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The Non-Trade Of Angel McCoughtry

The WNBA trade deadline has come and gone. No action. The big question was what the Atlanta Dream were going to do with Angel McCoughtry, their recalcitrant superstar. Would Angel McCoughtry be the big headline-making trade of the 2012 season?

Answer: no. Atlanta Dream head coach/general manager Fred Williams decided to hold on to McCoughtry just a little while longer. McCoughtry might not be showing up to Dream games, but to paraphrase Williams the Atlanta Dream tag is still on the back of McCoughtry's uniform.

So why was there no trade? It could be one of many reasons.

1) They still see her as part of the team. This is one I find harder and harder to believe. Whatever Fred Williams and Angel McCoughtry talked about on Thursday morning (if they spoke at all), McCoughtry wasn't buying in. Once again, McCoughtry was a no-show at an Atlanta Dream game.

This now leads to a philosophical question. I wrote a previous article for Pleasant Dreams a long time ago about "Milos" - a Milo is a player who has million-dollar skills but who creates drama. My biggest worry in the 2009 Draft was that we'd draft a Milo, and McCoughtry had a history at Louisville. In a later post, I quoted this article from the Louisville Courier-Journal (now behind a paywall):

McCoughtry came with even more rough edges. Former U of L coach Tom Collen, who recruited her, kept a one-way ticket to her home in Baltimore on his desk all season.

"You don't know how many times I was sure I was going to have to use it," he said.

She pouted on the court and off. She didn't take instruction well. She could not harness her ability.

Very bad teams - like the Dream were after 2008 - can't afford the hand-holding and coddling that high-maintenance Milos require. Great teams might be able to make divas fit in with the program, but bad teams need solid, dependable players that are low risk.

Is Atlanta "great" enough to try to keep fitting in McCoughtry, drama and all? The Dream went to the Finals two years in a row, but the front office shakeup and the coaching change makes me think that Atlanta can no longer take the risk of McCoughtry blowing up again. She is basically abandoning the team in the playoff hunt. Who's to say that it won't happen again?

2) They tried to trade her but no one wanted her/nothing could be made to work. As a good friend of mine once said, "this is a great year in the WNBA to be a bad team". The Griner Bowl is still in full swing, and bad teams had no interest in an upgrade that would make them just good enough to lose a shot at Brittney Griner in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Good teams didn't want to screw with their chemistry. And the Dream probably didn't want to send her to the Eastern Conference.

3) They will make the trade in the off-season/hold on to her rights. My understanding is that McCoughtry will be a restricted free agent after this year. (I might be wrong, since understanding the free agent pathway is very difficult.) This means that teams can make offers but the Dream can match them. They can keep McCoughtry as long as we want, unless someone wants to break the bank to get her - and I don't think anyone will.

Even if McCoughtry flees to Europe, the Dream can keep her rights. They should be worth something. Chamique Holdsclaw's rights were worth something to Los Angeles, in this case a first round draft pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft. (Can you guess the name of the player without looking it up? I couldn't.) The Dream might get another first-round draft pick out of having McCoughtry. Even the risk that McCoughtry might never come back is one worth taking - I don't see Tulsa giving up the rights to Deanna Nolan.