Unrestricted Free Agents: None
Restricted Free Agents: Essence Carson, Leilani Mitchell
Not a huge number of decisions for John Whisenant and the Liberty, but a couple of interesting ones. Essence Carson showed the skills last season to be an effective scoring wing in this league, along with her defensive skills, so someone’s going to pay her high-end money. But after growing up in Jersey, then going to Rutgers, she obviously has strong ties to the area and seems unlikely to want to leave now that she’s a key part of the rotation. I’d expect the two sides to come to an agreement, but they’re going to have to pay her properly.
Leilani Mitchell has become a more complicated choice than Carson. Continue reading
Cored: Tamika Catchings
Unrestricted Free Agents: Shyra Ely
Restricted Free Agents: Erin Phillips
Reserved: Shannon Bobbitt
Taking no risks whatsoever, the Fever cored Tamika Catchings again. Here it gets a little complicated. In the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) they introduced a five-time limit for coring. Once a player has played under the core designation for five seasons, teams are no longer allowed to core her. By my count, Catchings has played the last four years as Indiana’s cored player, making this the last time the Fever (or anyone else in the WNBA) would be allowed to core her. Under one reading of the CBA, that also means she’s only allowed to sign a one-year deal (because any longer would take her past the five-time limit). That’s not how I read it, but if she does sign a one-year deal – either through choice or because that’s how the league interprets the rule – 12 months from now could be a scary time for Fever fans. For the first time, the player their team revolves around would be a true unrestricted free agent with open choice about who to play for. Anyway, unless they decide to trade her before potentially losing her for nothing, Catch should be in Indiana for at least the 2012 season. Continue reading
Unrestricted Free Agents: Jessica Moore
Restricted Free Agents: None
Reserved: Jessica Breland
Yep, that’s it. Not much for Mike Thibault and Sun GM Chris Sienko to worry about in terms of their existing players this offseason. After looking like a serviceable post backup (and, of course, having gone to the University of Connecticut), Jessica Moore may well return; Jessica Breland will probably get the chance to make the team in training camp.
Connecticut have plenty of cap room to chase players in free agency if they so wish. The various guards available (or at least potentially available) – Tanisha Wright, Candice Wiggins, Essence Carson, Deanna Nolan etc. – would all be upgrades on the likes of Kalana Greene, Danielle McCray and Allison Hightower, but it’ll be tough to get hold of any of those players. Sue Bird would be the obvious Holy Grail for a team just down the road from UConn, but it’s very hard to see her leaving Seattle. For those that haven’t heard, Spanish youngster Alba Torrens just blew out her knee, so while the Sun still hold her rights, they won’t be seeing her this year. Continue reading
Unrestricted Free Agents: Dominique Canty, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Michelle Snow, Erin Thorn
Restricted Free Agents: Sylvia Fowles, Shay Murphy, Tamera Young
Obviously the big name on the Sky’s list is Sylvia Fowles, but when you’re an obvious max-money player and a restricted free agent it’s just a matter of how many years the player signs for (barring a Pondexter/Dupree/Harding-style trade demand). After Big Syl it all becomes a little bit tricky.
Chicago made the first big move of the offseason with their recent trade with Seattle, acquiring Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham for the #2 pick in the upcoming college draft. Bringing those two pieces into the mix puts some of their free agent pieces in different situations. With Cash the presumptive starter at small forward, the Sky can afford to be a little more cagey with Shay Murphy and Tamera Young, who both filled that spot at times last year. They’d probably like to keep both around, but if someone else wants to sign either to an overpriced offer-sheet then they might let them walk. Neither has really proven themselves worthy of tying up any meaningful cap space. Continue reading
Cored: Erika de Souza
Unrestricted Free Agents: Iziane Castro Marques, Sandora Irvin, Coco Miller
Restricted Free Agents: Alison Bales, Armintie Price
Reserved: Yelena Leuchanka, Courtney Paris
Re-signing Sancho Lyttle to an extension during the 2011 season was the pre-emptive strike that allowed the Dream to core de Souza. With Lyttle signed, Angel McCoughtry several years away from true free agency, and Lindsey Harding a recent arrival who chose to be there, Erika was the last big piece to worry about. Keeping her is worth tying up their core spot, if she wants to sign a multi-year deal. The problem in 2012 is that Brazil may want her to skip the WNBA to prepare for the Olympics, so even if she signs, the Dream may be without her services for the first half of the season.
If they’re ultimately missing de Souza for a long stretch, those other free agent bigs become important. Belarus didn’t make it to even the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, so Leuchanka may well arrive and play this year. They’ll probably hope to keep Bales, who was a reasonable backup option at center last year, although they’ll be hoping not to have to pay her too much. Paris will probably get another chance to at least make the team in training camp, as might Irvin.
Out on the perimeter, who knows. Continue reading
Tired of waiting for the WNBA to provide their fans with any free agent information, WNBAlien is here to step into the void. Teams had to make qualifying offers to their players by January 15th, and we’re now in the period where teams are allowed to talk to players but not officially sign them. Signing opens on February 1st. So we’re going to go team by team with an analysis of each franchise’s own free agents, and take a look at who they might be pursuing on the open market. All free agent information is solid and accurate (whereas all postulation as to who teams might pursue is supposition and educated guesswork). Before we get to that, here’s an explanation of the terms that are thrown around during the WNBA free agency period.
Unrestricted free agent – player is out of contract and free to sign wherever she chooses.
Restricted free agent – player is out of contract, and can negotiate with anyone, but her existing team retains the right to match any deal she signs with a different franchise.
Reserved – a player ends up reserved when she’s out of contract but hasn’t been in the league long enough to earn free agency. She can sign for anything up to the maximum salary, but she is only allowed to negotiate with the team that holds her rights.
Okay, so the headline is a little bit reductive. But for those who believe in John Hollinger’s PER statistic, that’s precisely what happened yesterday when the Phoenix Mercury traded Temeka Johnson straight up for Andrea Riley of the Tulsa Shock. Of the 121 players who appeared for at least 150 minutes in the WNBA last season, Riley rated 118th. And for those who’ve read my columns over the last year or two, you’ll be aware that 118th might actually be slightly higher than I’d rank her. So what on Earth possessed the Mercury to make this move?
In fairness to Phoenix, Johnson hasn’t exactly been lighting it up herself for the last couple of years. After arriving as Kelly Miller’s replacement in 2009 and playing her part in the charge to a championship, TJ’s effectiveness has diminished in the last two seasons. While she retained her starting spot, she was often sat on the bench in crunch time when head coach Corey Gaines went to bigger lineups, and her scoring average dropped three full points to only six per game in 2011. And that’s before we even consider her matador brand of defense, which occasionally stood out even among the deplorable Mercury team defense as especially poor. However, her shooting averages have remained pretty decent, especially compared to the likes of Ketia Swanier and Alexis Gray-Lawson who were coming off the bench behind her. Plus Johnson was always a veteran option who knew what her coach wanted and how the team was supposed to be playing on the floor. Search back a couple of years and you’ll read a swathe of comments from the likes of Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter about how much they loved playing with a true point guard who knew how and when to get them the ball. Johnson’s game really hasn’t changed much since then – the roster’s simply weakened around her while their competition has improved.
Don’t expect many comments from Mercury players about Riley’s ‘true point guard’ skills in 2012. If she even makes the roster. Continue reading