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
The Seattle Storm got 2012 off to a surprising start in the WNBA on Monday, sending Swin Cash, Le’coe Willingham and a late-second round pick in the 2012 draft (#23 overall) to Chicago for the #2 overall pick in that same upcoming draft. It’s been pretty apparent for a while that Seattle needed to freshen up their roster and get younger, but this was still a somewhat shocking way to open up the offseason transactions. Two key parts of your rotation for a pick in what’s generally seen as a weak draft class – for a coach/GM who’s shown no interest in using any young, inexperienced players in recent years – is a bold step. Time will tell whether it’s one step back to eventually move two forwards, or just a hop in the wrong direction.
Cash didn’t have a great season in 2011. She went through long stretches where she wouldn’t have hit water shooting off the side of a boat, and the 41% three-point shooting she discovered in the Storm’s 2011 championship season disappeared entirely. But she was still a strong defender, a physical presence who could defend the perimeter and fight down low on switches, and occasionally her scoring touch returned, leaving her overall 2011 numbers at nearly 40% from the floor and right around her career average of 13 points per game. At 32 years old, and with a chequered injury history, she’s probably starting the downslope of her career trajectory, but there’s a good few years left on those legs. Big, true small forwards aren’t easy to find in this league – just look how long Chicago have needed one, for example – and the Storm could have serious problems replacing her. Continue reading