The WNBA is a league of 141 players, for now, after last week’s cut down deadline.
As expected, Chicago, Connecticut, Phoenix and Washington don’t have enough cap room to carry a 12th player as constructed. Las Vegas, however, does have enough room to add a 12th player at any point. Indiana and Minnesota currently have 13 players on the books with Stephanie Mavunga and Odyssey Sims on the suspended list.
Drawing from the large pool of players on the outside looking in, which current free agents stand out most? Here’s one schmo’s short list of interesting free agents for the 2020 season:
Young was a good player on a good team in 2019. Entering her age-33 season, there’s no case that age-related decline has sapped her of her abilities. But the depth chart looks very different for the Aces. You aren’t just slotting Angel McCoughtry in as the projected starter at the 3. Jackie Young, a starter in 2019, would be moving to the bench in this scenario. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick could easily soak up a majority of the backup minutes at the 1, 2 and 3.
Vegas isn’t exactly in a position to promise much playing time to a veteran free agent at this point. Atlanta added Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen. Connecticut is capped out. Indiana has a bunch of wings. L.A. already has plenty of options there, too.
Finding a fit: This is a pretty huge if, but Phoenix is the one team that really comes to mind. The 12-year veteran is a valuable defensive presence that can be trusted to bother players at all three perimeter positions. The Mercury will really need what she can offer if Nia Coffey doesn’t make shots. Seattle might be interesting, too. Getting some size behind Alysha Clark would give the 2018 champs some insurance on the wing should a roster spot open up somehow.
Carson is the cleanest fit as a plug-and-play option with any good team among this trio. She’ll command more attention as a spot-up threat than the other two. A calf injury limited her to 23 games with Phoenix last season. Their defense finished tied for seventh; Carson was hardly the culprit there. And her offensive statistics don’t tell the full story. Without a healthy Diana Taurasi, the Mercury were starving for another playmaker that really moved the defense to set others up for easy looks.
Finding a fit: Drop Carson onto a roster with a few established creators, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a season more like her 2018 campaign with the Sparks. Landing another 3-and-D wing as an in-season addition wouldn’t hurt if you’re Connecticut. But again, finding steady playing time will be pretty tough if everybody is healthy.
Zellous is coming off an interesting year in Seattle. She was basically the backup point guard. Remember those huge pull-up jumpers in the second half of their round one playoff win over Minnesota?
Zellous doesn’t have much of a track record as a 3-point shooter you really have to worry about aside from her 2013 campaign in Indiana. Like Young, you do get someone that can at least hit a pull-up jumper. That still does have some value, shot distribution nerdery be damned. All three players in this group are actually heading into their age-33 seasons and have been pretty durable throughout their careers. It’d be a stretch just to make age the deciding factor here. None of them have reached a point to starting thinking they’re done.
Finding a fit: Ranking these three players right now, I’d start with Carson, followed by Young, then Zellous. Carson will fit with more teams, and Young is more imposing defensively. It’d be tough to assume all three find a spot in 2020 if you’re placing bets today. Seattle essentially chose to sign Epiphanny Prince over re-signing Zellous.
Agnew would be a good name to target if a team is looking to invest in a young shooter for a few years. She has real pull coming off screens along with a solid first step to attack and make the next decision when teams run her off the 3-point line.
[More on Agnew’s game from last month: 2020 rookie vision: Jaylyn Agnew raises one big question for the Mystics]
Finding a fit: Vegas, Vegas, Vegas. This one makes too much sense. Really good shooter, meet the team that could really use more shooting. Agnew probably needs time to really earn a spot in a rotation. Vegas doesn’t appear to have any minutes up for grabs anyway on the perimeter. But in this wait-and-see period, I’d understand if Vegas just waits this out. Maintain maximum flexibility in case something pops up, especially when you’re the only team that actually has much to speak of right now.
