So many moves, so little time.
It’s free agency time for the WNBA, and things are already heating up, with some franchises making big moves and others making bizarre ones. Tracking each and every re-signing or swap can be an exhausting task, so here’s a brief rundown on how some teams are handling the Player Purge™.
So far, Atlanta’s attempts to keep their mainstays have paid off, with Tiffany Hayes and Monique Billings re-signing just a few days ago. They’ve also bagged two new assets in Nia Coffey and Kia Vaughn. The latter’s arrival is especially crucial, since she’ll bring plenty of playoff experience to the table. It’s a shame that the deal with Kiah Stokes fell through, but the Dream’s exploits have been impressive nonetheless. Lord knows they needed it after their implosion last season.
At first glance, the defending Champions look to be in a good position heading into 2022. They’ve all but assured that superstar Kahleah Copper will stick around by making her a Core Player. Plus, new addition Julie Allemand could be a great backup option for Courtney Vandersloot (more on her later…). And to be brutally honest, the Sky made the right call in trading Diamond DeShields, who clearly wanted to move on and is currently on a downward trend, output-wise. So, everything’s coming up aces in Skytown, right?
Vandersloot’s (and, by extension, Quigley’s) status is a big question mark, and the Sky messed up big time by showing her “disrespect” during contract negotiations. If the league’s power couple leaves, the repercussions for Chicago could be devastating. This isn’t even getting into their risky purchase of Emma Masserman, who hasn’t played a WNBA game in over a year. Don’t panic just yet, but the Sky need to get their affairs in order if they want a chance of reaching last year’s glories.
The Fever’s free agency moves have largely been made with an eye to the future, for better or worse. They bagged some first round draft picks and Bria Hartley in a trade on Thursday, and locked down young talent Chelsey Perry with a qualifying offer. After their tumultuous 2021 season, it makes sense to prepare for a semi-rebuild.
Now to tackle the “for worse” part: Indiana hasn’t exactly proven themselves to be master recruiters in the past. They recently waived Kysre Gondrezick, making her the second top-four pick that didn’t work out for them after Lauren Cox in July. Add that to their lack of new signings save for Hartley, and the Fever’s overall gameplan looks a bit clueless so far.
Elena Delle Donne’s unofficial return to action will dominate Washington-related headlines for the next few weeks, but the most interesting story is about who’s not returning: Tina Charles. Despite being the W’s leading scorer last year, the Mystics declined to continue contract negotiations with her due to a lack of cap space.
“There was never going to be enough salary cap room to sign everybody back on our team,” said head coach Mike Thibaut. “We knew that, we’ve known that for some time. We looked at our roster and decided what our priorities were. And I think what we have […] here is a result of that.”
Letting go of Charles couldn’t have been easy, but it makes sense as to why she’s on the chopping block. The Mystics already have one legend on the roster in Delle Donne, and recent buy Elizabeth Williams––who’s a center, just like Charles––should be able to pick up the pieces just fine. It’s a major sacrifice on Washington’s part, but a necessary one.
So…the people running the Storm have to be evil geniuses, right? They’ve played this free agency saga like a fiddle over the past month. They announced that Breanna Stewart and Mercedes Russell would be re-signing almost immediately after the chaos began. Then, they somehow convinced Briann January to stick around for one more year before retirement.
And for the sick, twisted cherry on top, they put a core tag on Jewell Loyd, all but forcing her to stay despite her hints at wanting to move elsewhere. Honestly, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the home crowd that sang “one more year” to Sue Bird was made up of paid plants, so the Storm could keep her in Seattle instead of letting her come home to New York where she belongs.
Part Two will be out soon…if we’re all still alive by then.