On Friday, NBA superstar free agent forward LeBron James announced on Sports Illustrated that he would be signing a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he played from 2003-2010. From 2010-2014 he played for the Miami Heat, where he won two NBA Finals championships in 2012 and 2013. James was the considered to be the top free agent during the 2014 NBA offseason, and player movement was in a holding pattern until he made the decision public.
So that leads me to a question here:
When will the WNBA see free agency periods like we do from time to time in the NBA when a superstar player, like LeBron James is available?
So far in the WNBA, most free agent classes just aren't particularly start studded or deep. And there is often little buzz about a superstar bolting for another city, because it just doesn't happen in the W, though we did see what happened with Tina Charles. Here are some reasons why things are that way right now.
- The core player designation - We don't see superstars having a chance to change teams very easily because of this rule. A rookie scale contract lasts up to four years. After that point, that player could be a restricted free agent and generally speaking, the team that has her rights has the upper hand anyway. After a superstar player's sophomore contract, her team could just core her for the third contract. So in essence, once a superstar player's third contract is over, she is likely past her prime. Even if she is an unrestricted free agent afterwards, it doesn't really mean much because the player would be on the tail end of her career.
- Lack of transparency on player salaries and contract lengths - There are numerous sites that show how much NBA players are making on their teams, and ESPN has a trade machine. The WNBA doesn't disclose exactly how much players are making, and not even contract length in most cases. Therefore fans can often be a little surprised when any player is on the open market.
- Overseas play - Superstars make more money in Russia, China, etc. than they do in the WNBA. So, that may mitigate the players' potential desires to go elsewhere while on their WNBA teams. Besides, this is also the time where we can see superstar-studded teams, like UMMC Ekaterinburg which has Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, and Sue Bird playing together.
At least to me, until we see some of these things get rectified, we just aren't going to see that kind of buzz around free agency in this league. But maybe I'm too pessimistic. When do you think the WNBA will start to have hyped and star-studded free agent classes like there are occasionally in the NBA? Feel free to share your thoughts below.