2021 WNBA Free Agency and Offseason Tracker

Welcome to Winsidr’s 2021 WNBA free agency and offseason tracker, your go-to source to keep up with every transaction with depth charts, salary cap projections, best-available free agent lists, and analysis of all the biggest moves. 

This will be a living document, updated regularly as more moves are announced throughout the 2021 WNBA free agency period and the entire offseason. Don’t miss our 2021 offseason preview with breakout sections on all 12 teams to get you ready for free agency. 

The league released the official WNBA free agency list on Friday. Reporting on new deals and their terms will be linked next to the corresponding player or trade in the ‘Latest Moves’ section below. All other salary and free agent information has been derived from the Her Hoop Stats salary database and free agent list. Note that the Her Hoop Stats list specifies 11 players under the status of ‘Suspended – Contract Expired’, meaning they can only negotiate with their current team. 

Team depth charts will not include unsigned free agents, save for the three 2021 core players. They will be included initially with an upper max salary for one year for the time being. The depth charts will include some projections and are geared more toward predicting what an opening day roster might look like. Salaries for draft picks or training camp contracts may be factored in if those players are being projected as likely to make the team’s roster. An explanation will be provided and updated below each chart on how the projected room amount was calculated. In some cases, for example, it may include a team waiving a non-protected contract. 

Quickly jump down to the various sections using these links:

Team depth charts and cap projections

Live-updating: List of best remaining free agents by position

Latest moves (reverse chronological order)

Analysis and rapid reaction

Team depth charts and cap projections

Atlanta Dream

Chennedy Carter Tiffany Hayes Shekinna Stricklen Cheyenne Parker Elizabeth Williams
Yvonne Turner Courtney Williams Tianna Hawkins Kalani Brown
Maite Cazorla Shatori Walker-Kimbrough Kaela Davis Monique Billings

2021 draft picks: R1P3, R2P3, R3P3

Projected room: $56,420 (11 players; incl. No. 3 overall pick; Davis and Turner’s training camp contracts not included in the count; Cazorla not included in the count [suspended])

Chicago Sky

Courtney Vandersloot Allie Quigley Diamond DeShields Azurá Stevens Candace Parker
Kahleah Copper Gabby Williams  Stefanie Dolson
Brittany Boyd Stephanie Mavunga Ruthy Hebard

2021 draft picks: R1P8, R2P4

Projected room: $1,077 (11 players; incl. No. 8 overall pick; Boyd’s training camp contract excluded from total)

Connecticut Sun

Jasmine Thomas Briann January DeWanna Bonner Jonquel Jones
Natisha Hiedeman Kamiah Smalls Kaila Charles Brionna Jones
Sydney Wallace Morgan Bertsch Beatrice Mompremier
Alyssa Thomas (injured–Achilles)

2021 draft picks: R2P8, R2P9, R3P6

Projected room: $122,134 (9 players; training camp contracts for Smalls, Bertsch and Wallace’s training camp contracts excluded from total)

Dallas Wings

Marina Mabrey Arike Ogunbowale Allisha Gray Satou Sabally
Tyasha Harris Kayla Thornton Bella Alarie
Moriah Jefferson Isabelle Harrison
Megan Gustafson

2021 draft picks: R1P1, R1P2, R1P5, R1P7, R2P1

Projected room: $57,393 (13 players; incl. Nos. 1, 2, 5 & 7 overall picks; Gustafson projected as waived; includes Astou Ndour’s $108,421 2021 cap hit [contract buyout on 2.25])

Indiana Fever

Danielle Robinson Kelsey Mitchell Kennedy Burke Lauren Cox Teaira McCowan
Julie Allemand Victoria Vivians Tiffany Mitchell Jessica Breland Jantel Lavender
Lindsay Allen
Kathleen Doyle

Chanelle Molina

2021 draft picks: R1P4, R2P7, R2P12, R3P2, R3P7, R3P9

Projected room: $90,911 (12 players; not incl. No. 4 overall pick; Molina’s training camp contract excluded from total; incl. Odyssey Sims’ $119,000 2021 cap hit [waived Feb. 15])

Las Vegas Aces

Kelsey Plum Chelsea Gray Angel McCoughtry A’ja Wilson Liz Cambage (core)
Riquna Williams Jackie Young Dearica Hamby
Emma Cannon JiSu Park

2021 draft picks: R1P12, R2P2, R3P12

Projected room: $39,296 (11 players; incl. No. 12 overall pick; Cambage unsigned core player with upper max placeholder of $221,450 for 2021)

Los Angeles Sparks

Erica Wheeler Kristi Toliver Brittney Sykes Nneka Ogwumike (core, estimate*) Chiney Ogwumike
Te’a Cooper Sydney Wiese Seimone Augustus Maria Vadeeva Amanda Zahui B.
Bria Holmes Kristine Anigwe
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt Marie Gülich 

2021 draft picks: R1P10, R2P10, R3P4, R3P10

Projected room: $62,830 (11 players; not incl. No. 10 overall pick; N. Ogwumike incl. with upper max estimate of $221,450 for 2021; Holmes’ training camp contract excluded from total; Gülich and Ruffin-Pratt projected as waived)

Minnesota Lynx

Crystal Dangerfield Aerial Powers Kayla McBride Napheesa Collier Sylvia Fowles
Lexie Brown Bridget Carleton Damiris Dantas Natalie Achonwa
Rachel Banham Jessica Shepard
Linnae Harper

2021 draft picks: R1P9

Projected room: $33,390 (11 players; not incl. No. 9 overall pick; Harper’s training camp contract excluded from total; incl. Karima Christmas-Kelly’s $106,000 2021 cap hit [waived Jul. 30])

New York Liberty

Sabrina Ionescu Marine Johannès Betnijah Laney  Natasha Howard Kiah Stokes
Layshia Clarendon Asia Durr Leaonna Odom Kylee Shook
Jazmine Jones Sami Whitcomb Jocelyn Willoughby
Joyner Holmes Han Xu

2021 draft picks: R1P6, R2P5, R3P1, R3P5

Projected room: $46,327 (13 players; not incl. No. 6 overall pick; Holmes’ training camp contract excluded from total)

