WNBA Season Preview: Roster and Depth Chart Predictions

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On Friday night, Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press reported that the league is working on several scenarios to start the season as soon as possible. While that is seemingly great news for WNBA fans, the league still has no concrete plans to start the season and numerous questions to answer such as where the season will be played and how to keep league participants safe. Just like every other professional sport, the WNBA is dealing with unprecedented problems with no clear solutions. I don’t envy the league’s decision-makers right now. 

That feeling extends to front offices. By Tuesday (May 26th), teams have to cut down their rosters to get below the salary cap and/or down to 12 players. It’s seemingly necessary but also devastating, especially for rookies drafted in the later rounds of the 2020 draft

The WNBA will have to figure out how to mitigate the collateral damage. The league could potentially allow teams to maintain rights on players they cut. But that is all for later. Right now, we have to focus on the league-wide cutdown. Here are my roster and depth chart predictions for the 2020 season. 

Atlanta Dream  

Atlanta Dream Projected Depth Chart
PG Renee Montgomery Maite Cazorla  Blake Dietrick
SG Courtney Williams  Chennedy Carter
SF Tiffany Hayes Shekinna Stricklen  
PF Glory Johnson Monique Billings  
C Elizabeth Williams  Kalani Brown Alaina Coates 
Cuts: Brittany Brewer, Mikayla Pivec, Kobi Thornton, Alexis Jones

2020 Projected Salary: $1,243,700

2020 Projected Room: $56,300

The Dream’s first 9 roster spots are essentially taken. Everyone in the two-deep, except Cazorla, has gravitas in the organization and seems like part of Atlanta’s future. It’s difficult to predict where each of them slot in positionally. Chennedy Carter may be the best pure point guard on the roster. But it would be hard to get her, Courtney Williams, and Tiffany Hayes enough touches at the same time. Renee Montgomery has an experience and fit advantage. Also Johnson and Stricklen could both start at the 4 depending on the matchup. 

Hardest cut: Tie, Brittany Brewer and Alexis Jones

Atlanta has seven players to sort through for the last three roster spots: Maite Cazorla, Blake Dietrick, Alexis Jones, Mikayla Pivec, Alaina Coates, Brittany Brewer, and Kobi Thornton. Unfortunately, I don’t think Pivec or Thornton can make the team without a training camp to prove themselves because the win-now Dream has veterans at their positions.

The guards were tough to pick. Nicki Collen has familiarity with Dietrick and Cazorla, but they play very similar styles. Jones gives the team a more dynamic on-ball threat and perhaps more upside. But this team needs pass-first point guards to mesh with their ball-dominant scorers. Deciding between Brittany Brewer and Alaina Coates was also extremely difficult. Brewer may have more potential at this point in addition to a 4-year rookie scale contract. But Coates has an experience edge and has dealt with being a 12th woman before. In this situation, I think Coach Collen will favor experience and familiarity over upside. But Brewer provides something different than the other two centers on roster so it’s a toss-up.

Chicago Sky 

Chicago Sky Projected Depth Chart

PG Courtney Vandersloot  Sydney Colson   
SG Allie Quigley  Kahleah Copper  
SF Diamond DeShields  Gabby Williams  
PF Jantel Lavender Azurá Stevens   
C Stefanie Dolson  Cheyenne Parker Ruthy Hebard 
Cuts: Japreece Dean, Kiah Gillespie, Alexis Prince

2020 Projected Salary: $1,288,456

2020 Projected Room: $11,544

Chicago’s roster is pretty cut-and-dry. The Sky can only field 11 players to start the season as they have just $11,544 left in cap room after the draft. Ruthy Hebard, the 8th overall pick, was the final piece of the puzzle. The big rotation needs some sorting. Azurá Stevens may be the 4 of the future, but Lavender played great with the starters last season before getting hurt. Regardless, the roster is essentially set.

Hardest cut: Tie, Japreece Dean and Kiah Gillespie 

Both of these players never had a great chance to make the Sky’s roster. With only 11 spots and a win-now roster, Head Coach/GM James Wade would have likely favored veterans like Sydney Colson. Without an opportunity to beat out a veteran, neither rookie has much of a case to make the team.

We’ll see how teams are able to sign players during the season. Once teams get below 10 available players, they can use the emergency hardship exception to sign a replacement player. The Sky are two sprained ankles away from needing to employ that exception. However, employing a replacement could be very difficult if all players are sequestered in a “bubble.” For now, I’d still say the best chance for either Dean or Gillespie to play in the WNBA is as a hardship replacement. 

