Cored: Deanna Nolan
Unrestricted Free Agents: Jennifer Lacy, Betty Lennox, Sheryl Swoopes
Restricted Free Agents: Amber Holt
Reserved: Abi Olajuwon
I’ve said it over and over again, so it won’t be a surprise to hear it one more time – this team just needs talent. It doesn’t matter where, although they have bigger holes at some spots than others, they just need as many players as they can find who are true WNBA quality and are willing to sign and play for the Tulsa Shock. Bringing in Indiana assistant Gary Kloppenburg as their new head coach looks like a good move, introducing someone who knows the league and the women’s game to a franchise that desperately needed that infusion. He already turned Andrea Riley into Temeka Johnson, so they would seem to be heading in the right direction.
As with last year, and even after acquiring Johnson from Phoenix, the Shock basically have more cap space than they know what to do with. They’ll probably keep Amber Holt, even though I’m yet to see much real WNBA talent from her in the four years she’s played in the league. Jennifer Lacy can fill out a post rotation, so they might give her another deal (although as with Holt, I wouldn’t go much past the minimum, even with all that cap space to burn). It’s probably time for Betty Lennox to retire and stay retired. Sheryl Swoopes may be a different story, after suggesting she at least has a little gas left in the tank last season. Kloppenburg will rightfully want to go young and build with players who will still be with the team in a future where they’re far more competitive, but Swoopes might get another year as the stop-gap. The owners probably think she sells at least a ticket or two as well, which could help her cause. Abi Olajuwon will probably receive a training camp invite.
Deanna Nolan is never going to play in Tulsa. I think we all know this by now. But they correctly continue to core her, because they don’t need the spot for anyone else so they may as well. There’s been no recent indication as to whether she wants to play in the WNBA again, but if she does someone is going to have to cough up a player or a draft pick to acquire her.
Kloppenburg has already said that he’s going to be aggressive in free agency, and that’s absolutely the right approach. As with Washington, it’s hard to attract free agents to a team that’s been so poor in recent years, plus Tulsa doesn’t typically seem to be viewed as an appealing city to play in. That means they’re probably going to have to overpay people to join the Shock, but that’s okay – acres of cap space, remember? The likes of Candice Wiggins and Essence Carson will obviously have better options where they can still be paid max or near-max money, but will anyone else be offering Matee Ajavon a max deal? Would Iziane Castro Marques come to Tulsa for the money? Tamera Young? Maybe Charde Houston if no one else fancies going over $80,000 or so? Even bringing back Scholanda Robinson, who had easily her best WNBA season in Tulsa in 2010, would upgrade the roster a little. They’ll probably be picking up the pieces that other teams have left behind in the free agency pool, but you have to start upgrading your roster somewhere. And you might as well start spending all that cap space on somebody.