Surprise Moves of WNBA Players Throughout Their Careers

Throughout the WNBA’s 25-year existence, we have seen many notable and recognizable players shift teams and take their talents elsewhere. 

While some have made their choice via free agency, others have changed cities via trade or other avenues. Regardless, it has been strange seeing some of these stars don new uniforms, whether in the prime of their careers or in the years before retirement. 

Let’s take a look at some of the top players who surprisingly moved on to play elsewhere during their careers. 

 

Seimone Augustus

Topping our list of players who made surprise moves is Seimone Augustus.

Augustus came into the WNBA in 2006 when she was drafted first overall by the Minnesota Lynx, a team with which she would spend the first 14 years of her career. In her time with the Lynx, Augustus won four WNBA titles and was selected to eight All-Star appearances, finishing her tenure in Minnesota averaging 15.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 365 games.

Before the 2020 season, Augustus surprised many when she left the Lynx to sign with Minnesota’s rival, the Los Angeles Sparks. Augustus played one final season in Los Angeles, making 21 appearances and averaging 5.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists before retiring to join the Sparks coaching staff this summer. 

 

Tina Charles

Now in her 11th season, Tina Charles has put together a dominant WNBA career. She now takes the floor for a new team this summer, the Washington Mystics, after spending a majority of her career with the Connecticut Sun and the New York Liberty. 

Charles broke into the league in 2010 when she was drafted first overall by Connecticut, where she played four seasons, earning two All-Star nods and an MVP award in 2012. Charles averaged 19.1 points, 12 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.6 blocks in 130 games as a Sun. Ahead of the 2014 season, Charles landed in her next home when she was traded to the New York Liberty. Charles is likely best known for her time in New York, where she played six seasons and averaged 18.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 200 games along with five All-Star selections. 

Prior to the 2020 season, Charles was once again traded, with the Liberty sending her to Washington to join Elena Delle Donne and company to form a dominant frontcourt duo with the Mystics. After not playing in 2020 in the bubble, Charles is already putting up All-Star numbers in her first season with Washington. 

 

Elena Delle Donne 

Delle Donne has been one of the more recognizable faces in the WNBA, so it was certainly surprising to see a player of her caliber traded at the peak of her career. In 2017, Delle Donne was traded by the Chicago Sky to Washington, where she remains to this day. 

Delle Donne entered the WNBA as the second overall selection in the 2013 draft, going to Chicago. She quickly made her mark on the league as a member of the Sky, where she played four seasons and earned three All-Star selections, a Rookie of the Year award in 2013, and an MVP award in 2016. With Chicago, Delle Donne averaged 20.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.6 assists in 105 games. 

Since joining the Mystics, Delle Donne has continued her dominance, earning three straight All-Star appearances from 2017-19, while also winning the 2019 MVP award. Having not played since 2019 due to injuries, Delle Donne has averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 85 games over her three seasons in Washington. 

 

Candice Dupree

It has been interesting to see a player like Candace Dupree—a seven-time All-Star—continue to change teams throughout the course of her 16-year WNBA career. In 2021, she suits up for her fourth team, the Seattle Storm, after signing as a free agent last offseason. 

Dupree came into the league with Chicago in 2006, drafted sixth overall out of Temple. She played four seasons with the Sky, grabbing three All-Star selections along the way. In 2010, she was part of a four-team, five-player trade that featured Cappie Pondexter and others, resulting in Dupree being sent to the Phoenix Mercury. She would play seven seasons in Phoenix, earning two All-Star appearances. 

In 2017, Dupree was once again part of a multi-team trade as one of four players included in a three-team deal that landed Dupree on the Indiana Fever. She played the next four seasons in Indiana, receiving two All-Star nods, before hitting free agency last offseason and choosing the Storm as her next destination. 

 

Sylvia Fowles

Much like Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles is another player who was traded from Chicago at the height of her career and still remains with her new WNBA squad. 

Midway through the 2015 season, Fowles was dealt to Minnesota, later going on to win the first of two WNBA titles with the Lynx. Before that, Fowles broke into the league as the second overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, selected by Chicago. 

With the Sky, Fowles played seven seasons and earned three All-Star selections, averaging 15.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 1.2 steals in 359 games. 

After being dealt as part of a three-team trade in 2015, Fowles has remained in Minnesota and is in her seventh season with the Lynx. While earning three All-Star selections, an MVP award in 2017, and two championships, Fowles has averaged 15.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in Minnesota.

 

Angel McCoughtry 

When fans think of Angel McCoughtry, they think of the five-time All-Star in an Atlanta Dream uniform. In 2020, that came to an end when she left the Dream to sign with the Las Vegas Aces as a free agent. 

