Five WNBA Free Agents to Look Out For this Offseason

January 1st marks the true beginning of WNBA free agency—so let’s look at what that entails.

By Laura Fay

With the WNBA’s 26th season in the rearview mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to free agency. January 1st marks the true beginning of the WNBA’s free agency period. From January 1st to 14th, teams can send out qualifying offers to players. If a player chooses not to sign a qualifying offer, they can negotiate deals with multiple teams from January 15th to February 1st, after which they can begin signing contracts. 

Each team also has a core designation, which limits a player’s mobility during free agency. The designation bars the tagged player from negotiating with any team but the one they currently play for and has a one-year supermax contract as the qualifying offer. The core designation remains on that player for the length of the contract they eventually sign. Three teams already have their core designations allocated: Seattle (Jewell Loyd), Chicago (Kahleah Copper), and Connecticut (Jonquel Jones). 

With some extremely valuable free agents up for grabs this offseason, let’s see who’s most likely to go where. 

Breanna Stewart training with the Storm during the 2022 Playoffs. (Courtesy of the Seattle Storm Instagram)

#1: Breanna Stewart

It’s no surprise to anyone that Breanna Stewart ranks as the most valuable free agent this offseason. Having led the Storm to two championship rings and racking up nearly every possible accolade in the process, there is no doubt Stewart is a franchise-changing player. She showed no signs of slowing down in 2020, leading the league in scoring and coming second in MVP voting. 

Speculation around Stewart’s future has been rampant for a couple of years. Last year, also as a free agent, Stewart met with New York Liberty owners Joe and Clara Tsai, as well as coach Sandy Brondello. She ended up signing a one-year contract to stay in Seattle for Sue Bird’s final season, but with Bird retired and the Storm’s core designation used on Jewell Loyd, Stewie could be on the move this offseason. 

New York again looks like a likely destination. Born and raised in Syracuse, a move to the east coast would bring Stewart closer to home—a tempting offer given her young family. Then again, don’t count out Seattle bringing her back. Stewart has long been the heir-apparent to Bird as the face of Seattle basketball and rejecting other offers to stay there—as Bird did in 2016—would only cement her as such. While every team with the means will be sending Stewart pitches this offseason, don’t be surprised if the decision comes down to New York or Seattle.

#2: Courtney Vandersloot

Courtney Vandersloot is in a similar position to Stewart—though the roles are slightly reversed. The point guard signed a one-year contract with Chicago last offseason with the hope of running back their 2021 championship, but fell to the Sun in the semifinals. With many Sky players—including Vandersloot and her wife Allie Quigley—taking pay cuts to keep the 2021 core together, some may be looking to move on this January. 

One possible destination for Vandersloot is Seattle. A Washington state native, Vandersloot could be enticed by the possibility of playing closer to her family after over a decade in Chicago. The Storm are also in desperate need of a point guard. Bird’s retirement, and that of backup point guard Briann January, means Seattle is fresh out of guards this season. Vandersloot is the highest-profile guard up for grabs this offseason, and Seattle will surely be knocking on her door. 

Vandersloot and Quigley are the last holdovers from the 2014 Sky team that made it to the WNBA Finals. The 2021 championship was a coronation that cemented their place as Chicago sports legends. But with Quigley contemplating retirement and Vandersloot in high demand, their time in the blue and gold may be at a close. 

Courtney Vandersloot dribbles the ball during the 2022 Playoffs. (Courtesy of the Chicago Sky Instagram)

#3: Candace Parker

The biggest question hanging over Candace Parker’s 2023 season is less where she will play than if she will at all. Parker has not been shy about contemplating retirement and, when looking at her resume, it’s clear the 15-year vet has already won everything there is to win. A perfectionist, Parker has repeatedly spoken about stepping away when she feels she can no longer contribute at a high level. But if the 2022 season is anything to go by, Parker certainly has enough gas left in the tank for another run. If she does, it’s time to discuss where she could go. 

Parker shocked the world in 2021 after leaving the Sparks, the franchise that drafted her, for her hometown Sky. Lifted by Parker, Chicago immediately won a homecoming ring. Now, with an expiring contract in the twilight of her career, it’s unclear where else she could land. One plausible destination would be another return home: this time back to Los Angeles, where Parker owns a home. While L.A. would certainly be a poetic destination given her history with the franchise, the Sparks’ dismal 2022 season and lack of direction are less than appealing. If the Sky can bring back enough of their championship core, I’d bet on Parker sticking in Chicago for another year. 

#4 Brionna Jones

In her last couple of seasons at Connecticut, Brionna Jones has blossomed from a perennial role player to a star in her own right. She earned her first All-Star selection and Most Improved Player honors in 2021 and backed it up by winning Sixth Player of the Year in 2022. For any other team her stats would make her a centerpiece of the offense, but for a stacked Sun squad it leaves her on the bench. While Jones has been wonderful in that role, her production has also shot up her price point, making it highly unlikely she’ll be returning to Mohegan Sun in 2023. 

Dominant off the glass, Jones leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage. That could make the Lynx, rebuilding after the retirement of Sylvia Fowles, a promising place to land. A trip back to D.C, after playing her college ball at the University of Maryland, could also be in the cards. For a player as versatile as Jones, wherever she ends up will be lucky to have her. 

Brionna Jones high-fives teammates after a win last season. (Courtesy of the Connecticut Sun Instagram)

#5 Emma Meesseman

For Emma Meesseman, a return to the WNBA seems up in the air. A Belgian national, Meesseman has spoken about the difficulty of getting around the WNBA’s new prioritization clause, which heavily fines players that miss preseason training and the start of the regular season for overseas commitments. Meesseman is no stranger to prioritizing overseas play—she sat out the entire 2018 season to play with Belgium in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and missed the entire 2021 season after exhausting herself playing in Europe. It remains to be seen what Meesseman’s thought process is going into 2023. 

If she does decide to stay in the W, Chicago still seems like a good fit. Meesseman reportedly enjoyed playing with her current and former Belgian teammates—backup point guard Julie Allemand and assistant coach Ann Wauters. However, Meesseman took a pay cut to sign with the Sky, and with Chicago likely retooling their lineup, it’s unclear how much money they’ll be able to offer her this coming season. A reliable all-around player, Meesseman is likely to be fielding some phone calls this offseason.

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