clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2024 WNBA Free Agency: Can Canada, Charles and Powers help Atlanta achieve playoff Dreams?

The Atlanta Dream upgraded the point guard position through the acquisition of Jordin Canada, while adding a pair of bucket getters in Tina Charles and Aerial Powers. Nia Coffey also will be back in the ATL.

Los Angeles Sparks v Atlanta Dream
The Atlanta Dream acquired Jordin Canda in exchange for Aari McDonald.
Photo by Dale Zanine/NBAE via Getty Images

When previewing the Atlanta Dream’s free agency, we suggested the team needed two high-quality, starting-caliber players to support the All-Star trio of Rhyne Howard, Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker.

Atlanta’s front office succeeded in adding such players, and then some. General manager Dan Padover and company executed a trade with the Los Angeles Sparks for Jordin Canada and signed unrestricted free agents Tina Charles, who was out of the WNBA last season, and Aerial Powers, who had been a member of the Minnesota Lynx since 2021.

To acquire Canada, who was cored by the Sparks, the Dream sent Aari McDonald and the No. 8 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft to LA; Atlanta also received the No. 12 pick in the 2024 draft from Los Angeles. Canada agreed to a two-year protected veteran contract, paying her $185,000 in 2024 and $190,000 in 2025. The Dream inked Powers to a one-year protected veteran deal of $155,000. Charles signed a one-year unprotected $130,000 contract. Atlanta also re-signed Nia Coffey to a two-year protected veteran contract for $150,000 in 2024 and 2025.

Here’s what the three newcomers bring to Atlanta, why it was important for the Dream to retain Coffey and what offseason business remains to be done in ATL:

What Jordin Canada brings to the Dream

Canada came into her own last season, finishing second in Most Improved Player voting as she registered career highs across the board: 13.3 points, 6.0 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 4.2 free throws in 32.6 minutes per game.

Canada ascended to another level not just due to an increase in her raw offensive production, but also because of the attitude she brought to the offensive end of the floor. A once hesitant shooter whose reluctance reduced her offensive value, Canada fired away with confidence in 2023. Although a 33.3 percent mark from 3 is not exceptional, Canada’s willingness to take 3s at a rate of 3.2 per game exemplified her new approach and altered her offensive equation. Defenses could no longer sag off her, daring her to shoot and deterring her drives. Instead, defenders had to close out harder, which, in turn, opened driving opportunities that the speedy Canada quickly took advantage of. Even if her offensive track record is not rock solid, she offers a more refined repertoire than Atlanta has received from the point guard position in recent seasons.

Importantly, her offensive growth also did not dilute her defensive impact. Her 2.3 steals per game equalled her career best from 2019, and, as was the case in 2019, was the best in the W. She also earned First Team All-Defensive honors for the second time in her career in 2023. She possesses the skillset and mindset to thrive in the aggressive defensive system desired by head coach Tanisha Wright. Of her new point guard’s defense, Wright said, “Canada’s defensive prowess is a trait I’ve admired from a distance since she entered the league. You simply can’t teach the level of skill she brings to her position.” Last season, our Edwin Garcia analyzed how Canada fueled the Sparks’ turnover-generating defensive identity.

In short, a Canada who remains confident and eager on the offensive end, all while sustaining her intense defensive play, is a perfect fit for Atlanta.

What Tina Charles brings to the Dream

It’s been an odd few years for Tina Charles.

The 2012 MVP, nine-time All-WNBA selection and eight-time All-Star did not play in the WNBA last season. In 2022, she split time between the Phoenix Mercury, with the celebrated offseason signing ending with an unceremonious contract divorce after a turbulent 16 games, and Seattle Storm, where she played 18 games, starting 10 and coming off the bench for eight. In 2021, however, Charles turned in one of the most productive seasons of her career, functioning as the offensive fulcrum for the Washington Mystics in her lone season in DC. She registered the highest usage percentage of her career as she led the league in scoring at 23.4 points per game. Yet, the Mystics were only 12-20, raising questions about how much Charles contributed to winning.

