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(Updated) 2021 WNBA Free Agency: Odyssey Sims could be key addition for Atlanta Dream

With the retirement of Renee Montgomery, the departure of Betnijah Laney and the additions of Cheyenne Parker, Tianna Hawkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Odyssey Sims, a lot has changed for the Atlanta Dream. Now they must create enough cap space to pay the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

Minnesota Lynx v Seattle Storm -Game One
Odyssey Sims (with ball) averaged 9.4 points for the Minnesota Lynx in 2020.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Dream made yet another move on Monday, signing veteran guard Odyssey Sims, who has averaged 12.8 points per game over her seven-year WNBA career.

A lot has happened for the Atlanta Dream in recent weeks, most notably the selling of the team to Larry Gottesdiener and retirement of Renee Montgomery, who is now a part-owner of the team. The Dream also added Shatori Walker-Kimbrough on Feb. 22. and a versatile forward in Tianna Hawkins on Feb. 4. Plus, Atlanta signed Yvonne Turner and Kaela Davis to training camp contracts, waived Brittany Brewer and Mikayla Pivec and suspended the contract of Maite Cazorla — all since the signing of Hawkins.

Earlier in free agency, Atlanta lost its top free agent, Betnijah Laney, to the New York Liberty, and welcomed Cheyenne Parker from the Chicago Sky.

The Dream have four very good players returning to College Park: Courtney Williams, Shekinna Stricklen, Tiffany Hayes and Elizabeth Williams. The franchise likely wants to build around that core, plus Parker and last year’s No. 3 overall draft pick, Chennedy Carter.

Can Hayes finally become the “Batman” for a WNBA team? Can Carter become the prolific scorer she seems destined to be? These are pressing questions for the Dream, who finished 7-15 in the 2020 Bradenton bubble and missed out on the playoffs.

Here’s a look at where Atlanta stands:


By the numbers*

Free agents (type) (average salary) (new salary):

  • Glory Johnson (unrestricted) ($165,000)
  • Renee Montgomery (suspended-contract expired) ($107,000)
  • Betnijah Laney (unrestricted) ($91,350)
  • Blake Dietrick (restricted) ($68,000)
  • Jaylyn Agnew (reserved) ($59,750)
  • Kaela Davis (restricted) ($57,000) ($70,040)

Total average salary of free agents Johnson, Dietrick and Agnew: $292,750

Total team salary currently: $1,287,540

Cap space currently: $51,460

Analysis

Las Vegas Aces v Atlanta Dream
Renee Montgomery has retired from the WNBA after a stellar career.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The retirement of Renee Montgomery has allowed the Dream to make a lot of new additions and has made their salary cap situation less complicated.

We previously reported:

As a key contributor with a championship, (Tianna) Hawkins saw her pay double to $140,000 in 2021 and climb to $144,200 for 2022. She is the 12th player under contract for the Dream, who now may have to cut Mikayla Pivec ($58,141) and another young player (either Brittany Brewer or Maite Cazorla) to create more cap space. But let’s say they cut Pivec and Brewer (who is more expensive than Cazorla) and keep the No. 3 draft pick. That would leave them with just $82,710 to pay Renee Montgomery, which would be a pay cut of $24,290.

If Atlanta goes with 11 players by cutting Cazorla or Kalani Brown in addition to Pivec and Brewer, it would be left with $141,420 to pay Montgomery, which is a more realistic number. With Atlanta stacking up its frontcourt, it is looking more and more like it will not keep Glory Johnson, who made more than $141,420 last year.

Odyssey Sims, the Dream’s latest addition, is a great scorer when at her best. She averaged 16.7 points and 4.2 assists per game as a rookie with the Tulsa Shock in 2014. Her best distributing season came just two years ago when she averaged 5.4 helpers for the Minnesota Lynx. She also had a solid scoring average of 14.5 in 2019 and made the All-Star Game before playing a lesser role for the Lynx in 2020. She played a career-low 18.5 minutes per game in the Bradenton bubble, but still averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 assists.

The Dream are only paying Sims $75,000 for 2021. The rest of her cap hit of $119,000 will be taken by the Indiana Fever, who waived Sims after receiving her in a trade from the Lynx.