Phoenix Mercury

Skylar Diggins-Smith Diana Taurasi Kia Nurse Brianna Turner Brittney Griner
Bria Hartley Megan Walker Alanna Smith Kia Vaughn
Shey Peddy Sophie Cunningham

2021 draft picks: R3P8

Projected room: $5,469 (11 players)

Seattle Storm

Sue Bird (estimate*) Jewell Loyd Katie Lou Samuelson Breanna Stewart Mercedes Russell
Jordin Canada Epiphanny Prince Mikiah Herbert Harrigan Candice Dupree Ezi Magbegor
Kitija Laksa Stephanie Talbot Morgan Tuck 
Haley Gorecki Tamera Young

2021 draft picks: R1P11, R2P6, R2P11, R3P11

Projected room: $16,335 (12 players; not incl. No 11 overall pick; Bird incl. with upper max estimate of $221,450 for 2021; Talbot, Gorecki and Young’s training camp contracts excluded from total)

Washington Mystics

Ariel Atkins Alysha Clark Elena Delle Donne Tina Charles
Leilani Mitchell Stella Johnson Kiara Leslie  Myisha Hines-Allen LaToya Sanders
Sug Sutton Jacki Gemelos Erica McCall

2021 draft picks: None

Projected room: $189,550 (10 players; Gemelos and Sutton projected as waived)

Best remaining free agents (live-updating list)

Centers

  1. Liz Cambage (UFA; cored by Las Vegas)
  2. Glory Johnson (UFA)
  3. Temi Fagbenle (RP)
  4. Brittany Brewer (waived 2/21, yet to clear waivers)
  5. Carolyn Swords (UFA)

Power Forwards

  1. Emma Meesseman (UFA)
  2. Astou Ndour (waived 2/25, yet to clear waivers)
  3. Megan Huff (UFA)
  4. Raisa Musina (UFA)
  5. Sara Blicavs (UFA)

Small Forwards

  1. Shenise Johnson (UFA)
  2. Essence Carson (UFA)
  3. Karima Christmas-Kelly (UFA–injured, ruptured Achilles July 2020)
  4. Nia Coffey (UFA)
  5. Alexis Prince (RP)

Shooting Guards

  1. Odyssey Sims (UFA, waived 2/15)
  2. Jaylyn Agnew (RP–injured, torn ACL)
  3. Sugar Rodgers (UFA)
  4. Tayler Hill (UFA)
  5. Blake Dietrick (RFA)

Point Guards

  1. Paris Kea (RP–injured, torn ACL)
  2. Sydney Colson (UFA)
  3. Olivia Époupa (UFA)
  4. Jessica January (UFA)
  5. Japreece Dean (UFA)

Note: ‘Suspended – Contract Expired’ players not included. 

See our full rankings (published prior to the start of free agency) in our offseason preview.

The latest moves

February 25

Astou Ndour, Dallas Wings

  • Waived; agreed to buyout: $108,421 in 2021, $111,579 in 2022; had two years, $386,650 with full protection remaining on current deal (team release; salary info via Richard Cohen)

Chiney Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

  • Two-year deal starting at $113,000 with full protection (story; salary info via Richard Cohen)

February 23

Haley Gorecki, Seattle Storm

February 22

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Atlanta Dream

February 21

Kaela Davis, Atlanta Dream

Brittany Brewer and Mikayla Pivec, Atlanta Dream

February 19

Seimone Augustus, Los Angeles Sparks

Bria Holmes, Los Angeles Sparks

February 17

Azurá Stevens, Chicago Sky

February 16

Jessica Breland, Indiana Fever 

February 15

Lindsay Allen, Indiana Fever

  • Trade: Indiana receives Allen and No. 24 overall pick; Las Vegas receives No. 14 overall pick (team release)

Odyssey Sims and Temi Fagbenle, Indiana Fever

  • Trade: Minnesota receives Indiana’s 2022 second-round pick; Indiana receives Sims, rights to Temi Fagbenle, Minnesota’s 2022 first-round pick and Minnesota’s 2022 third-round pick (Source: Rachel Galligan
  • Sims waived by Indiana (team release)

Morgan Bertsch, Connecticut Sun

February 13

Yvonne Turner, Atlanta Dream

  • Trade: Atlanta receives Turner; Phoenix receives Atlanta’s 2022 third-round pick (team release)
  • Turner signed training camp contract with Atlanta (Source: Richard Cohen)

Linnae Harper, Minnesota Lynx

February 11

Amanda Zahui B., Los Angeles Sparks

Riquna Williams, Las Vegas Aces

Stephanie Talbot, Seattle Storm

Tamera Young, Seattle Storm

February 10

The five Wednesday trades

  • Each component of Wednesday’s happenings will be listed separately, and a final recap will be listed below.

New York and Phoenix

  • New York receives the No. 6 overall pick and Phoenix’s 2022 first-round pick; Phoenix receives Megan Walker and Kia Nurse (Source: Rachel Galligan)
  • Phoenix waives Nia Coffey (Source: Brendon Kleen)

New York and Seattle

  • New York receives Natasha Howard; Seattle receives the No. 1 overall pick, Phoenix’s 2022 first-round pick, and New York’s 2022 second-round pick (Source: Rachel Galligan)
  • Four-year deal for Howard in New York starting at $215,000 (Source: Rachel Galligan)

New York and Seattle

  • New York receives Sami Whitcomb; Seattle receives the rights to Stephanie Talbot (Source: Rachel Galligan)
  • Two-year deal, with full protection, for Whitcomb with New York at $150,350 per season (Source: Gabe Ibrahim)

Minnesota and Seattle

  • Minnesota receives Phoenix’s 2022 first-round pick; Seattle receives Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (Source: Rachel Galligan)

Dallas and Seattle

  • Dallas receives the No. 1 overall pick; Seattle receives Katie Lou Samuelson and Dallas’ 2022 second-round pick (team release)

Full recap

New York receives

Natasha Howard, Sami Whitcomb, 2021 No. 6 overall pick

Seattle receives

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Katie Lou Samuelson, Stephanie Talbot, Dallas’ 2022 second-round pick, New York’s 2022 second-round pick

