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2024 WNBA Free Agency: How will the Seattle Storm show their commitment to building a winner around Jewell Loyd?

Jewell Loyd committed to the Seattle Storm, signing a two-year contract extension in September. How will the Storm show their commitment to building a winner around Loyd?

Los Angeles Sparks v Seattle Storm
Jewell Loyd is the leader of the Seattle Storm. The process of constructing a contending team around her begins this offseason.
Photo by Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images

The Seattle Storm completed the top item on their 2024 offseason agenda before the 2023 season ended, signing Jewell Loyd to a two-year contract extension in early September.

When the extension was announced, President and CEO Alisha Valavanis said of Loyd, “She is a franchise player, and we are excited to continue to build our future around her.” Head coach Noelle Quinn shared a similar sentiment, saying, “She is our leader and someone that we look forward to locking arms with heading into this new era of Storm basketball.” Then, after the WNBA Draft Lottery determined that the Storm would receive the No. 4 pick in the 2024 draft, General Manager Talisa Rhea stated, “As we continue our off-season, ignited by Jewell’s commitment to stay in Seattle, we know this draft pick, coupled with our strategy in free agency, will be essential to building a roster ready to compete in the upcoming season.”

These quotations make it clear that the Storm aim to reciprocate Loyd’s commitment to Seattle by surrounding her with a team capable of returning to playoff contention.

The Storm’s 2023 record—11-29 and 11th in the standings—suggests this is a tall task. However, if the organization can sign an All-Star-level player while making a few smart additions to bolster the rotation, a trip back to the playoffs—and maybe more—seems like a reasonable ambition for 2024.


Facts and figures*

Players under contract (contract status; 2024 salary)

  • Dulcy Fankham Mendjiadeu ($66,697)
  • Jordan Horston (unprotected; $69,663)
  • Jewell Loyd (protected veteran; $241,984)
  • Mercedes Russell (protected veteran; $160,000)
  • Ezi Magebegor (protected veteran; $155,000)
  • Jade Melbourne (unprotected: $63,532)
  • Kia Nurse (protected veteran; $142,000)
  • Sami Whitcomb (protected veteran; $140,000)

Free agent (type; 2023 salary)

  • Joyner Holmes (restricted; $60,736)
  • Yvonne Turner (unrestricted; $74,305)
  • Gabby Williams (unrestricted; $100,000)

Total salary of free agents: $235,041

Total team salary: $1,039,278

Cap space: $423,924

2024 WNBA Draft picks (2024 salary)

  • Round 1, No. 4 ($76,535)
  • Round 2, No. 14 ($67,249)
  • Round 3, No. 26 ($64,514)

Analysis

Washington Mystics v Seattle Storm
Who can the Seattle Storm sign to star alongside Ezi Magbegor and Jewell Loyd?
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Storm should not hesitate exercise a significant portion of their $423,924 in cap space to swing for another superstar. The opportunity to bring in a verified co-star alongside Loyd maximizes the value of inking her to an extension at the end of last season.

Two names stand out: Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

As both players should have intense interest from around the league, luring them to the Emerald City likely will require a supermax offer of $241,984. Although it is hard to imagine her leaving the Los Angeles Sparks, my first call would be to Ogwumike. A big tandem of Ogwumike and Magbegor is incredibly enticing, equipping Seattle with enviable versatility both offensively and defensively. Combined with Loyd’s scoring exploits, that’s the core of a playoff team. Alternatively, adding Diggins-Smith, who seems certain NOT to return to the Phoenix Mercury, would center Seattle’s strength in the backcourt. But, the ultimate outcome likely would be similar—a quick return to serious contention. No defense wants to deal with the one-two punch of Loyd’s off-the-dribble shooting and Diggins-Smith’s downhill driving.

Handing out a hefty contract to Ogwumike or Diggins-Smith would leave Seattle with more than $180,000 to round out the roster. With eight returning players under contract, the Storm would need to sign at least two more players to meet the 11-player minimum salary threshold; ideally, they’d add three more players.

