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How good could a WNBA expansion roster be?

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If the WNBA could have a 13th team made up of some training-camp cuts and international talent, who would make the roster?

Basketball - Olympics: Day 11 Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The WNBA has stayed stable at 12 teams since the 2010 season. Along with this period of stability, the quality of play has improved to the point where it is very difficult for reserves who make a team to stay on the roster. In fact, many college stars, or even young reserves, are cut before opening day each season. And, though it is rare, a first-round pick sometimes fails to make the opening day roster from time to time.

In May, we wrote about the benefits of WNBA expansion as a way for the league to explore new markets and increase revenue. But considering the quality of the players who are cut, expansion could also be a way for the game to grow. If the WNBA added one more team, how would it look?

In May, Paul Nilsen of FIBA reached out to David Siegel of the Connecticut Sun’s SunCast and myself to form a roster of international players and training-camp cuts. Forming the roster was simple: Pick the 12 best players who were not on an opening-day roster regardless of whether they had an existing contract with a WNBA team. A roster that has Emma Meesseman, Sandrine Gruda, Alba Torrens and Marta Xargay as their core players would easily make the playoffs and make a deeper run tham some may think.

Of course, there was a flaw in our roster: Meesseman, among several players, has an active WNBA contract with the Mystics. Therefore, she wouldn’t be on this roster. This is also the approach I initially took when I put the first names into the hat to come up with a roster formed from the pool of players who’ve been waived so far this season. Which players did I select and why? Let’s take a look below.

Roster picking methodology

  1. Look at the top players cut from each WNBA team’s 2018 training camp. I picked one player from each WNBA team who was cut and came up with 12 players. Of these 12, I selected six on the final team.
  2. List players who I would like to see play in the WNBA but aren’t this season. If they have previous experience in the W, assume they are available to be put on this team.
  3. Do not include international players who are on suspended contracts this season. Mystics forward Emma Meesseman, Storm center Ramu Tokashiki and Sparks guard Ana Dabovic will not be in consideration. They were listed on Nilsen’s/Siegel’s/my wildcard team, but will not be on this roster.

Roster

Backcourt

Ayse Cora, 5’9 guard (Fenerbahçe)

Country: Turkey

Cora plays for Fenerbahce. She is one of the top young guards in Turkey since she is just 25. Cora is also a solid, through streaky three-point shooter.

Ivory Latta, 5’6 guard (Free Agent)

College: North Carolina

Latta last played for the Mystics in 2017 and was a two-time All-Star. She can be a strong boost off the bench for this team and provide a veteran voice in the locker room.

Kim Mestdagh, 5’11 guard (Perfumerias Avenida)

College: Colorado State

Mestdagh plays for Perfumerias Avenida in Spain (averaged 6.5 points per game in Spain and 6.9 points per game in EuroLeague). She previously played for Flammes Carolo in France and Castors Braine in Belgium. Mestdagh is one of the strongest three-point shooters in Europe and is a better passer than advertised.

Alba Torrens, 6’2 forward/swingwoman (UMMC Ekaterinburg)

Country: Spain

Plays for UMMC and is a starter and was the EuroBasket Women’s Final Four MVP in 2017. Torrens is considered to be the best women’s basketball player who never played in the WNBA. She was a third-round pick to the Connecticut Sun, but never made the trip across the Atlantic.

Marta Xargay, 5’11 guard (USK Praha)

Country: Spain

Plays for USK Praha and averaged 11.6 points and 6.6 assists per game in the EuroLeague. She also played in the 2015-16 seasons for the Mercury where she played significant minutes each season.

Front court

Valeriane Ayayi, 6’1 forward (cut by the Las Vegas Aces)

Country: France

Ayayi played for Bourges Basket, who were first in the French league last season. She averaged 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in domestic play while averaging similar numbers in EuroLeague play. Ayayi played a bit in the 2015 WNBA season for the then-San Antonio Stars, but her numbers from France are a more accurate reflection of what she can do.

Mistie Bass, 6’3 forward (cut by the Los Angeles Sparks)

College: Duke

Bass missed the 2017 season due to pregnancy. She has been a consistent player off the bench throughout her career where she’s averaged 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds a game in 14.3 minutes. Her Per 36 numbers on the rebounding fell from 7.9 to 5.3 per game in 2016, but this hypothetical team needs a veteran presence somewhere, and I feel that she’ll be a good fit.

Natalie Butler, 6’5 center (cut by the Dallas Wings)

College: George Mason

Butler played in the 2013-14 season at Georgetown where she was the Big East’s freshman of the year averaging 13.9 points per game and 13.4 rebounds per game. Then, she had two successful seasons at UConn from 2015-17 where she averaged 5.6 points and 4 rebounds per game as a red-shirt junior in 2016-17. Butler then played at Mason where she averaged 19.2 points and 16.6 rebounds per game. Sure, this was against lesser competition, but I’m giving Butler a chance with this team.

Adaora Elonu, 6’1 forward (cut by the Atlanta Dream)

College: Texas A&M (won national championship in 2011)

Plays for Perfumerias Avenida in Spain. She averaged 10.4 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game in Spanish play, while averaging 12 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game in EuroLeague.

Elonu is a good defender in the post. She can even play in both the post and perimeter, though she doesn’t have a solid three-point shot.

Reshanda Gray, 6’2 forward (cut by the New York Liberty)

College: California

Gray was a bench player her entire WNBA career, but she has been a consistent rebounder who also improved her post scoring from the 2015 to 2016 seasons.

Sandrine Gruda, 6’4 center (Yakin Dogu)

Country: France

Averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds for Yakin Dogu last season.

Gruda is one of the top post players in the world, but WNBA players never really had a chance to see her play in her prime here in the US, as she played only sparingly in the 2016 and 2017 seasons for the Sparks. She did, however, have more consistent court time for the Connecticut Sun from 2008-2010 and for LA in 2014.

Endy Miyem, 6’1 forward (cut by the Minnesota Lynx)

Country: France

Miyem played for Famila Schio in the Italian League last season where she averaged 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. She played for France in the 2012 Olympic Games where she won a silver medal as well as for the 2009 EuroBasket Women’s Championship team.

How would this team fare?

This team would fare quite well in the front court, especially with Gruda as a presumptive starting center and Butler as her backup. A backcourt featuring Torrens and Xargay will also be very entertaining to see.

The problem with this team, however, is the lack of backcourt depth. This team is deep in the front court — but perhaps too deep. European posts, unlike their American counterparts, are more willing to play off the ball and pass, so perhaps there isn’t a need for a “floor general.” That said, Xargay is one of the best European point guards who has already shown that she can play at the WNBA level.

Poll

Which of the players waived since the May 20 start of the season, who are not on this list, would you like to see on a WNBA team (expansion or otherwise)?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Saniya Chong (waived by Wings)
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    Teana Muldrow (waived Storm)
    (0 votes)
  • 22%
    Karlie Samuelson (released by Sparks)
    (17 votes)
  • 5%
    Imani Wright (waived by Mercury)
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Chelsea Hopkins (waived by Sky)
    (3 votes)
  • 18%
    Mercedes Russell (released by Liberty)
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    Raigyne Louis (waived by Aces)
    (0 votes)
  • 26%
    Shoni Schimmel (waived by Liberty/Aces)
    (20 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now