAA Tournament after leading the Arizona Wildcats to their first Final Four.
McDonald will join a loaded backcourt, headlined by scoring machine Chennedy Carter, who is entering her second season in the league. While both guards are high-volume scorers, McDonald will bring more of a defensive mindset to the team. The preseason will give the duo time to figure out how to play together and help head coach Nicki Collen decide how to make use of two of the league’s most exciting young guards.
The Chicago Sky should have one of the most fun preseasons in terms of seeing how the team gels together. Candace Parker’s arrival in the Windy City was the biggest trade deal in the offseason, and now she’ll get a feel for the talented Sky frontcourt that features Azurá Stevens, Gabby Williams, and Stefanie Dolson.
For the preseason, keep an eye on developments at the point guard position—Lexie Brown is now in town. The Minnesota Lynx recently waived Brown and that’s good news for a team like Chicago. Brown is a steady, defensive-minded point guard that will pair well with any of the other guards on the floor, whether it’s Diamond DeShields, Courtney Vandersloot, or Allie Quigley.
On paper, the Sun might have the quietest preseason as a bulk of their roster returns from last season. Connecticut’s core of Jasmine Thomas, Jonquel Jones, and DeWanna Bonner will arrive late to camp due to overseas commitments, which may open the door for rookies like DiJonai Carrington, Micaela Kelly, and Aleah Goodman to impress head coach Curt Miller in their first training camp.
Head coach Vickie Johnson has one of the youngest teams in the league—only one player on the preseason roster has at least five years of WNBA experience. This training camp will give her a chance to see how the Wings’ top-rated draft class meshes with a returning core of youngsters. That draft-class features the top two picks from the 2021 WNBA Draft in Charli Collier and Awak Kuier, along with Chelsea Dungee and Dana Evans. These rookies will join Arike Ogunbowale, Moriah Jefferson, and Allisha Gray, who aren’t too far removed from their college glory days themselves.
The most interesting dynamic to watch for coming out of training camp is in the frontcourt: who will Johnson go to from the get-go? Collier and Kuier will have to make a strong impression against returning players Satou Sabally, Bella Alarie, and Isabelle Harrison for playing time.
The Fever finished last season in 11th place and have high expectations to best their six wins from a year ago. The most anticipated player to watch is guard Kysre Gondrezick, whom the Fever selected No. 4 overall in the WNBA Draft. Gondrezick had a stellar college career at West Virginia, but her selection in the draft was much earlier than most people expected. Preseason will give Gondrezick time to adapt to the pro game before the regular season begins—she will spend the season constantly proving why the Fever took a chance on her.
Las Vegas Aces
A’ja Wilson. Liz Cambage. Angel McCoughtry. Jackie Young. Now throw Chelsea Gray into the mix after her arrival from the Los Angeles Sparks, and the Aces might be the preseason favorite to win the league title in the fall.
The core of the Aces’ success is pretty much set and there shouldn’t be too many roster surprises after training camp. Former Arkansas point guard Destiny Slocum and former Florida State standout Shakayla Thomas might be the two newest additions to Bill Laimbeer’s championship-contender squad.
Los Angeles Sparks
The Sparks currently have nine guards on the preseason roster, which means that head coach Derek Fisher will have to make some cuts in the backcourt.
It seems like veterans Kristi Toliver, Seimone Augustus, Erica Wheeler, and Brittney Sykes are locks to make the final 12. The last few guard positions might be dealt between Sydney Wiese, Te’a Cooper, and rookies Stephanie Watts and Arella Guirantes.
The Lynx added guard Kayla McBride and forward Natalie Achonwa to the team over the offseason, so roster spots won’t be very easy to come by for rookies.
Rennia Davis, whom the Lynx took ninth overall in the WNBA Draft, is the safest bet to make the regular season roster out of all the rookies at the training camp. Also keep an eye out for guard Asheika Alexander, who hails from Langston University and became the first player from an HBCU to sign with the Lynx after two successful years playing for the Lions.
New York Liberty
The Liberty are still a very young team and finished 2020 in last place. Now, Sabrina Ionescu is back for her second year after a season-ending injury in the third game of her WNBA career.
Preseason will be a time for head coach Walt Hopkins’ team to build much needed chemistry, particularly between Ionescu and Asia Durr. After Durr missed last season due to COVID-19, training camp will give her and Ionescu the opportunity to play alongside each other for the first time. The relationship between the two rising stars will be the key to the Liberty’s future success.
The Mercury welcomed Sara Blicavs to training camp, and that name could very well appear on the final roster. Blicavs, a versatile 6-foot-2 forward from Australia, averaged 13.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in the Australian pro league last season. Should she make the roster, she’ll run into former WNBL teammate Liz Cambage later in the season.
Preseason will really just be a tune-up for the defending WNBA champions. The next two weeks will help head coach Dan Hughes see which players could be the supporting cast behind Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart.
The training camp roster features seven rookies making their case for a spot on the team. Two outliers to keep an eye on? Guards Haley Gorecki and Brittany Brown. The Storm drafted Gorecki in the third round of the 2020 WNBA Draft, but she did not make the squad. She spent the past couple of months playing in Spain. Gorecki was a two-time All-ACC First Team selection that likes to use her six-foot frame to drive to the basket, and can knock down the three. Brown graduated from Florida State in 2017 and proved to be a gritty, defensive leader for the Seminoles. She wasn’t drafted into the WNBA after college and has spent the past few years playing professionally in Spain and Germany.
Delle Donne is back for the 2021 season and she hopes to take her team back to the WNBA Finals after winning the title in 2019. This will be the first season that Delle Donne and Tina Charles play together, so that will be a fun development to watch for during training camp.
There isn’t much room for new additions on the Mystics roster, but if there is one new name that could appear on head coach Mike Thibault’s final roster, it’s Aislinn Konig. The former NC State standout was part of the Wolfpack’s surge onto the national scene over the last five years. Although she wasn’t drafted in 2020, Konig’s nifty ball-handling, speed, and solid defense could add some depth to the Mystics backcourt.
Teams must submit their final 12-player rosters by 5 P.M. EST on May 13. Preseason games begin on May 1 and will run through May 11. The 2021 WNBA season begins May 14 with the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty tipping off at 7 P.M. EST to usher in the league’s 25th season. The full slate of games is available here.