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WNBA free agency moved quickly and the power structure of the league could see some big shifts. Who were the biggest winner and losers?
The WNBA is going to look a little different in 2022, but not necessarily as different as it could have looked. The Seattle Storm are running things back, even after Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd both took meetings with New York. The Lynx got Sylvia Fowles back for one final season.
But elsewhere, some big names are playing for new teams this season. From Liz Cambage in Los Angeles to Angel McCoughtry in Minnesota, there are a lot of things different about the league. Let’s take a look at what some of the biggest free agency moves mean for the league.
The Seattle Storm bring everyone back … for now
The good news for Storm fans: Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are back.
The bad news for Storm fans: because Loyd was brought back via the core designation and that coring was used to sign her to a two-year deal, Seattle doesn’t really have a way to keep Stewart from leaving next offseason. Stewie signed a one-year deal, meaning she’ll hit free agency again in 2023. Loyd’s core designation means that the team won’t be able to core a player in free agency next year.
[Note: “coring” is basically the franchise tag of the WNBA. A team can core a player and then that player is only allowed to negotiate a deal with that team.]
So, Stewart could pull a Chelsea Gray next year and leave. (Gray visited Vegas two years ago in free agency, signed for one year back with the Sparks to make one final run with the team, then left the next offseason for Vegas. Stewart met with the New York Liberty this offseason.) But with Sue Bird back for one final year and Mercedes Russell staying, plus Gabby Williams brought in via trade, the Storm are in a position to send this version of the team out in style.
Liz Cambage, Chennedy Carter and Jordin Canada head to Hollywood
The Dream benched Chennedy “Hollywood” Carter last year due to a violation of team rules. What we initially thought would last a game or two ended up ending Carter’s tenure with the Dream, as she was shipped to Los Angeles this offseason.
Liz Cambage left the Aces in free agency to sign with the Sparks. It was pretty clear for the past week or so that that was going to happen, as the Sparks were working to clear out cap room for a max deal.
Jordin Canada, who went to UCLA, signed with the Sparks as well. A defensive-minded point guard, Canada is a scrappy player who could stick in the W for a while if she could figure out her shot.
How will all these players fit in LA? We’ll have to see. There’s not enough shooting. A Cambage and Nneka Ogwumike frontcourt is a weird fit. But the team added three immense talents and while all three have their warts, this team just increased its ceiling big time.
Does Angel McCoughtry have enough left to help Minnesota?
McCoughtry has only played one of the past three seasons due to injury, but that season she did play was impressive, as she averaged 14.4 points on 51.8 percent shooting in Vegas.
With Napheesa Collier set to miss at least a big chunk of this season due to her pregnancy, the Lynx needed another forward. McCoughtry can be a great addition as a scorer and playmaker beside Sylvia Fowles, but that’ll depend a lot on if the 35-year-old can bounce back after she tore her ACL and meniscus last year.
With Sylvia Fowles announcing this is her last season, Minnesota had to take a risk like this. This team minus Collier and without the upside of a McCoughtry-like player wasn’t going to win a title. If 2020 Angel shows up to the Target Center, this team could beat anyone.
Tina Charles and Diamond DeShields give Phoenix a lot of talent
Like the Sparks, Phoenix is going to have to figure out how to make some bigs work together.
The team brought in Tina Charles, who joins a team that already has Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner. How will that work? Do you bring Turner off the bench, even though she’s your best defender? Do you bring Charles off the bench and let her be a scoring punch for the second unit? Do you bring Griner off the bench and…just kidding.
Charles had a career resurgence in Washington last year, but that was a team with better spacing than Phoenix and that didn’t really have another scoring threat. Will the additional challenges of fitting all these bigs in lead to Charles looking more like she did late in her time with the Liberty, when she was still good but had some major efficiency issues?
The Mercury also took a shot on Diamond DeShields, who went from “possible MVP candidate” before the 2020 season to “reclamation project” after the 2021 season. DeShields is such a talented player, but her numbers have been down the last two years. She’s taken a lot of 3s in her career, but if Phoenix is going to make this work, I think DeShields has to become a real threat from the perimeter, something she hasn’t been yet.
Will she start at the three? Will she come off the bench? Phoenix has so many question marks entering this season, though the talent level on this team is undeniable.
Quick hits on some other WNBA free agency signings
Let’s just quickly go over some of the other moves that happened and what those signings mean:
- Atlanta got Erica Wheeler in the Carter trade. I’m not sure Wheeler is going to be able to put this team into the playoff race or anything, but she’s a reliable presence for a team that could use that kind of veteran leadership.
- Chicago lost DeShields and Stef Dolson, but add Emma Meesseman, Crystal Bradford and Julie Allemand. I love the idea of Allemand as the backup point guard here — not sure how much of the season she and Meesseman will be around for, but she fills a need this team has had for a few years.
- Speaking of Dolson, she signed in New York. I like her fit there as she fills a need for the team at the 5, but I also worry that people think Dolson is the missing piece on this team. New York will improve this year, but the team isn’t a contender…yet.
- The Sun re-signed Jonquel Jones and brought Courtney Williams back to the team after she played in Atlanta for the past two years. If last year’s improvement as a 3-point shooter (38.2 percent on 3.2 attempts per game) is real, she fills a much-needed spot on this team.
- The Aces struck out in free agency. The team extended A’ja Wilson and brought Riquna Williams and Kiah Stokes back, but that was it so far. Maybe moving on from Liz Cambage is addition by subtraction since it gets Dearica Hamby more minutes?
- Some nice depth moves for Washington, which brought in Elizabeth Williams and Tianna Hawkins. If — and this is a huge if — Elena Delle Donne is back and healthy for 2022, the Mystics have a chance to win another title, especially if they use the No. 1 pick wisely.