Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans reported yesterday that sources say unrestricted free agent Tina Thompson will be signing with the Seattle Storm.
At first glance the move seems odd given the Storm's expected emphasis on a youth movement and Thompson's obvious decline from her peak, but she is actually one of the more productive free agents still available. And a closer look at what the Storm will be without this season helps to make sense of how adding the WNBA's all-time leading scorer could help.
The Storm have already traded away forwards Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham while Lauren Jackson will be missing the first half of the season for the 2011 Olympics. That leaves the Storm depleted from beyond the arc when you look at who was shooting threes for them last season.
Maybe we can debate how much three point shooting mattered for the Storm last season, but they will be missing 8.3 attempts per game next season which is a considerable chunk of offense that could be used to spread the court.
Although Thompson had the lowest true shooting percentage of her career in a non-injury shortened season, her 33.9% shooting on 3.7 attempts per game is a) better than any of the three players they lost and b) better than any free agent with comparable attempts per game except Kelly Miller. Of concern might be that her 3-point percentages have slowly declined over the last six seasons, but even if there's a similar drop-off as what she experienced the last three years she'd be a meaningful contributor to the Storm.
Overall, looking back at her stats from last year, her standing among available free agents might also help to explain the signing: Thompson had the best 2011 WARP of any remaining unrestricted free agent, although there are a couple of restricted free agents with better numbers. However, looking at her four-year RAPM numbers, she's had a -1.0 rating with her +0.1 defensive rating off-setting a poor offensive rating.
Evans has already covered what this means for the Los Angeles Sparks - Thompson's previous team - who just announced a trade for Nicky Anosike yesterday and still hold the #1 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft.
Couple Ogwumike and Anosike with returning young stars Candace Parker, Jantel Lavender and Ebony Hoffman, and there appears to be little room or salary-cap space for Thompson on the L.A. roster.
That Thompson would be leaving the Sparks is not very surprising. That she would head north to the Storm is mildly surprising to say the least - and Storm fans might understandably use stronger words than that - given the assumption the team would go young. But what might matter most at the end of the season - as always - is the fit and Thompson's ability to play both around the rim and behind the arc.
The main question for Storm fans should be whether Thompson will continue to show the type of inconsistent play she's experienced over the past few seasons or the change in scenery will help her experience a resurgence.