McCoughtry spent the first 10 years of her professional career in Atlanta after being drafted first overall in 2009, being selected to five All-Star appearances while averaging 19.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.1 steals in 286 games. 

In 2020, McCoughtry took her talents to Las Vegas, where she averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in 22 games. She was set to begin her 12th season in the league in 2021, until a season-ending injury sidelined her for the year right before the regular season began. 

 

Candace Parker 

One of the more shocking moves of this last offseason was long-time Los Angeles center Candace Parker leaving the only WNBA team she has played for to join Chicago, her hometown team, as a free agent. 

One of the best players in the league once again in 2021, Parker played the first 13 seasons of her career in Los Angeles after being drafted first overall in 2008. With the Sparks, Parker averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.3 steals in 337 games, also being selected to four All-Star appearances, claiming the 2008 Rookie of the Year award, and MVP awards in 2008 and 2013. Parker has one WNBA championship on her resume, winning the league title with Los Angeles in 2016.

This season, Parker has dealt with some injury issues in Chicago, but she has helped the Sky recover from a slow start to the year and climb the league standings.

 

Sheryl Swoopes

Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes is another example of a player who finished with a team other than the one she is most known for playing with, beginning her career with the Houston Comets before moving on to Seattle and later the Tulsa Shock. 

Swoopes began her legendary career in 1997, when she was drafted by the Comets in the WNBA Allocation Draft. She played her first 10 seasons in Houston, winning four WNBA titles, as well as league MVP in 2000, 2002, and 2005, and earning six All-Star appearances. Swoopes averaged 16.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.2 steals in 262 career games with the Comets. 

In 2008, Swoopes signed with Seattle as a free agent, playing one season with the Storm. In 29 appearances, she averaged 8.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. In her final season in the WNBA, Swoopes signed with Tulsa in 2011 and played 33 games with the Shock, averaging 7.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists before calling it a career. 

See Also

 

Tina Thompson 

Like Swoopes, Tina Thompson played a majority of her Hall of Fame career with Houston before going on to play five final seasons with Los Angeles and Seattle before retiring. 

Thompson broke into the WNBA in 1997 with the Comets, going on to play 12 years with Houston and earning seven All-Star nods with four league championships. As a member of the Comets, Thompson averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 332 games. 

In 2009, Thompson signed with Los Angeles as a free agent and played the next three years with the Sparks, earning one All-Star selection and averaging 13.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 101 games. She then signed with Seattle in 2012, playing two seasons and averaging 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 63 games, grabbing one last All-Star selection in her final season in 2013 at the age of 38. 

 

Rebecca Lobo 

Another recognizable player who went on the move is Rebecca Lobo, who began her career with New York before playing for the Houston Comets and Connecticut Sun until her retirement in 2003.

Lobo, now an analyst for ESPN, played the first four years of her career in New York after being drafted by the Liberty in the 1997 Allocation Draft. She went on to earn one All-Star selection during that span, averaging 9.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 75 games. 

In 2002, Lobo was traded by New York to Houston, where she played one season and averaged 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds in 25 games. She was then traded to Connecticut in 2003, playing her final season with the Sun, averaging 1.6 points and 1.1 rebounds in 21 contests. 

 

Honorable Mention

Along with the players listed above, there are some other notable players who have gone on to play elsewhere during their careers. 

More recently, players such as DeWanna Bonner and Skylar Diggins-Smith made the switch to new teams. 

Bonner, who played her first 10 seasons with Phoenix and earned three All-Star appearances, was traded by Phoenix to Connecticut in 2020, still playing with the Sun in 2021. Diggins-Smith, who played the first six years of her WNBA career with the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings and was selected to four All-Star appearances, was traded by Dallas to Phoenix in 2020, now in her second season with the Mercury in 2021.

Before Bonner and Diggins-Smith, players such as Becky Hammon and Lindsay Whalen make this list, although their cases are a bit different with them being more well-known for the team they finished their careers with rather than the other way around. 

Hammon began her WNBA career in 1999, playing the first eight seasons with New York and earning three All-Star selections. In 2007, Hammon was traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars, where she played her final eight seasons, grabbing three All-Star nods before calling it a career in 2014. Whalen started her career in the league with Connecticut in 2004, spending the first six years with the Sun before being traded to Minnesota, her hometown team, in 2010. Whalen played the final eight seasons with the Lynx, earning four All-Star appearances and winning four WNBA titles.

Following their playing careers, both Hammon and Whalen have gone on to join the coaching ranks, with Hammon serving as an assistant coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Whalen serving as head coach of the women’s basketball program at the University of Minnesota, her alma mater.

 

Information and statistics was pulled from WNBA website and Basketball Reference

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