Connecticut Sun 

Connecticut Sun Projected Depth Chart
PG Jasmine Thomas Natasha Hiedeman   
SG Briann January  Bria Holmes  Juicy Landrum 
SF DeWanna Bonner  Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis  
PF Alyssa Thomas  Brionna Jones  
C Jonquel Jones  Theresa Plaisance   
Cuts: Kaila Charles, Jazmon Gwathmey, Megan Huff, Jacki Gemelos 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,243,400

2020 Projected Room: $56,600

The Sun will need to go with 11 players after signing DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones to max deals. They also have 10 players with a clear path to making the roster. Theresa Plaisance is the most debatable player in the two-deep. But she has a protected contract so she makes it. 

Hardest cut: Kaila Charles 

The 11th spot is completely up for grabs. Draft picks Kaila Charles and Juicy Landrum would have had an uphill battle in camp against signings Jazmon Gwathmey, Megan Huff, and Jacki Gemelos. All three players in the latter group could have contributed to this team. But at this point, I would want to keep one of the rookies to hold on to a 4-year rookie scale contract rather than a veteran who may be available at some other point. I picked Juicy Landrum over Kaila Charles. Charles may have a higher ceiling. But I know Landrum definitely brings one reliable, translatable skill to the table: 3-point shooting. 

Dallas Wings 

Dallas Wings Projected Depth Chart

PG Moriah Jefferson  Tyasha Harris   
SG Arike Ogunbowale  Allisha Gray  Marina Mabrey 
SF Kayla Thornton  Satou Sabally  Katie Lou Samuelson
PF Isabelle Harrison  Bella Alarie   
C Astou Ndour Megan Gustafson   
Cuts: Kristine Anigwe, Karlie Samuelson, Morgan Bertsch 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,092,200

2020 Projected Room: $207,800

The Wings did most of their sorting already. After Imani McGee-Stafford left to go to law school, Dallas traded Tayler Hill along with the 9th overall pick and waived Kaela Davis. My depth chart favors the team’s veterans to start the season. Sabally and/or Alarie could start ahead of Thornton and/or Harrison.  

Hardest cut: Kristine Anigwe

The Wings have 6 players for 3 spots at the end of the roster: Katie Lou Samuelson, Marina Mabrey, Megan Gustafson, Kristine Anigwe, Karlie Samuelson, and Morgan Bertsch. Karlie and Bertsch were unlikely to make the team to start with, no shade to them. I think Marina Mabrey is a safe pick to make the team. Dallas needs guard depth with MoJeff’s injury history. Katie Lou has the most upside of this group and brings much needed 3-point shooting (along with some off-court star power). The Wings just gave Gustafson a 3-year above minimum contract so I think they have more invested in her than Kristin Anigwe. 

Indiana Fever 

Indiana Fever Projected Depth Chart
PG Erica Wheeler  Victoria Vivians  Kathleen Doyle 
SG Kelsey Mitchell  Tiffany Mitchell  Kennedy Burke 
SF Candice Dupree  Betnijah Laney   
PF Lauren Cox  Natalie Achonwa   
C Teaira McCowan Stephanie Mavunga   
Cuts: Julie Allemand, Bernadett Határ, Jessica January, Kamiah Smalls  

2020 Projected Salary: $952,828   

2020 Projected Room: $347,172

Pretty simple for Indiana in terms of the depth chart. Achonwa may be ahead of Cox due to her experience with this team. But I really like the idea of her getting a lot of usage in the backup unit. Plus the Cox-McCowan tandem needs as much time as possible to grow since Indy is building its franchise on those two. 

Hardest cut: Julie Allemand 

Unfortunately, the end of the roster will be very tough to sort out. They already waived Jessica January, Paris Kea, Erica McCall and 2020 3rd round pick Kamiah Smalls. Stephanie Mavunga and Bernadett Határ would have fought over the fourth big spot while Julie Allemand, Kathleen Doyle, and Kennedy Burke battled for backcourt spots. With the uncertainty facing European players right now, I think the Fever will have to cut Határ and Allemand. Both are intriguing and I had already talked myself into Allemand becoming a key piece for Indy. But they can’t risk cutting players in favor of ones who can’t play this season. It’s a shame that decisions may come down to considerations off the court. Hopefully, teams have more clarity than us right now.