Could those players be the team’s current free agents: Gabby Williams, Joyner Holmes and Yvonne Turner? All indications point to Williams, a member of the French national team, not participating in the WNBA in 2024. It looks like Seattle intends to retain Holmes as a third or fourth big, as they issued a qualifying offer to her on Jan. 16. It still would behoove the organization to look for upgrades, signing players who, in contrast to Holmes and Turner, could be top of the rotation fixtures.

Would another big or a scoring guard be more beneficial?

Especially if the Ogwumike dream does not materialize, the Storm need another big capable of night-to-night contributions. While Dulcy Fankham Mendjiadeu showed promise last season, a Seattle team with playoff ambitions shouldn’t be totally comfortable relying on her. Similarly, Mercedes Russell has been inconsistent since a strong 2021 season.

Even if the Storm use the No. 4 pick in the WNBA Draft on a big—maybe South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso or UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards?—someone like Alanna Smith, most recently of the Chicago Sky, or the New York Liberty’s Stefanie Dolson would be interesting. On the offensive end, both players are active screeners who can stretch the floor and fire from behind the arc. Defensively, Smith offers more than Dolson, possessing the energy and agility to play alongside Magbegor. Smith likely will command significantly more than the $100,000 she earned last season for the Sky. As she has been limited by lingering injuries, Dolson may be gettable from less than the $160,000 she made in 2023.

Conversely, if the Storm strike out on Diggins-Smith, they’ll need another guard who not only can relieve Loyd of primary initiation responsibilities, but also can share some of the scoring burden. The Courtney Williams we saw last season with the Sky—improved playmaking, more willing 3-point shooting—could fill this role. A few reunion candidates also are appealing: Lindsay Allen, Loyd’s former backcourt mate at Notre Dame who played the last two seasons with the Minnesota Lynx, or Jordin Canada, the Los Angeles Spark who spent her first four seasons with the Storm. Canada’s leap as a 3-point shooter, combined with her always excellent point-of-attack defense, could allow her to become the post-Sue Bird point guard the Storm envisioned when selecting her No. 5 in 2018 WNBA Draft, just after a two-season improvement de tour in LA.

Los Angeles Sparks v Seattle Storm
Could Jordin Canada rejoin Jewell Loyd in Seattle?
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Williams’ salary should remain in the ballpark of her 2023 number of $160,000. Allen and Canada both earned $74,305 in 2023; Allen likely is due a slight raise, while Canada could demand a more significant one.

The Storm also could choose to address their guard depth through the draft, using the fourth pick to select UCLA’s Charisma Osborne or Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore. And, if she enters the 2024 draft and falls to No. 4, UConn’s Paige Bueckers would be a boon for the Storm.

Can the Storm find a player to fill the Gabby Williams role?

The Storm also need to target a Gabby Williams replacement. During Williams’ short time on the court last season, the Storm were the best version of themselves. She helped things happen more seamlessly on both ends of the floor, serving as a connecting, secondary ball handler on offense and a smart, versatile and disruptive defender.

Fortunately for the Storm, the free agency market includes a number of players who can replicate Williams’ role, albeit with different alchemies of offensive and defensive strengths. Nia Coffey might offer the closet approximation to Williams, with the bonus of a more consistent outside shot. However, Coffey, not unlike Williams, has been limited by injuries in recent seasons. Last season, Coffey made $135,000 with the Atlanta Dream.

Atlanta Dream v Connecticut Sun
Could Nia Coffey be the Storm’s Gabby Williams replacement?
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Rebecca Allen likewise would be an excellent add. While not as deft a ball handler, Allen’s plus shooting and defensive length would benefit any team, including the Storm. If Allen is as highly sought after as she should be, her salary will exceed the $138,925 she received from the Connecticut Sun in 2023. A more affordable veteran option is Layshia Clarendon, a former point guard who emerged as a defensive-minded wing with a more confident 3-point stroke last season with the Sparks. Clarendon deserves more than the $74,305 they earned last season.


*Thanks to Her Hoop Stats for all salary numbers.