The value of an experienced support system

Epiphanny Prince. Jantel Lavender. Candice Dupree—what do these players have in common? In addition to years of experience and meaningful accomplishments throughout their careers, each brings a new six-figure contract into the 2021 season.

WNBA free agency has brought some heated changes so far, with several stars and franchise players making unexpected moves. Though this brings excitement to the new cities these stars will represent, it also means there are some big adjustments to be made by the teams they’ve left behind.

An Epiphanny in Seattle

Early in free agency, the Seattle Storm were clobbered by two departures: Alysha Clark to the Washington Mystics, and Natasha Howard to the New York Liberty. Clark and Howard leave a large gap for the Storm, who lose their third and fourth scorers, respectively, even with Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Sue Bird still bolstering their roster.

General manager Alisha Valavanis found a way to bridge this gap when she made unrestricted free agent Epiphanny Prince a generous offer to shore up the Storm’s backcourt. Signing a two-year deal worth $230k ($115k per season), the 11-year veteran brings much-needed depth to the 2020 champions.

While the move might not make sense to some, given Prince’s lack of a protagonist role in the past, a look back into her career sheds light on how she can be a very valuable support system.

For five consecutive years (2011-2015), Prince’s average ppg stayed above 13.6 and reached an incredible 18.1 in 2012 with the Chicago Sky. Her numbers slowly fell as she suffered injuries and ceded time to younger talent, such as last season when she moved behind Jewel Loyd on the depth chart.

In 2021, there is an opportunity for Prince’s role to look a bit different. Without the scoring power of Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard, Prince needs to provide star power off the bench, especially when one of the Storm’s stars is not having an off-night. In fact, head coach Dan Hughes could—and should—draw some plays specifically for her, maximizing the impact of this talented veteran.

Soothing Lavender for the Fever

Another franchise relying heavily on a big-name veteran signing is the Indiana Fever, who secured former Sparks and Sky big Jantel Lavender on a three-year contract, worth $175k/year, fully protected.

After losing Erica Wheeler, Natalie Anchonwa, and, most recently, Candice Dupree, the Fever need Lavender to make up the difference, as it is unlikely that youngsters Teaira McCowan and Lauren Cox will be able to close the gap left by their former high-scoring teammates.

Though the Fever were also able to bring in Danielle Robinson—herself a ten-year veteran and reliable scorer— Lavender brings a championship acuity, having already won a title in 2016 with the Sparks, as well as being named Sixth Woman of the Year that same season. Her leadership goes beyond the numbers, too, as she brings this solid experience of both collective and individual success to a Fever team in need.

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Calming the Storm

Beyond bringing in Epiphanny Prince, the Seattle Storm were able to entice another veteran to the West Coast when they signed Candice Dupree, who, as previously mentioned, departed the Indiana Fever after four seasons and signed a one-year $170k contract, fully protected. Unsurprisingly, Dupree is another very talented and accomplished player, who won a championship with the Phoenix Mercury in 2014.

Dupree has also scored double digits in all of her active time in the WNBA, as well as played in at least 32 games in 13 of her 14 seasons. Dupree has made seven All-Star appearances and scored more 2-point field goals in her career than any other WNBA player.

Will Dupree start for the Storm? Probably not. But with a young roster—especially with the addition of Katie Lou Samuelson and Mikiah “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan—the franchise will rely heavily on Dupree to support the wings.

A Veteran’s Quiet Power

In reality, the price of experience and proven talent is and should be high, and the franchises who secure this type of talent are lucky, adding depth and wisdom to their rosters.. This is not a new trend or something exclusive to this season. Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, Ruth Riley, Katie Smith, and Ticha Penicheiro come immediately to mind as just some of the many legendary players who have, over time, shifted away from the spotlight to fulfill quieter roles as supportive veterans, ones who understand the game and have the power to lead their teams by example.

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