Las Vegas Aces 

Las Vegas Aces Projected Depth Chart
PG Kelsey Plum  Danielle Robinson  Lindsay Allen 
SG Kayla McBride  Jackie Young   
SF Angel McCoughtry  Sugar Rodgers  
PF A’ja Wilson  Dearica Hamby   
C Liz Cambage  Carolyn Swords   
Cuts: Avery Warley-Talbert, Lauren Manis, Raisa Musina 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,152,979

2020 Projected Room: $147,022

Vegas did most of their work already. The Aces cut Avery Warley-Talbert and 2020 3rd-rounder Lauren Manis earlier this week. Ji-Su Park decided not to come to the United States this summer. They brought back Carolyn Swords after a retirement that spanned about two months and 800 lifetimes. The Aces have one roster spot remaining for a player of their choosing down the road. I would try to find a shooting big to help the spacing issues, which may be available in this very weird market. 

Hardest cut: N/A 

Los Angeles Sparks 

Los Angeles Sparks Projected Depth Chart
PG Chelsea Gray  Sydney Wiese   
SG Kristi Toliver  Riquna Williams   
SF Brittney Sykes  Tierra Ruffin-Pratt  Seimone Augustus 
PF Candace Parker  Chiney Ogwumike   
C Nneka Ogwumike  Maria Vadeeva  Marie Gülich
Cuts: Beatrice Mompremier, Tynice Martin

2020 Projected Salary: $1,298,000

2020 Projected Room: $2,000

LA’s roster is pretty much set after the team gave Sydney Wiese a two-year, $162,400 extension. Some pundits and fans viewed Wiese as a potential cut for Beatrice Mompremier and/or Tynice Martin. The Sparks shut that noise down with the extension. We already know how much talent is on this team. But seeing all of these players in a depth chart makes it come to life. 

Hardest cut: Beatrice Mompremier 

I probably made too big of a deal out of Beatrice Mompremier’s situation. As I’ve talked about, LA is $750 short of being able to keep her over Gülich or Vadeeva outright. The Sparks could take more complicated routes to keeping the University of Miami product. But, the Sparks are selling out to win a title this season. 2nd and 3rd rounders, especially ones that don’t get to try out, typically don’t make teams with those aspirations. Mompremier (and Tynice Martin) just don’t fit the team’s timetable. They may have a chance to get on the roster if Gülich and/or Vadeeva are unable to play in the US this season.

Minnesota Lynx 

Minnesota Lynx Projected Depth Chart
PG Odyssey Sims Lexie Brown  Crystal Dangerfield
SG Cecilia Zandalasini Rachel Banham   
SF Naphessa Collier  Karima Christmas-Kelly Jessica Shepard
PF Damiris Dantas  Mikiah Herbert Harrigan  
C Sylvia Fowles  Kayla Alexander   
Cuts: Shenise Johnson, Erica Ogwumike, Linnae Harper, Bridget Carleton 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,050,627

2020 Projected Room: $249,373 

Minnesota faces a dilemma in this cutdown. Odyssey Sims gave birth to a son in early April. She will likely need more time before getting on the court. Normally, the Lynx could suspend Sims for the start of the season and keep 12 players on the roster. I am assuming they cannot do that at this point, but the league has yet to clarify the issue. With that in mind, the starters along with Brown, KCK, and Kiki are all locks to make the roster. The starting five also seems set to me.

Hardest cut: Shenise Johnson 

In my view, the Lynx have four spots for five players: Rachel Banham, Crystal Dangerfield, Kayla Alexander, Shenise Johnson, and Jessica Shepard. They just traded for Banham, gave her a two-year deal, and her Minnesota roots make her impossible to cut from an optics perspective. Dangerfield and Shepard fit into the team’s timetable and needs. 

So it came down to Johnson and Alexander. Minnesota did trade for Johnson in this offseason. But she has an expiring contract and a long injury history including missing most of last season. Despite Johnson’s protected contract, keeping Alexander gives Minnesota a much needed backup center and a younger player. There are a bunch of considerations that we can’t account for including ownership’s appetite to pay a player six-figures to stay at home (literally). But I would lean toward Johnson being left out despite her talent and experience. 

New York Liberty 

New York Liberty Projected Depth Chart
PG Sabrina Ionescu  Layshia Clarendon  Jazmine Jones
SG Asia Durr  Marine Johannès   
SF Kia Nurse  Megan Walker   
PF Amanda Zahui B. Rebecca Allen Jocelyn Willoughby
C Kiah Stokes  Kylee Shook  
Cuts: Leaonna Odom, Han Xu, Reshanda Gray 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,016,850

2020 Projected Room: $283,150

The Liberty have talked about “positionless” basketball so much this offseason that I feel guilty about using  a normal depth chart for them. Don’t get too attached to the positions or slotting of these players. New York has a lot of experimenting and learning to do before they have any set rotation.  

