Just when you thought free agency was cooling off, chaos came calling. Last week, the Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, Phoenix Mercury, and New York Liberty—a third of WNBA teams!—struck a deal for a major trade.
Let’s break it down:
🚨 WNBA TRADE ALERT 🚨
Future draft picks also involved in trade pic.twitter.com/rccc0MbCVp
— WNBA (@WNBA) February 11, 2023
Let’s start with the team who received the biggest piece and, consequently, gave up the most: the Chicago Sky. Head coach James Wade watched nearly his entire 2021 championship core walk away this offseason. With Candace Parker, Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, Azurá Stevens, and Emma Meesseman all moving on, James Wade needed to prove to now-franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper that there would be a reason to stick around when her contract is up after the upcoming season. That reason comes in the form of Mabrey. Just 26 years old, Mabrey is entering her prime as a deep scoring threat and fiery competitor. For her career, Mabrey has scored 10.4 points per game (PPG) on almost 35 percent from three-point range. After the flurry of moves made in free agency, the Sky were in need of a secondary scorer. Mabrey will surely help carry the offensive load, but James Wade and the Sky mortgaged the future to acquire said scorer. Unless Wade can convince others to play around his new core, he will have a difficult time building out a competitive roster. With only five picks in the next three drafts, and without a first-round pick until 2025, Wade needs to hope that his gamble pays off.
The clear winner in this deal is the Dallas Wings. With known tension between Mabrey and the Wings, it’s not often a team lacking leverage with a restricted free agent can come out on top. Not only did the Wings acquire their favorite commodity in draft picks, but they acquired two first-rounders plus the possibility of moving up in the draft in two years via a swap. They also acquired DeShields, a veteran player and, ironically enough, one who played on the Sky championship team. DeShields, 27, comes with great athleticism and a downhill driving ability few can emulate. DeShields has scored 13.1 PPG for her career, but has also had a penchant for turning the ball over. On a team with plenty of size—she brings that, too, at 6’1”—and not a ton of ball handlers, DeShields will need to work in a combo role and take care of the ball to maximize her value on this team.
In trading away DeShields, the Mercury were not only able to acquire some draft picks that could turn into depth players, they also acquired the intriguing Onyenwere. After a very promising 2021 rookie campaign, one in which she averaged 8.6 PPG and won the Rookie of the Year award, Onyenwere’s minutes were slashed considerably in 2022. Lacking an opportunity to build on her stellar rookie season, especially with the Liberty having now built a superteam, the Mercury were smart to bring her in and see what she can do. Onyenwere can somewhat fill in the DeShields role with her size, but on this retooled Mercury roster, look for her to be a top choice off the bench with the occasional start, bringing lots of energy and physical play.
New York Liberty
With the Liberty finding other valuable pieces to fill out its rotation, Onyenwere was the odd woman out. New York did right by her to move her to another team, freeing up cap space but also allowing her a fresh opportunity elsewhere. In exchange, the Liberty took back Fiebich, the 23-year-old draft-and-stash player. Initially drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks in the second round of the 2020 draft, then traded to Chicago in 2021 in the Gabby Williams deal, Fiebich has not played a game in the WNBA yet. The more intriguing piece the Liberty received is the first-round pick swap rights in 2025. While many see this as a clear win for the Liberty in this trade, this move hinges on the Mercury being bad enough that swapping picks inherently gives the Liberty a better chance at a quality player in the lottery. This is also two years from now, which means it’s impossible to know what will happen for each of these teams between now and then. Let’s not be too hasty in overlooking the other aspects of this trade that make those teams the clear winners.
Stats as of 2/14. Unless otherwise noted, all stats from Basketball Reference.