Gifting SZN: One Gift We’d Give Each WNBA Team
It’s the holiday season, which means that you’re probably on Amazon right now searching for a last-minute gift to give your nephews, right? Is that just me?
Anyway, the holidays got me thinking about the WNBA, mainly because most things get me thinking about the WNBA. If I had to give each team a gift that I think could help them reach the next level — whether that be a WNBA championship or just a playoff appearance — then what would that gift be?
And because I’m just a normal, human man and not some magical, Santa Claus-type person, these gifts are realistic ones, things that could actually happen whether via free agency or the draft or trade. For example, I’m not going to say the Seattle Storm’s gift is Elena Delle Donne, since that’s obviously not happening.
Alright, let’s get started. Teams are listed in reverse order of standings.
- New York Liberty: A Star (or Potential Star) Big
The last three drafts for New York have seen them use their first picks on guards/wings, adding Sabrina Ionescu, Asia Durr, and Kia Nurse. Their massive 2020 draft haul also brought them promising guard/wing pieces Jazmine Jones, Jocelyn Willoughby, and Leaonna Odom, among other players.
But at center, the Liberty have Amanda Zahui B., who is a free agent this season, and veteran Kiah Stokes. It’s the spot with the clearest need for a team that’s hoping to breakthrough in the next few seasons.
Whether it be via the draft, where they could find players like Awak Kuier or Charli Collier, or free agency, where a lot of big names could be (Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, and Liz Cambage are all free agents!), the best gift for New York is someone who can be a star at center.
- Indiana Fever: The Best Wing In The Draft
The Indiana Fever hold the fourth pick in this year’s draft. They had the third pick last year. The third pick in 2019. The second pick in 2018. Four lottery picks in four years, but they never had the right luck to jump to the top overall spot. Because of that, Indiana’s rebuild is in a bit of a strange spot. They’ve gotten good players the past three years in Lauren Cox, Teaira McCowan, and Kelsey Mitchell, but they haven’t been able to get any of the elite, franchise-changing talents in those drafts, like 2020’s Sabrina Ionescu or 2018’s A’ja Wilson.
The Fever are almost good enough to become a perennial playoff team, but they aren’t good enough to contend for a title. So, in their (hopefully) final year in the lottery, they need to hit on a guard who can play the three while also occupying the two when one of Mitchell and Julie Allemand sits.
This isn’t the deepest draft, but there are some players who could do this. Arizona’s Aari McDonald might be too much of a guard to make sense, but Tennessee’s Rennia Davis is a versatile player who has as much upside as anyone in this draft and could play anything from the two (though sparingly) to the four. Davis isn’t the perfect player for this team, but she’s the best option if they want to get lucky with this lottery pick and find the best potential piece for this team.
- Atlanta Dream: Candace Parker
LET’S GET WEIRD.
Parker is an unrestricted free agent. Parker has an offseason job working for Turner Sports, which is headquartered in Atlanta. The Dream could really use a dynamic forward like Parker to take over the starting role that Monique Billings had last season.
Will this happen? Probably not, but that Turner connection is really, really interesting, and the Dream would be an incredibly interesting team if they had a Chennedy Carter/Candace Parker duo leading the way.
- Dallas Wings: A Star (or Potential Star) Big
Same story as with New York, basically. Dallas needs to hope Collier declares for the draft, because that would enable either her or Kuier to fall to the second pick.
The Wings found some success playing Satou Sabally at the five last year, but that’s not a viable long-term plan in this league. They need a real center who can muck it up with the bigs in the league and, hopefully, also brings some shooting range. That wish list is essentially the same as it is for New York, but with some more urgency attached to it, as the Wings need to be a playoff team in 2021.
- Washington Mystics: Everyone Back For 2021
This is an easy one: the Mystics can win a title with Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Tina Charles, and LaToya Sanders playing.
- Connecticut Sun: Jonquel Jones
Let’s keep this one short too: the best thing the Sun can get this holiday season is the return of Jonquel Jones, who opted out of the 2020 season.
Here’s my hot take about the WNBA: the only players I’d rather have over Jones if I were a GM are A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, and Elena Delle Donne. If we were redrafting the entire league and I had the fourth pick, Jones would be on my team without a second thought. There are a lot of good players in this league and Jonquel Jones is better than most of them.
- Chicago Sky: Diamond DeShields Back To Form
Diamond DeShields started 2020 as a darkhorse MVP candidate. She ended it not in the bubble and having posted the worst numbers of her career: 6.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game in 13 appearances off the bench.
DeShields wasn’t healthy, dealing with knee and quad issues during the shortened season, which meant she never really had the chance to make that leap to stardom that many expected.
So, our gift for the Sky is an easy one: if DeShields comes back in 2021 and looks like an improved version of her 2019 self, the Chicago Sky will have the personnel to win a WNBA title.
- Phoenix Mercury: Contingency Plans For Taurasi and Griner
In his predictions for 2021 at Fansided, Howard Megdal predicted that Brittney Griner’s time in Phoenix is over. It’s…probably a good idea to listen when Howard speculates about things.
Add to that that Diana Taurasi will turn 39 next season, and you get the Mercury in a precarious spot. They have to plan for the future without a Taurasi/Griner core.
On the Taurasi side, the addition of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley last offseason is a great start. If there weren’t questions about Griner, they could just draft one of Aari McDonald, Dana Evans, or Evina Westbrook and call it a day, but now things might be more complicated, as they need to plan for someone to slot into the front court beside Brianna Turner. Maybe if they move on from Griner, they can sign someone like Cheyenne Parker? Or maybe Griner will be in Phoenix this year, allowing them to focus on just the Taurasi end and push the center questions to 2022.
- Minnesota Lynx: A Healthy Sylvia Fowles
The Lynx were really good last year, going 14-8 and making the Semifinals. But Sylvia Fowles played just seven regular games, with the Lynx going 5-2 with her in the lineup.
Fowles is arguably the best traditional center in the WNBA. The Lynx need her gravity at the rim and her interior defense if they want to reach their full potential. Napheesa Collier has shown she’s a star, but she needs Fowles commanding the paint to unlock this team.
- Los Angeles Sparks: Some Way To Bring The Whole Team Back
Unrestricted free agents for Los Angeles: Seimone Augustus, Chelsea Gray, Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Riquna Williams.
I’m not sure how the money works out, but it’s hard to imagine the Sparks being as good as they’ve been without Gray, Ogwumike, and Parker, and Augustus and Williams bring needed things to the table as well.
Sure, we could talk about contingency plans, but the best shot for the Sparks to win a title next year is to run it back, and to get Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver back as well.
- Seattle Storm: Re-Signing Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard
The defending champions have two key players who they need to bring back in free agency. The best gift for them is to bring those two players back.
- Las Vegas Aces: Some Shooting In Free Agency
Hi, it’s me, Justin Carter, here once again to tell you that the Las Vegas Aces need more shooting.
I know, I know, I know. I’ve talked about this before. On this website. A lot. But it remains true: without reliable three-point shooting, the Aces ceiling is capped, no matter how good A’ja Wilson is. If Liz Cambage is back next year, the Aces need to put three shooters on the floor with the duo as much as possible.
That could mean bringing Kayla McBride back and finding a cheap shooter in free agency or the draft. It could mean letting McBride walk and grabbing some free agents who won’t command as much money. Maybe it means getting creative. But whatever the way, Vegas needs threes!