Atlanta is left with 11 players signed and still does not have enough money to pay the No. 3 overall draft pick, which was the case before it signed Sims and suspended Cazorla’s contract.

We previously reported:

Atlanta does not currently have enough money to pay the No. 3 overall pick (it has $67,750 and needs $70,040), which means more moves are likely coming. It also means that unless they cut someone a little more expensive than the player minimum of $58,710 (such as Monique Billings at $70,040) they will have to run with 11 players.

Now the Dream only have $51,460 left, which is less than the player minimum, meaning they can’t add a 12th player unless they cut or trade someone worth $65,960 or more. Cutting any one player (such as Kalani Brown at $58,710) would give them enough money to pay the No. 3 overall pick, but if they want to keep the No. 3 pick and have 12 players, they would have to cut or trade someone worth $77,290 or more. So it would have to be Walker-Kimbrough at $85,000, assuming the Dream don’t want to part ways with any of their core players.

Walker-Kimbrough was making a very small amount of money ($52,656) for a solid bench contributor (who even started 10 games in 2020) and her former team, the Phoenix Mercury, simply could not afford to pay her the money she deserves. At least she got a slight pay raise now that she has signed with the Dream. She brings speed and 3-point shooting to the table.

The additions of Sims, Walker-Kimbrough, Hawkins and Cheyenne Parker could make the Dream more competitive than they were last year.

Hawkins was one of the Washington Mystics’ top bench players during their 2019 WNBA championship run and averaged 9.5 points in 2019 and 8.5 points in 2020.

She was a phenomenal rebounder and inside scorer at the University of Maryland and, at 6’3”, Hawkins still has those skills to go along with 3-point shooting and ball-handling skills that she has developed in the pros.

With the addition of Parker, the Dream have added a frontcourt player who performed far better than Johnson did last year, though Johnson is a former All-Star. Parker, meanwhile, averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 2020 (compared to Johnson’s 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds).

Parker also is two years younger than Johnson.

We previously reported:

The Dream’s top priority should be re-signing Betnijah Laney, who, after her accomplishments last year, is now deserving of more money than the average salary of $91,350 on her last contract. How much the Dream pay Laney will dictate their ability to keep Renee Montgomery and Glory Johnson.

There is a scenario where Atlanta could keep all three players, but it may require Laney to agree to less money and the team to forego signing draft picks beyond their No. 3 overall pick. It would also mean cutting Mikayla Pivec (which the Dream may do anyway because of roster constraints) and either Brittany Brewer or Maite Cazorla, the latter of whom showed promise in 2019 before sitting out 2020 due to personal reasons.

Laney was the Dream’s second-leading scorer last year (behind Carter) and named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team. She has all the skills needed to become a big star. The only question mark is whether last year’s offense was a bit of a fluke after Laney spent a few years making a name for herself on defense. A look to her career at Rutgers shows her big numbers are likely no fluke at all. She averaged 14 points and 13.9 rebounds as a senior.

As for the more established veterans, Johnson is a better all-around talent than Montgomery and, at age 30, four years younger. However, she underachieved in 2020, and is far more expensive than Montgomery ($165,000 compared to $107,000). Keeping Montgomery, a guard, may be a higher priority than keeping Johnson, a forward, especially when the team did fine in the rebounding department and struggled in assists.

Offensive rebounding was the Dream’s best statistical category in 2020. They finished third in the league thanks to Monique Billings (2.6 per game), Elizabeth Williams (2.2) and Courtney Williams (1.9). Johnson averaged just 3.7 total boards and just 15.1 minutes.

The Dream will likely have a shot at getting Arella Guirantes, Dana Evans or Aari McDonald — all high-ceiling guards — at No. 3 in this year’s draft.

The Dream also have the No. 15 and No. 27 picks.


This story has been updated to include the departure of Betnijah Laney, the acquisitions of Cheyenne Parker, Tianna Hawkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Odyssey Sims, the signing to training camp contracts of Yvonne Turner and Kaela Davis, the waiving of Brittany Brewer and Mikayla Pivec, the suspending of Maite Cazorla’s contract and the retirement of Renee Montgomery.

*All WNBA salary information courtesy of Her Hoop Stats and spotrac and current as of March 3, 2021.