The combo guard
Smalls is a big guard. She can shoot. She can get to the rim and finish or get to the foul line. Her plate at James Madison was full. It’d be interesting to watch this kind of player try to find her way as a fourth of fifth guard. You know she can score and shoot it reasonably well. How much would that shine through if she doesn’t have to do much heavy lifting?
Finding a fit: She’d be a fun project for Washington. The Mystics would need to sign her pretty late in the game—definitely a possibility if their current 11 on roster are all healthy late in the season. A role player is bound to get plucked away in the next year or two by a team willing to offer more than the Mystics can. Developing a few more young players would really help them keep this championship window open as the roster gets more expensive.
The young bigs
Are teams just out on Mompremier? That’d probably be too dramatic of a statement. Order of operations really matter here. L.A. didn’t know she would fall to the late second as they required Marie Gulich. Atlanta chose Brewer over her. Minnesota has Kayla Alexander in the mix to be their backup center.
Finding a fit: Do we just point to Vegas again here? They’re the only team in the league without a fifth big. But is Carolyn Swords a lock to make the roster after coming out of retirement? Would they rather sign a vet, wanting to add someone they feel they can count on for 10 solid minutes if the season started tomorrow?
I’d be fascinated to hear unfiltered feedback on Holmes from all 12 teams. Can you really say somebody has gobs of potential when they failed to wow you in college? I still want to believe, at least in this case. Seeing that length, speed, ball-handling and athleticism all in one package, it still feels like she’s worth the investment. The pro game is so much different than college. Reads should get easier now that the lane won’t be so clogged.
Finding a fit: It’s impossible not to imagine Holmes in Connecticut, learning from and practicing against Alyssa Thomas. Vegas would be a nice landing spot if they make more of a development play with that final spot. They want to play fast; Holmes is a grab-and-go threat. Is it still possible that Ezi Magbegor would opt not to come over? Perhaps a return to Seattle is still in the cards.
The stretch 4
Teams need bigs that can shoot it whether you’re playing through a post-up 5 or opening up the lane for your guards to get all the way to the rim. I trust Huff’s shooting. She should be able to occasionally attack a smaller player if teams switch actions she’s involved in, and she’ll block and bother plenty of shots with her length.
Finding a fit: Vegas. Indiana. A return to New York. A return to Connecticut. Here’s a new one: How about Atlanta? If they were hurting so bad for shooting, why not make room for one of the most intriguing young stretch 4s? You’d hope you’re set at the 5 for a while after acquiring Kalani Brown. Huff’s shooting is much easier to believe in than Brittany Brewer’s.
The second draft candidate
Things didn’t work out for Davis in Dallas. How much of that was really her fault, though? The wheels fell off that 2018 team down the stretch. Last year’s point guard experiment didn’t work out. Unless you think she’s just a point guard, how much should that last part matter?
Some of the stats paint a bleak picture. So what? Teams don’t win on the margins by only making the obvious moves. How many times do we reflect and realize that Player X just needed a change of scenery? Dallas added a few building blocks at her position in Satou Sabally and Katie Lou Samuelson. Something had to give.
What do some of those numbers really tell us, anyway? Dallas finished 11th in offense, 10th in defense and won 10 games last season. Spoiler: the advanced stats won’t be very kind to the players on the worst teams. To me, the sub-39 percent shooting on two-pointers in all three seasons is the big concern. Getting into the lane won’t be valuable if she can’t finish at a higher clip.
Finding a fit: I’d love to see Davis in Seattle. Spot up, take the open 3-pointers that come your way and go to the rim every chance you get. She has good size and length for her position and can hold up doing some switching. Next offseason might be kinder to Davis. A good team without much cap room offering a minimum salary could present an opportunity that’d be beneficial to both parties.
I’ve wondered how the league might prepare for injuries in a campus setting. We don’t know if any of these free agents will get much of a shot to land a spot in 2020. For now, all eyes will be on the Aces—the one team that can sign another player without needing to waive somebody first.
Which current free agent do you think has the best shot to land a roster spot in 2020? Use this button to view the comments and join the discussion:
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