We're now getting really close to seeing some player movement. On Thursday, WNBA free agency started, which allows teams to try to either re-sign players whose contracts have expired, or convince other players to jump ship.
According to Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press, there are 23 unrestricted free agents. A list of those free agents is below:
|Matee Ajavon||Atlanta Dream|
|Delisha Milton-Jones||Atlanta Dream|
|Allie Quigley||Chicago Sky|
|Tamera Young||Chicago Sky|
|Ebony Hoffman||Connecticut Sun|
|Tamika Catchings||Indiana Fever|
|Candice Wiggins||Los Angeles Sparks|
|Tan White||Minnesota Lynx|
|Swin Cash||New York Liberty|
|Charde Houston||New York Liberty|
|Plenette Pierson||New York Liberty|
|Erin Phillips||Phoenix Mercury|
|Penny Taylor||Phoenix Mercury|
|Shameka Christon||San Antonio Stars|
|Jia Perkins||San Antonio Stars|
|Nicole Powell||Seattle Storm|
|Noelle Quinn||Seattle Storm|
|Tanisha Wright||Seattle Storm|
|Roneeka Hodges||Tulsa Shock|
|Jennifer Lacy||Tulsa Shock|
|Monique Currie||Washington Mystics|
Don't expect too many of these players to leave though. Tamika Catchings has announced her intent to re-sign with the Fever on February 1, the first day that free agents can sign contracts. Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips, who were key players on the defending champion Phoenix Mercury are also expected to re-sign. Allie Quigley, the reigning Sixth Woman of the Year played on the Chicago Sky, the defending Eastern Conference Champions. It's also unlikely that she'll go elsewhere.
After you eliminate them, the best player on this list is probably Monique Currie, given that Swin Cash is now past her prime, which she indicated herself. In addition, Tanisha Wright has considered retirement, and her team, the Seattle Storm is poised to move into a new direction without her.
Feinberg also stated that several players were given the core player designation, which allows a team to force someone who would otherwise be an restricted free agent to negotiate a new contract solely with that team. Below is a list of those players:
|Candace Parker||Los Angeles Sparks|
|Sylvia Fowles||Chicago Sky|
|Erika de Souza||Atlanta Dream|
|DeWanna Bonner||Phoenix Mercury|
The players listed here are starters on contending teams who are in their prime, and in Parker's case, she is the Sparks' franchise player. No team is going to just give use the core player designation on a bench player.
Like most WNBA free agencies, the aim of the game isn't to attract Tamika Catchings to be another team's franchise player. Rather, it is intended for teams to beef up a rotation. Sparks head coach Brian Agler told Feinberg that the WNBA in general "is more about building through draft picks and trades."
Therefore, what Agler pointed out means that rebuilding teams like the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics have few options to build successfully besides getting top draft picks to become championship contenders themselves. With the 2015 WNBA Draft appearing to be a weak class, that may very well mean that teams like them will have to just wait until 2016 to take bigger steps forward. After all, UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart and Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd will be available. Both of them expect to be impact players on whatever team they play for.
I'm now getting kind of excited about WNBA season already even though it's January. Where do you expect to see those aforementioned eight players sign if they go somewhere else? Sound off in the comments below!
UPDATE at 9:37 p.m. ET: The full list of unrestricted agents has been found, and you can see them above. The original article only listed eight players who were mentioned in Feinberg's column.
In addition, a list of 2015 restricted free agents is below. These players, who generally have four years of WNBA playing experience can sign offer sheets with other teams. However, their 2014 team reserves the right to match any offer for them:
|Jasmine Thomas||Atlanta Dream|
|Courtney Vandersloot||Chicago Sky|
|Kayla Pedersen||Connecticut Sun|
|Karima Christmas||Indiana Fever|
|Krystal Thomas||Indiana Fever|
|Sandrine Gruda||Los Angeles Sparks|
|Jantel Lavender||Los Angeles Sparks|
|Maya Moore||Minnesota Lynx|
|Natasha Lacy||New York Liberty|
|Alex Montgomery||New York Liberty|
|Danielle Adams||San Antonio Stars|
|Danielle Robinson||San Antonio Stars|
|Kalana Greene||Washington Mystics|
Like the NBA, most of the top picks in any particular WNBA Draft who are entering their fifth playing season will sign an extension with the team they played the previous season. Therefore, it's unlikely that most of the top performing players on this list: Maya Moore, Jantel Lavender, Danielle Adams, and Danielle Robinson would sign or play anywhere but their 2014 teams, unless we see another Tina Charles-esque situation come up.
The then-Connecticut Sun center was able to force a sign-and-trade to the New York Liberty in the 2013-14 offseason by making it clear that she would not play for the Sun under any circumstances. This was despite the fact that Connecticut otherwise had leverage in all contract negotiations. This isn't meant to imply that someone like Maya Moore would demand to play for another team, but it is meant to show that it's just not realistic for top restricted free agent players to be going elsewhere barring that type of scenario.