Phoenix receives

Kia Nurse and Megan Walker; waived Nia Coffey

Dallas receives

2021 No. 1 overall pick

Minnesota receives

Phoenix’s 2022 first-round pick

February 9

Trade between Chicago and Dallas

  • Chicago receives Dallas’ 2021 second-round pick (No. 16 overall); Dallas receives Chicago’s 2022 second-round pick (Source: Madeline Kenney; Rachel Galligan)

Renee Montgomery

February 8

Brittany Boyd, Chicago Sky

  • Training camp contract

Candice Dupree, Seattle Storm

Chanelle Molina, Indiana Fever

Kayla Thornton, Dallas Wings

Crystal Langhorne, Seattle Storm

February 6

Sydney Wallace, Connecticut Sun

February 5

Erica McCall, Washington Mystics

Kia Vaughn, Phoenix Mercury

Tina Charles, Washington Mystics

Shatori-Walker Kimbrough, restricted qualifying offer rescinded 

  • Becomes an unrestricted free agent; 23 games played for Phoenix in 2020 

Kobi Thornton, draft rights renounced 

  • Drafted 27th overall in 2020 by Atlanta; becomes an unrestricted free agent

February 4

Tianna Hawkins, Atlanta Dream

February 2

Danielle Robinson, Indiana Fever 

Joyner Holmes, New York Liberty 

Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun 

LaToya Sanders, Washington Mystics

February 1

Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas Aces

Kamiah Smalls, Connecticut Sun

Jantel Lavender, Indiana Fever 

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

January 31

Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

Epiphanny Prince, Seattle Storm

Sue Bird, Seattle Storm

  • Reached agreement in principle to re-sign; terms unknown (Source: Chris Haynes)

January 30

Erica Wheeler, Los Angeles Sparks 

January 28

Alysha Clark, Washington Mystics

Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces 

Jasmine Thomas, Connecticut Sun

  • Three-year deal starting at $185,000 with full protection; flat at $190,000 in the final two seasons (Source: Rachel Galligan; salary info via Rachel Galligan)

Aerial Powers, Minnesota Lynx

  • Three-year deal starting at the lower max of $190,550 with full protection (Source: Chris Haynes; salary info via Her Hoop Stats)

Natalie Achonwa, Minnesota Lynx

  • Three-year deal starting at $164,500 with full protection; descending salary structure (Source: Doug Feinberg; salary info via Her Hoop Stats)

Allisha Gray, Dallas Wings

January 27

Brittney Sykes, Los Angeles Sparks 

Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty

Cheyenne Parker, Atlanta Dream

Kayla McBride, Minnesota Lynx

Candace Parker, Chicago Sky

Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

  • Agreed in principle to multi-year deal; designated core player in 2021; terms unknown (Source: Rachel Galligan)

January 23

Nia Coffey, Phoenix Mercury

January 20

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe

  • Plans to forego 2021 WNBA season to focus on Olympics; reserved player this offseason (Source: CBC.ca)

January 14 

Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm

Alaina Coates, Washington Mystics 

  • Did not receive a reserved qualifying offer, now an unrestricted free agent 

Reshanda Gray, Los Angeles Sparks 

  • Did not receive a restricted qualifying offer, now an unrestricted free agent 

Cierra Burdick, Las Vegas Aces

  • Did not receive a restricted qualifying offer, now an unrestricted free agent 

James Wade, Chicago Sky

  • Contract extension to remain head coach and general manager through 2025 (team release)

January 13 

Emma Cannon, Las Vegas Aces

Lindsay Allen, Las Vegas Aces

Liz Cambage, Las Vegas Aces

January 12 

Shey Peddy, Phoenix Mercury 

Curt Miller, Connecticut Sun 

  • Contract extension to remain head coach and general manager through 2024 (team release)

January 11

Te’a Cooper, Los Angeles Sparks

January 10 

Beatrice Mompremier, Connecticut Sun

  • Accepted the reserved qualifying offer (Source: Winsidr)

January 9

María Conde, Chicago Sky

  • Suspended, full season; selected No. 27 overall (Round 3 Pick 3) by Chicago in 2019

January 8 

Stella Johnson, Washington Mystics

Sug Sutton, Washington Mystics

Jacki Gemelos, Washington Mystics

Bridget Carleton, Minnesota Lynx

  • Accepted the reserved qualifying offer (Source: Winsidr)

January 7

Natisha Hiedeman, Connecticut Sun 

Kiah Gillespie, Chicago Sky 

  • Waived; cleared waivers Jan. 17; selected No. 32 overall (Round 3 Pick 8) by Chicago in 2020 

December 22

Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Sparks

  • Coaching contract renewed, named general manager; Michael Fischer named VP of Player Personnel (team release)

Analysis and rapid reaction

The Odyssey Sims and Lindsay Allen trades

A domino finally falls in Minnesota

There has been no shortage of pointed speculation regarding what Minnesota would need to do to officially sign Aerial Powers. A coveted free agent expected to warrant a protected contract, the Lynx had already hit the maximum of six protected slots and thus would need to maneuver in some fashion to ink Powers to that kind of deal. We later found out that Powers got a three-year max deal—the same contract Kayla McBride got with the Lynx this offseason. 

Sims was the obvious candidate. Recent signings McBride and Natalie Achonwa were occupying two of those spots. Sylvia Fowles and Damiris Dantas were extremely unlikely options for Minnesota to move in a deal of this fashion. And Karima Christmas-Kelly still occupies one of those spots even though she was waived last season. The three-year deal she inked with the Lynx in 2019 was fully protected, and Minnesota has the full cap hit for her 2021 salary on their books this year. 

Getting to the terms of the trade, let’s look at the arguments for each side of the deal. Indiana can win the press conference here by highlighting the addition of a first-round pick simply by cooperating in a deal another team had to do. In a vacuum, eating Sims’ salary for this season doesn’t really hurt the Fever. Before signing Jessica Breland on Tuesday, they still had more than $200,000 in cap space that they were totally free to use in a few different ways. Indiana also picked up the rights to Temi Fagbenle, and this sure is a great one-year window for the Fever to try to get a real look at Fagbenle as a prominent part of the rotation with Lauren Cox and Teaira McCowan. 