That said, Atlanta is smart to bet on Charles, especially since her one-year contract is unprotected. The Dream offense increasingly withered down the stretch of the 2023, with a 100.6 offensive rating in May fading to a 96.7 offensive rating in September. The ability to throw Charles the ball and let her go to work will benefit Atlanta. As Padover said of Charles, “Tina’s ability to score and rebound the basketball at an elite level immediately helps this basketball team.” Charles’ increased embrace of the 3-ball—36.5 percent on 5.1 attempts per game in 2021 and 35.5 percent on 3.2 attempts per game in 2022—further suggests she can help the Dream establish a more fruitful offensive environment.

It will remain to be seen if Wright, who played with Charles on the New York Liberty in 2015, 2016 and 2019, will start the vet. Possibly, Charles will start games before getting a quick sub, which then would allow her to feast against reserve units in her second stint. Such a plan also would mitigate any defensive and/or wear-and-tear concerns for the 35-year-old Charles.

What Aerial Powers brings to the Dream

Similar to Charles, Powers’ recent situation has been a bit weird.

After injuries limited her to 14 games in her debut season with the Lynx in 2021, Powers led Minnesota in scoring in 2022 at 14.4 points in almost 27 minutes per game, starting 31 of 35 contests. She also contributed a career-high 2.9 assists per game. In 2023, everything seemed to go sideways. Powers saw the court for less than 10 minutes per game in only 20 total appearances, with no starts. In limited action, her shooting percentages and overall productivity were on par with her marks from prior seasons.

It seems safe to say that Powers could use a fresh start, and the Dream should be happy to give it to her. Wright shared praise for her new player, saying, “I am extremely thrilled to add someone of AP’s caliber. She is relentless in her attack and someone who’s competitive nature matches my own. The energy she brings night-in and night-out will be invaluable and our fans are in for a real treat.”

Powers will presumably come off the bench, providing Atlanta with self-creation scoring punch from the perimeter when Howard and/or Gray is off the court. Ideally, she can reprise the role she played in 2019, when she was a valuable sixth player for the 2019 WNBA champion Mystics. In that season, Powers played almost 20 minutes per game, shooting 49.6 percent from 2-point range and 36.2 from 3-point range as she averaged 11.4 points per game.

Why the Dream brought back Nia Coffey

While Charles and Powers give the Dream some bucket getters, Coffey is the quintessential “star in her role” who does all the little things that, oftentimes, do not pop off the stat sheet. Whether she again starts, as she has done in her two seasons in Atlanta, or comes off the bench, expect her to make positive plays. On offense, she’ll again serve as connective player who can hit an opener jumper and put the ball on the floor; on defense, she’s not only savvy and steady but also capable of making disruptive plays.

Padover expressed enthusiasm about Coffey’s return, asserting, “Nia has been a huge part of our growth the last two years and has played an integral part in any and all successes we’ve had. She is returning stronger than ever and has established herself as an exceptional defender and three-point shooter.”

Hopefully, Coffey can remain fully healthy in 2024, as both of her seasons in Atlanta have ended prematurely due to injury. In particular, the Dream need a healthy Coffey if they are to meet, or even exceed, their aspirations in the playoffs.

What’s next for the Dream?

Atlanta currently has 10 players under contract for 2024. The team issued a reserved free agent qualifying offer to AD Durr; Durr has yet to sign the deal. Assuming Durr does, that gives the Dream an 11-player roster, with three forthcoming selections in the 2024 WNBA Draft. In addition to No. 12, Atlanta has the No. 20 overall and No. 32 overall picks.

So, don’t expect Atlanta to add any additional free agents, although they’re likely to sign several players to training camp contracts. The Dream are mostly done, anxiously awaiting May 15 when, in a fun twist, they’ll open the season in LA against former Dreamers Aari McDonald, Monique Billings and the Sparks.