Movement in the WNBA, All Eyes on Breanna Stewart

There have been a number of interesting trades in the WNBA while Breanna Stewart raises the issue of charter flights in free agency talks.

By Onyi Afoaku

The chaos of the WNBA offseason is in full swing. There are numerous ways the offseason could play out that could shake up the standings. The biggest question in free agency is where former MVP and two-time champion Breanna Stewart will end up.

So far, the front runners to land Stewart in free agency are the Seattle Storm (whom she was drafted by and played for during her entire career), the New York Liberty, the Minnesota Lynx, and the Washington Mystics, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. All four teams are flying out to Turkey, where she’s playing, in order to meet with her. 

Stewart brings the ball up against the Las Vegas Aces in Game 2 of a WNBA playoff semifinal on Aug. 22, 2022 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

According to NBC Sports, Stewart’s free agency could hinge on charter flights.

Aside from sending some cryptic tweets on Twitter, Stewart also tweeted, “I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA.”

She offered to contribute her own NIL, posts, and production hours to ensure that all players “travel in a way that prioritizes player health and safety, which ultimately results in a better product.”

Earlier this week ESPN reported that the issue of private air travel has taken center stage in free agent conversations around the WNBA. This is because of the assumption that Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner will need to fly privately due to security concerns.

The WNBA CBA requires that players fly commercial airlines during the regular season. Some owners want to pay for charter flights, but because not every team would, it is banned to prevent any unfair advantages. For example, when New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai did it anyway in the second half of the 2021 season, he was hit with a $500,000 fine. Charter flights have become a hot topic in the WNBA amongst players, coaches, and others pushing for treatment common in other major sports leagues.

The New York Liberty trade for Jonquel Jones. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

There have been other big trades and moves in the WNBA offseason. Here are a few highlights:

The New York Liberty appear to be big winners of a massive three-team trade that shook out like this:

  • The Connecticut Sun receive Tyasha Harris, Rebecca Allen, and the No. 6 pick in the 2023 draft. 
  • The Dallas Wings receive Crystal Dangerfield and Natasha Howard.
  • The New York Liberty receive Jonquel Jones and Kayla Thornton.

Jones is the 2021 MVP and the potential of her setting picks and rolling to the rim for Sabrina Ionescu could make the Liberty one of the most unstoppable teams in the league. In addition, the Liberty freed up enough cap space to be able to offer Stewart a max contract, setting up a super team and instant title favorite. 

The trade has also been good for Dallas. Howard is an excellent fit for them. It was not a great trade, however, for Connecticut. The team was a contender with Jones and, despite having more versatility, no longer pose that caliber of threat. Although, the money the Sun saved can be used to keep unrestricted free agent Brionna Jones (they tagged Jones with a core designation, which keeps her under team control for another season.)

The Dallas Wings traded Allisha Gray to Atlanta for two first-round picks, including the No. 3 pick of the 2023 draft.

Candace Parker is a free agent and is taking meetings with the Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky, and Los Angeles Sparks, reports Annie Constable.

Dearica Hamby dribbles against the Phoenix Mercury on May 6, 2022 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb, File)

The Sparks are overhauling their team after a letdown season and traded for two-time All-Star Dearica Hamby (plus they got the Aces 2024 first-round pick) while sending Amanda Zahui B. and the Sparks 2024 second-round pick to the defending champs. If Hamby can fully recover from the knee injury that sidelined her during the last half of the season and hampered her during the playoffs, she could provide a boost that the Sparks desperately need.

After being traded, Hamby blasted the Aces in a statement posted on Instagram:  “Being traded is part of the business,” Hamby wrote. Being lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against is not.” The WNBPA is now investigating the charges.

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