Minnesota was in a bind by this point, and the other teams knew it. Fagbenle was facing pretty steep odds to really carve out a big role in Minnesota once Achonwa was signed. And now that the Powers deal is official, Minnesota could argue that the difference between where their 2022 first-round pick lands in comparison to the Indiana second-rounder will be marginal. Say Minnesota finishes in the top three and Indiana posts the worst record in the league this season. The Lynx might only end up jumping down a spot or two. That minor concession and the rights to a player that’s hardly a lock to crack your rotation as the ultimate cost to get this done is very easy to stomach as the Lynx. 

That’s where this starts to crumble a little bit for the Fever, although the slight upside of that Minnesota pick can’t be ignored. Even if Minnesota plays like a top-two seed, they’re still one rough patch or an ankle sprain away from turning that into a pick that ends up around No. 7 in next year’s draft. But as we’ll get to more later in reviewing their other trade of the day, the second-round picks of likely lottery teams are valuable! The Fever shipped out their next two second-rounders in one afternoon. 

You’d hope the Fever did everything they could to gauge Fagbenle’s interest in coming over this year. The stars really seem to have aligned for her to get a lot of minutes for Indiana in 2021 considering the limited options left in free agency, Indiana’s current state as a rebuilding team, and Great Britain’s failure to qualify for EuroBasket or the Tokyo Olympics. That aspect of the deal ends up being a big whiff if the Fever can’t see her on the floor this summer. 

The swiftness of the decision to waive Sims also should have raised some eyebrows. They included it in the press release announcing the trade! At worst, Sims would be, what, the second-best player on the Fever roster right now? But the fit may have been awkward even if Indiana had any interest in keeping her this season. The team has its starting 2-guard in Kelsey Mitchell. At point guard, they just made a massive commitment to Danielle Robinson and could even look to draft a point guard at No. 4. So there’s a pretty clear case to make that neither side would have a ton of interest in that partnership. 

If you’re looking to push back on Indiana’s logic, perhaps you think the Phoenix 2022 first-rounder has more upside. Or you push hard to include the Chicago 2021 second-rounder that they currently hold rather than the 2022 second-rounder. Or really take a hardened stance and hang up the phone unless Minnesota will just do some form of the deal for a third-rounder. Indiana had nothing but time at this point. 

For Minnesota, this ultimately looks like a pretty happy outcome: you mitigated your risk by getting Indiana’s second-rounder back in the deal. But they did play a part in painting themselves into a corner with a very specific sequence of events. The protection for Achonwa at that price for three years was too steep. Outside of Minnesota or a possible return to Indiana, who else was making an offer in that ballpark? 

The questionable inclusion of a third year on some of the contracts handed out this offseason has been a major theme. Fittingly, the Christmas-Kelly contract should have served as a warning. No, the Lynx aren’t getting a demerit because she got hurt. But if that player isn’t a total certainty to be a top-seven rotation player on a surefire contender, that long of a commitment doesn’t bring all that much upside to a team. 

One alternate timeline for Minnesota’s offseason: could the Lynx have asked Achonwa to wait rather than Powers, then lump Sims into some kind of sign-and-trade for Achonwa instead? Do you have to part with a first-round pick at all in a scenario like that? Achonwa was an unrestricted free agent. But if a protected offer was at least offered somewhere else and firmly seen as a must-have for Achonwa, Minnesota may have feared losing out on a top target. 

Minnesota is pretty locked in to this team now. Dantas is under contract for two more seasons, and the trio of 2021 signings runs through 2023. Even if Fowles is back next season, the Lynx could have preserved the chance to add to the team in a big way for 2022. Any outcome in which the Lynx are bonafide title contenders in 2021 would rely pretty heavily on Fowles having an awesome season. With McBride and Powers seemingly pushing Napheesa Collier to the 4 in a lot of their most potent lineups, you still need to find minutes for Dantas, and Achonwa essentially becomes your fourth big. 

All told, the Sims trade points back to the Lynx having a whole lot riding on Achonwa. With Fowles firmly in her mid-30s, the Lynx giving themselves more flexibility as they ride this out with their franchise center seems like the superior option—one where the Lynx could have simply kept Sims on their 2021 roster on her current contract. 

Indiana makes one more move

But wait, the Fever weren’t done! They sent the No. 14 overall pick to Las Vegas in exchange for Lindsay Allen and No. 24. Indiana’s willingness to part with an early second-rounder is much more dubious this time around. Las Vegas doesn’t need to keep a pure point guard off the bench this season, but at least having an option going into training camp would be nice. Shouldn’t their willingness to trade Allen, who started 21 games for them last regular season, tell you something?

In that 10-to-16 range where a draft class tends to flatten out more, Las Vegas can now select a player at two different positions and figure the rest out in camp and as they also find out what JiSu Park’s plans are for 2021. Allen’s limitations were on display this past season, especially as she fell completely out of the rotation in the playoffs. Even the second tier of point guards in this class would bring much more upside to the table for either team. Indiana is still sitting on five second- and third-round picks in this draft, but why the rush to give up the best one in a move like this?

Indiana is at the very top of the list of teams that should not be dismissing the value they might be able to find in the second round of the draft. And they still might be able to find some in the latter half of it. But this is the framework of a move that an actual contender like Chicago might be making, arguing that they’re targeting a specific player to address a specific need on the bench. Indiana? You just signed Robinson. See if Chanelle Molina can push Doyle in camp, continue to consider the point guards you could select at No. 4, and wait for somebody to sweeten an offer closer to draft night if they really want to move into the top of the second round.

The Rest of Week 3

Let’s start with the biggest move of the week in terms of years and salary outside of the big trades: Amanda Zahui B. in Los Angeles. The protected two-year deal starting at $135,000 is less of a commitment than Indiana and Minnesota made to Jantel Lavender and Natalie Achonwa, respectively. It’s more on par with Brionna Jones’ new deal in Connecticut. 

One overarching question off the bat: did these teams really need to dish out protected contracts? Or how about this one: did the league secretly ban one-year contracts? If we’re asking the first question at all in this case, we can at least acknowledge that a two-year deal is safer than one with an additional year tacked onto it. This contract at its price isn’t a huge issue. It’s about the compounding effect of stacking multiple protected contracts together. Some players in certain situations might be movable down the line, but you’re really committing to a block of players over a specific amount of time. 