Hardest cut: Han Xu

While Kiah Stokes may not fit into the Liberty’s vision, she is necessary in my opinion as a defensive backbone for a young team that was dead-last in defensive rating in 2019. Reshanda Gray and Leaonna Odom are very good players who get the ax here. There is a case for Jazmine Jones getting cut. But NY just drafted her in the first round and she provides needed guard depth. 

My decision came down to Han Xu and Kylee Shook. I love Han’s potential on the court and as a league ambassador to China. But she didn’t seem ready to contribute at this level in 2019 and Shook is a perfect match for what NYL wants. 

[Note: An earlier version of this story said that Han Xu was reportedly in the US. After review, those reports could not be verified.]

Phoenix Mercury 

Phoenix Mercury Projected Depth Chart
PG Skylar Diggins-Smith  Shatori Walker-Kimbrough  
SG Diana Taurasi  Sophie Cunningham   
SF Bria Hartley  Nia Coffey   
PF Jessica Breland  Alanna Smith   
C Brittney Griner  Kia Vaughn  Brianna Turner 
Cuts: Stella Johnson, Olivia Époupa, Sara Blicavs, Te’a Cooper 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,268,500

2020 Projected Room: $31,500

With Griner, SDS, and Bria Hartley all getting max deals, the Mercury will go with 11 players next season. Trading for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough during the draft was a nice move to provide much-needed guard depth. Still, this team is very thin at every spot except center (assuming Kia Vaughn is in WNBA-shape). Unproven players like Alanna Smith and Nia Coffey need to prove themselves in a hurry.   

Hardest cut: 4-way tie

All four of the players I predict will get cut bring something that could be useful to Phoenix. But, as I have said throughout this preview, familiarity and WNBA experience are paramount concerns for team decision-makers right now. Phoenix needs the safest picks to support their top-heavy roster. Unfortunately, Johnson, Époupa, Blicavs, and Cooper lack familiarity with the team and experience in this league. 

Seattle Storm 

Seattle Storm Projected Depth Chart
PG Sue Bird Jordin Canada   
SG Jewell Loyd  Sami Whitcomb Epiphanny Prince
SF Alysha Clark  Morgan Tuck   
PF Natasha Howard  Crystal Langhorne   
C Breanna Stewart Mercedes Russell  Ezi Magbegor 
Cuts: Joyner Holmes, Haley Gorecki 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,296,300

2020 Projected Room: $3,700

The first 10 spots on this roster are set. Morgan Tuck joins (most of) the 2018 championship roster. Epiphanny Prince may have been on the chopping block for me given her injury history and age. But she got more money than I expected this offseason ($115,000 according to Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats) and has experience in big moments, which is necessary on this elite team. Sidenote: This is my favorite starting lineup in the entire league.

Hardest cut: Joyner Holmes

Assuming Prince is on the squad, the final spot comes down to Ezi Magbegor or Joyner Holmes. Both have tremendous upside and cheap contracts, which this aging group desperately needs. Ezi seems to have the more polished game at this point and the team drafted her in the first round last year. I am worried about travel with Magbegor, who is likely still in Australia. But she has enough talent over Holmes that I feel comfortable rolling with Magbegor for this season. Don’t be surprised to see Holmes in the league in the next year or two though.

Washington Mystics

Washington Mystics Projected Depth Chart

PG Natasha Cloud  Kiara Leslie   
SG Ariel Atkins  Leilani Mitchell  
SF Aerial Powers  Tianna Hawkins  
PF Emma Meesseman  Tina Charles Myisha Hines-Allen 
C Elena Delle Donne LaToya Sanders  
Cuts: Lee-Seul Kang, Jaylyn Agnew, Sug Sutton 

2020 Projected Salary: $1,288,400

2020 Projected Room: $11,600

Washington is rolling with 11 players after the Tina Charles trade. The team is really high on Kiara Leslie’s return from injury, so expect her to get a lot of minutes. I have moved players around this depth chart more than I care to admit. If she is amenable to it, Tina Charles can do serious damage from the bench and give EDD some much needed rest. Washington may face uncertainty with Mitchell and Meeseeman coming from overseas, but nothing they can do about that now. 

Hardest cut: Jaylyn Agnew

I probably would not have had a toughest cut but for Ben Dull’s excellent breakdown of Agnew’s game in his newsletter. Agnew can bomb it, which is a skill that the Mystics are always looking for. She may be able to beat out Myisha Hines-Allen in a training camp. Agnew’s contract runs two years longer than Hines-Allen, which would make her very attractive to Washington as the team’s salary balloons. But I think DC likes Hines-Allen a lot, she brings something different to the table (power), and she knows how to act at the end of the bench. In short, I know she can perform the role available to her. 

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