Where are the Sparks going with this group? It’s really tough not to question the decision to add one more protected contract to their mix. Some teams around the league that aren’t projected to be serious title contenders seem to have severely underrated their own future spending power. Even one year from now, the really good teams will have less money to spend. That’s when you pounce! The Sparks should be eager to jump in on a deal like the Odyssey Sims trade if one materializes. See if you can pick up a first-round pick or an interesting young player from a team that might need to shed some salary. 

If Nneka Ogwumike ends up re-signing at her maximum, the Sparks will have 54 percent of the cap next year tied up in Kristi Toliver, Erica Wheeler, Zahui B. and Ogwumike. Ogwumike hasn’t made things official. No word on Chiney Ogwumike, yet, either. 

There are some fun on-court elements to consider. Zahui B. and Nneka Ogwumike playing together can open up the lane for Wheeler and Toliver in pick and roll. They can get Brittney Sykes going backdoor and open up more driving lines for the explosive slasher to get all the way to the rim. The stretch big market isn’t exactly flooded with options. L.A.’s pick at No. 10 might not be high enough for them to nab one of the best bigs in this draft class. Still, if Plan A was to re-sign Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker, why not just give out some one-year deals instead and survey the scene with more flexibility next offseason? 

Speaking of one-year deals, Las Vegas sure did find some 3-point shooting with Riquna Williams. I had wondered coming into the offseason how negotiations would go with Danielle Robinson, never giving much credit to the idea that an offer might be out there for her to get paid like a starter again. Wrong. No matter, as the Aces bounced back just fine by landing one of the best bench shooters in this free agent class.

Williams shot 42 percent on 4.9 3-pointers per game last season and canned 39 percent of her 3-point attempts in 2019. An Aces bench sure to be plenty effective already anchored again by Jackie Young and Dearica Hamby got even better. There will be those spurts throughout the season where Williams catches fire and ends up with five or six made threes in a game. At this stage of free agency, this will go down as one of the best signings and fits of the offseason. 

Linnae Harper (Minnesota), Yvonne Turner (Atlanta) and Stephanie Talbot and Tamera Young (Seattle) all signed training camp deals. Harper also signed a camp contract with the Lynx last offseason. The Lynx would need to make a few more trades for a roster spot to truly be in play there. Atlanta sent a third-round pick to Phoenix for Turner’s rights, a solid identification of a guard that can give you some minutes off the bench playing with different lineups. 

The added presence of Talbot and Young should make for a very lively camp along with new additions Katie Lou Samuelson and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan—not that either player would actually be in danger of getting cut considering what Seattle gave up to get them. Young in particular can really up the intensity defensively. Seattle’s staff likely remembers Talbot and her role with the Mercury quite well as they clashed in that epic semifinal series in 2018.

The Big Trade: Natasha Howard lands in New York

Analysis: How the Natasha Howard trade alters the WNBA landscape

Week 2

No longer Dupree-less in Seattle 

What’s going on in Seattle? It’s only natural to assume that Sue Bird might at least consider taking less than a max salary by not making things official yet. Is this what she was holding out for, though? The Storm sure are paying a premium for Candice Dupree’s age-36 season.

Are the Storm just going to play Breanna Stewart at the 3? Just in terms of the basketball fit, there are some interesting possibilities with Dupree that they can explore. And there just aren’t any cure-alls left in free agency after losing Alysha Clark. This is just too big of a price to pay. And this big of a payday seems to suggest that Dupree will have a sizable role this season. 

If it was even possible, bringing restricted free agent Sami Whitcomb back to just play more next to Jewell Loyd on the wing seems much more appealing of an option than this deal for Dupree. What happens now with Morgan Tuck? And was it worth it to commit to Dupree now over waiting to see if some trade possibilities pop up later in the offseason? Core player Natasha Howard remains unsigned as of Tuesday afternoon. Things will come into focus to evaluate the Dupree fit further once Bird finalizes a new deal and we hear some kind of update on Howard. 

Sykes and the latest on the Sky 

The Sparks got a great deal with the new contract for Sykes. No, we won’t be seeing her alongside the Big Four as we may have envisioned a while back, but it’s a huge relief just to re-sign the pending free agent you traded for a year ago. It is interesting that the deal for Sykes isn’t protected. Having one more protected slot open gives the Sparks one that they can fill some other way, either next year in free agency or via trade.  

Cap space shouldn’t be an obstacle in bringing back Chiney Ogwumike. But what’s in store for Seimone Augustus and Riquna Williams? Russia has qualified for EuroBasket 2021, which would likely impact Maria Vadeeva’s availability this season. 

Brittany Boyd has signed a training camp deal with the Sky—a move Madeline Kenney alluded to earlier this month. That gives the Sky one option in addressing the backup point guard spot. On Tuesday, they moved into the second round by acquiring the No. 16 pick from Dallas in exchange for their 2022 second-round pick. The Sky may have another deal in mind, but I don’t think keeping and using both picks would be all that surprising. 

With so many point guards in this draft, what if Chicago thinks the guard they really like will fall to No. 16? They could take somebody else at No. 8. The latter could supplant one of their backup bigs, and the former would get a chance to compete with Boyd in training camp. 

Teams looking to trade into that early second-round range will want to get Dallas on the line about the availability of No. 13. The Wings still hold their three first-rounders. Indiana (Nos. 14 and 19) and New York (No. 17) might also be worth contacting. Another Dallas trade similar to the one they just made with Chicago might also make sense for all parties. Is there a team out there that might eventually bite and send Dallas their 2022 first-round pick in exchange for No. 7? Too steep? How about Nos. 7 and 13?

Week 1 wrap-up

Life on the Sun 

Connecticut re-signed its top three free agents, and we now have the terms for all three deals. They had to re-sign Alyssa Thomas, torn Achilles and all. Jasmine Thomas got a near-max deal and seemingly had all the leverage in this case. The point guard market had totally dried up once Chelsea Gray’s departure left an obvious opening for Erica Wheeler with the Sparks. The Sun don’t even pick until No. 20 in this point guard-heavy draft. So there doesn’t seem to be any reason for any hand-wringing over the deals for the Thomii. 

Curt Miller can really sell a multi-year window to Jonquel Jones, a free agent after this season, with DeWanna Bonner, Jasmine Thomas and Alyssa Thomas all under contract through 2023. But what they can accomplish in filling out the rest of their roster remains an open question. 

The 2022 and beyond outlook is where the Brionna Jones deal becomes a factor. A protected contract for two years was too much for the Sun to fork over—specifically the protected status in 2022. The Sun will have four big contracts if they re-sign Jonquel Jones, who you’d expect to get a max contract. As we’re seeing with Phoenix this offseason, you basically have enough leftover to pay one player in that $110,000-to-120,000 ballpark, then you’re left to more-less fill out your roster with draft picks and minimum contracts. 

Phoenix chose Kia Vaughn; Connecticut chose Brionna Jones. Phoenix’s Big Four is making a tad more, but that difference is marginal. The Mercury also didn’t protect Vaughn’s contract, making it easier to move in some form if they need to address a different need at some point. Perhaps Connecticut wouldn’t have too difficult a time trading Brionna Jones if needed. 

At this point, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones playing together. We got a full season of the Brionna Jones-Alyssa Thomas pairing in 2020, which was a tad clunky offensively. Thomas didn’t get many chances to roll to the basket and make plays with an open lane. Similarly, this 2021 version will force Jonquel Jones to do the adjusting. Brionna Jones’ offensive game won’t open things up at all for the Sun to play through Bonner or Jonquel Jones in Alyssa Thomas’ absence. An opposing big will still get plenty of chances to camp out in the lane. 

The problem for Connecticut, though, is that they didn’t have very much flexibility to look to add a stretch big. They couldn’t have matched the money Tianna Hawkins ended up getting in Atlanta. Taking a look at what’s left in free agency, could they have pursued vets like Glory Johnson or Amanda Zahui B. without running into the same issue? Their selection of (somewhat) more complementary offensive options may have been slim to none. Fast-forward to 2022, though, and how many minutes is Brionna Jones playing per game in a playoff series? Eight? 

Briann January will be a free agent next offseason. Whether one or both parties elect to move on or not, giving Brionna Jones that deal now severely limits what the Sun can do in finding a starting 2-guard or even adding another perimeter piece off the bench. Some spitballing with what we know right now: they can’t come close to matching January’s 2021 salary of $121,500 if you pencil Jonquel Jones in for a max contract. It would have to be closer to $90,000 if they also hope to keep their 2022 first-round pick.  

So, who’s that fifth player that you’ll really be able to count on in a playoff series? January, or somebody else, would probably need to take a discount. Or perhaps Kaila Charles will become an even bigger part of the rotation. The Sun will also really need to nail their draft picks over the next two years after mostly whiffing on the last three. 

A recap: 2018 first-rounder Lexie Brown was traded after one season for the draft rights to Natisha Hiedeman, who they ended up waiving and later re-signing. 2019 first-rounder Kristine Anigwe was traded in year one for Theresa Plaisance. The Sun drafted but waived Bridget Carleton about two months in to open up a spot to bring Hiedeman back. And to cap it all off, they dealt three first-round picks for a player in Bonner—an unrestricted free agent that already wanted to join their team. (Expect that to be a measuring stick—or a source of frustration—for teams in similar situations in the future. ‘Oh, you want us to play ball in a sign-and-trade so that a player that doesn’t want to be on my team anymore can have more money? We want the full Bonner.’)

The Sun are in a tough spot and have had to deal with some really tough breaks far beyond their control. That only ups the stakes to really get the smaller moves right. Some of their pain has been self-inflicted. The new deal for Jones only seems to add to that tally for 2022, when they’ll really be gearing up to win it all with Alyssa Thomas back in action. 

More: Hawkins, Thornton, Mercury and Mystics 

Tianna Hawkins signing a two-year deal with Atlanta was the big news to close out week one. The Dream found a stretch big to open up the floor for their slashing guards and for the post-up game of new addition Cheyenne Parker. Even if Parker plays a fair amount with Elizabeth Williams, having that option to play Hawkins at the 4 will give their offense a big boost. There really isn’t any downside here for Atlanta even though they’ll have plenty to figure out next offseason. The deal isn’t protected, and the biggest non-cored frontcourt free agents are already off the board. Atlanta could certainly end up taking a big in the draft this year, but this kind of contract for Hawkins won’t be any kind of obstacle regardless of what they end up doing at No. 3. 

The Mercury re-signed Kia Vaughn at the same salary and pulled the restricted qualifying offer for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Nothing is preventing Phoenix from possibly bringing Walker-Kimbrough back anyway, but that chapter appears to be over after one season. As we’ve also covered in dreaming up some trade targets for Phoenix this offseason, trading for a pending restricted free agent is risky. Will you even have enough room to re-sign them? 

Re-signing Vaughn was important. They didn’t have another reliable option at backup center behind Brittney Griner, and Vaughn certainly earned a new deal with how she played in 2020. Walker-Kimbrough fits in nicely offensively spotting up around their star guards but doesn’t bring much else to the table. Finding a player that can hit those spot-up shots and really take on the tougher defensive assignments on the perimeter would be ideal. 

Phoenix doesn’t have much flexibility left with the contracts they have on the books. If they looked to make a trade involving a draft pick or two, they’d need to get a player back that is still on a rookie contract to still stay under the salary cap. It’s entirely possible that they nab a player they really like with the No. 6 overall pick. 

Tina Charles will indeed be back with the Mystics. The more interesting move came later as they acquired restricted free agent Erica McCall in a sign-and-trade deal with the Lynx. That would seem to signal that we might not see Emma Meesseman until late in the season if at all, something Mike Thibault has already addressed with the media this offseason. 

McCall was a good get for what would appear to be Washington’s fifth frontcourt spot behind Charles, LaToya Sanders, Elena Delle Donne and Myisha Hines-Allen. McCall played some of her best WNBA minutes to date with the Lynx as more of a backup center after being used as more of a 4 previously in Indiana. McCall might be able to slot in as a bit of a Sanders understudy, at least attempting to do the same things: moving her feet, doing some switching and camping out around the elbows. 

Kayla Thornton inked a reported two-year extension with Dallas. The Wings now have five protected slots filled for both 2021 and 2022—a development they shouldn’t be too thrilled about at this stage of their rebuild. The contract for Thornton by itself isn’t worrisome, but the sum of those contracts may cause some headaches if they get a chance to be a big player in free agency next year. Thornton’s minutes waxed and waned a bit last season. After the team also-resigned Allisha Gray, does Vickie Johnson intend to find consistent time for Thornton off the bench at both forward spots behind Gray and Satou Sabally? 

Day Two

How the PG dominos fell

Most of the major point guard free agency dominos have fallen, clearing the way to begin looking ahead to what might happen for the lead guards in this draft class. Natasha Cloud and Renee Montgomery remain unsigned as of Tuesday night, but both players can only negotiate with their prior teams.

Jasmine Thomas re-upped in Connecticut, and Sue Bird plans to do the same in Seattle. Chelsea Gray signed with Las Vegas. Erica Wheeler then signed with the Sparks, filling the vacancy left by Gray. Both of those deals paved the way for Danielle Robinson to ink a three-year deal with the Fever.

Robinson could have been a primary target for the Aces to consider re-signing. Factoring in Gray’s max salary along with a maximum salary as a placeholder for core player Liz Cambage, Las Vegas could have probably offered Robinson something in the $120,000 range, similar to last season’s salary. Robinson is coming off a strong 2020 campaign serving primarily as the backup point guard.

No one will fault Robinson for taking the security of a fully protected three-year deal in Indiana–much more than Las Vegas would have been able or willing to offer in all likelihood. Las Vegas still has plenty of options to consider filling out their guard rotation. Lindsay Allen already accepted her reserved qualifying offer. The Aces could look to sign somebody else to compete for a spot in camp or select a guard or two in the draft this year.

Looking elsewhere, striking a new deal with Cloud obviously must be a priority in Washington. We’ll await any updates on Montgomery’s plans for 2021. Chicago will need to address their backup point guard spot. Sydney Colson, signed to fill that role last season, remains an unrestricted free agent.

Everything else

Betnijah Laney ended up getting a three-year deal at the max in New York. Richard Cohen commented yesterday that multiple teams were prepared to pay her. You certainly won’t find any pushback here. Laney is a clear upgrade over what the Liberty already had at the position. She’ll likely guard the opposition’s No. 1 option and continue to excel offensively getting chances to attack with the ball in her hands in a wide-open, pick and roll-heavy attack. Joyner Holmes will be back with New York, figuring to at least get a shot in training camp. Including the No. 1 overall pick, the Liberty would already have 15 players.

LaToya Sanders is back with the Mystics at a number similar to her salary from the last couple of seasons. That seems like an outcome both sides should be happy about. It’s tougher to imagine as big of a role for Sanders with the addition of Tina Charles (still unsigned as of Tuesday) and the emergence of Myisha Hines-Allen. But Sanders really carved out her place on the team on both ends and was a starter on that 2019 championship team.

It turns out Natalie Achonwa got a three-year protected deal in Minnesota starting north of $160,000. It is declining year over year which should help the Lynx out a tad as some of their other players will need to get raises as future free agents, but this is a hefty price to pay. How much playing time will they even have for Achonwa? (We still haven’t gotten any terms on the Aerial Powers deal.) Despite liking the fit and what Achonwa can bring to the table complementing some of their main players, this one’s a bit of a head-scratcher at that price.

Alyssa Thomas has re-upped with Connecticut on a four-year deal starting just shy of the max. Even with the Achilles tear, you certainly understand the Sun’s side of this wanting to take care of one of their stars. What else are they supposed to do? Play chicken and risk Thomas signing with somebody else? Achilles tears are scary; we’ll have to wait and see how Thomas looks upon her return. This deal will take her through her age-32 season in 2024–one year beyond the length of DeWanna Bonner’s current deal. Jonquel Jones will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, but the Sun can now core her if needed without any reservation because Bonner and now Thomas have inked longer deals.

February 1: Now it’s official 

Related: Podcast: February 1 reactions

Taurasi stays put

Should we read anything into the fact that it’s a two-year deal rather than a one-year deal? Who knows. Taurasi may address that at her next media availability. The league’s all-time leading scorer will turn 39 this summer. Save for a brief three-game absence this past season with a strained oblique, Taurasi returned to a high level of play in 2020 after appearing in just six games in 2019.

Taurasi’s deal will reportedly start at $221,450, the absolute maximum amount that Phoenix could offer. It’s nearly twice as much as her 2020 salary, which was part of a deal she signed under the old collective bargaining agreement. That increase illustrates the additional pressure that will be on the Mercury in filling out this year’s roster while staying under the salary cap. Somehow finding a way to bring back Jessica Breland, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Kia Vaughn seems unlikely at this point.

But there’s no questioning this deal for Taurasi. There’s no reason to try to pinch pennies with one of the best players in league history that was still playing at a very high level the last time we saw her on the floor. The higher max salaries under this new CBA are the very thing superstars like Taurasi have deserved for a long time.

Whatever Phoenix manages to do on the perimeter will be interesting. Is the plan to forge ahead with Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley penciled in as the starters? Or will they look to plug more of a 3-and-D player into one of those spots and bring Hartley off the bench? (Hartley will be coming off a torn ACL suffered in late August.) For now, we know this much: that high-powered pick and roll trio will be incredibly difficult to prepare for in 2021.

AC to D.C.

It’s a two-year deal for Clark as the Mystics scoop up another key player from the defending league champion for the second time in five years. This got much more interesting when Mike Thibault commented on Monday that he felt Aerial Powers started backtracking after initially feeling good that the two parties had reached a verbal agreement. Powers ended up finding a deal with Minnesota, and the Mystics pursued Clark upon realizing the longtime Seattle stopper was open to finding a new home.

Clark’s deal comes in a tad lower than the maximum she could have signed for outright as a free agent with a new team. The Mystics may be in a position where they’re asking another player or two to take a small-ish potential pay cut like that. This deal takes Clark through her age-34 season. Clark’s defense and complementary offensive skill set are the two premium attributes you’d like to prioritize with a team that already has multiple options they can play through.

The Powers element of this story referenced by Thibault brings us to what surely will be one of the biggest offseason ‘what ifs’: if Washington and Powers indeed did strike a new deal, would Seattle still have had a chance to re-sign Clark? If so, the Storm’s hopes of repeating may have been railroaded by said backtracking.

Gray re-ups in Dallas

Like Clark, Gray didn’t quite get a max. Let’s call it definite high-end starter money. Gray has continued to improve year over year. Barring a lineup change by new head coach Vickie Johnson, you’d figure Gray will continue to start next to Arike Ogunbowale on the wing. The larger questions for Johnson and Greg Bibb likely center more around the team’s immediate and long-term plans at the bookends of point guard and center.

It is worth noting that Dallas does have five protected contracts on the books for 2021 as of now. Four of them extend at least through 2022, when they will account for about 50 percent of the 2022 salary cap. Dallas may need to push to send out one of those bigger contracts if a big trade comes along between now and then, or if they even get a chance to sign a big name in free agency next year.

Fever bet big on Lavender

Big spender, big spender. This is a massive payday for Lavender, 32, coming off of two foot surgeries. Indiana does have a case to make that they need and should prioritize a veteran leader. But who were they possibly competing against for Lavender with a contract this big, with full protection, for three years?

If Lavender really tried to hold out for big money, why not just wait it out or draw the line at one or two years? The on-court fit with Lauren Cox and Teaira McCowan isn’t all that amazing, either. But Lavender can at least bury those patented midrange jumpers. (Who could forget Lavender’s legendary 58 percent shooting on 153 midrange attempts back in 2016?) Turning some of those shots into 3-point attempts would be nice; we’ll see if that actually happens.

Indiana might rightly argue that there just aren’t very many stretch bigs out there. The Fever might also struggle to attract free agents at this stage of their current rebuild. Indiana’s books are pretty clean right now, but there’s no need for them to underrate their own future spending power or put a cap on what they can take on in a trade. WNBA teams have more money to spend in these first couple of years under the new collective bargaining agreement. That pool will dry up quickly, and the Fever can look to leverage that cap space as soon as next offseason. A protected contract this big for that many seasons is an overpay.

CP to Atlanta

This was a big, big win for Atlanta. That frontcourt needed an infusion of offensive talent, and Parker will add multiple layers to their attack: playing in pick and roll with Chennedy Carter and Tiffany Hayes, scoring as an efficient post-up option, and even giving you some stretch as a 3-point shooter.

After attempting a career-high 32 3-pointers last season, it would be a pretty massive step for Parker to start taking five or six per game. We’ll see just how much the Dream ask from her in that regard. More importantly, Parker can actually make decisions facing the basket, initiating some handoff actions with the guards or driving and kicking it out to the open player.

CP3 goes home

Clark joining the Mystics still feels like the biggest surprise, but this one was an earthquake. Chicago was a natural potential destination to point to for Parker all along. It’ll still take a while to get used to the idea of Parker in a Sky uniform.

The possibilities will be endless for James Wade as he dreams up actions that he can run through Parker, Courtney Vandersloot or Diamond DeShields. Parker will rack up dimes setting up backdoor cuts and 3-point shooters. An already fearsome running game got even better. And Wade will still be able to give Parker plenty of room to work out of the post thanks to the presence of Azurá Stevens.

Chicago has a really exciting mix. Parker, Vandersloot and Allie Quigley are established players. DeShields, Stevens, Gabby Williams and Kahleah Copper have some valuable experience from this current run but are still very much on the upswing. Because of her near-max salary, Stefanie Dolson is a natural potential trade target to circle if Chicago hopes to do anything beyond signing somebody to a minimum contract. Dolson could also be poised for a strong 2021 campaign as a third big playing next to both Stevens and Parker at times. One or both of Ruthy Hebard and Stephanie Mavunga could also factor into that frontcourt rotation.

McBride makes it official

Well, Lynx fans, this was worth the wait, no? Minnesota may not have landed a big name last offseason. But coming off an impressive 2020 season despite some notable injuries, the Lynx have added two high-profile wings.

Cheryl Reeve can really open up the playbook for McBride and Powers. But the addition of those two players will be felt just as much when they aren’t the primary option in a scoring action. Teams will be thrust into incredibly difficult choices with McBride and Powers opening up space for Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier inside, then playing off of both players when the ball does get kicked back out.

Related: Podcast: CP3 to Chicago, wild free agency Wednesday with Sabreena Merchant

The pre-January 15 news

The three core designations were about as expected. The question with the Sparks going in seemed like it would come down to whether they decided core Nneka Ogwumike or Chelsea Gray. The latter will be an unrestricted free agent. Notably, Kayla McBride will also be unrestricted as the Aces, more obviously, cored Liz Cambage. Like Las Vegas, the decision for Seattle to core Natasha Howard was an easy one. Re-signing starters Alysha Clark and Sue Bird will also be a priority for the Storm.

Emma Cannon had some nice moments in her very brief late-season stint with the Aces. That spot as the fourth (or fifth) big in Las Vegas could very well end up being hers to lose. Lindsay Allen, after starting more than 20 games in 2020 but fading from the rotation in the playoffs, may need to compete for a spot as a potential third point guard if the Aces manage to re-sign Danielle Robinson.

Both Te’a Cooper and Bridget Carleton were easy calls for the Sparks and Lynx, respectively, as bargain depth that proved last season that they can help a team. We could probably say the same for Shey Peddy in Phoenix. The duo of Natisha Hiedeman and Beatrice Mompremier will be valuable to the Sun on two fronts: having smaller salaries and being young players off the bench that can continue to improve for a team that doesn’t have a 2021 first-round pick at the moment.

For the trio of Stella Johnson, Jacki Gemelos and Sug Sutton in Washington, Johnson should probably be seen as the leader to nab one of the final spots with the Mystics as a guard that could give them some shooting and scoring off the bench. Reshanda Gray, Cierra Burdick and Alaina Coates not receiving qualifying offers isn’t a big surprise. Teams can’t bring an unlimited number of players to camp, and those three didn’t appear to have a real path to a 2021 roster spot with their prior teams.

Related: Podcast: Early days of 2021 free agency

Written by Ben Dull (@Ben_Dull on Twitter). Read more of his work at Floor Game and subscribe today to the Floor Game podcast, part of the Winsidr podcast network

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