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2021 WNBA Free Agency: Dallas Wings’ youth movement continues

The Dallas Wings gave up Katie Lou Samuelson, who averaged just five points per game last year, and their second round pick in 2022 for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft. Dallas already had the No. 2 pick.

Dallas Wings Media Day
The youth movement continues for the Dallas Wings, who already have Arike Ogunbowale (left) and Satou Sabally.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Wings acquired the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft on Wednesday by sending Katie Lou Samuelson and their second round pick for 2022 to the Seattle Storm. Dallas is now the first team in WNBA history to have the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the same draft.

Previously, we said that the Dallas Wings needed to build around third-year player Arike Ogunbowale and second-year player Satou Sabally. Well, after this year’s draft, they could have a big four.

Ogunbowale was the No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft and Sabally was picked No. 2 overall in 2020. Both were megastars in college and Ogunbowale elevated her play to All-WNBA First Team status in 2020 as the season’s scoring leader. Sabally, meanwhile, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and has shown even more promise overseas.

However, each needs to improve efficiency from long range if Dallas is to have more success in 2021.

Ogunbowale shot 33.6 percent from beyond the arc last season and Sabally shot 19.7 percent. As a team, the Wings were 10th in the league in 3-point percentage (32.3) and 11th in overall field-goal percentage (41.5). The good news is that they weren’t as bad in scoring offense (seventh) and have elite scorers in addition to Ogunbowale and Sabally who are capable of knocking down shots at a higher percentage. By comparison, Sabally shot 41.1 percent from deep with 81 makes as a sophomore at Oregon and Ogunbowale shot 39.3 percent for her career at Notre Dame.

The Wings had just one free agent: Allisha Gray, who they have re-signed. Under the leadership of new head coach Vickie Johnson, they are going to rely on young talent once again.


By the numbers*

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

  • Allisha Gray (restricted) ($65,779) ($160,000)

Total average salary of free agents: $65,779

Total team salary: $1,152,740

Cap space: $186,260

Analysis

Dallas Wings v Washington Mystics
Katie Lou Samuelson (left) is off to the defending champion Seattle Storm. Will Bella Alarie (center) and Megan Gustafson (right) make the cut for Dallas?
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Without Samuelson, the Wings have 11 players under contract and we assume they want to keep the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, which means they will have to cut someone. They also have the No. 5, No. 7 and No. 13 picks so they could be cutting more than one person.

Dallas can easily afford the first two picks at a combined salary of $140,080.

Astou Ndour, Moriah Jefferson, Allisha Gray, Isabelle Harrison and Kayla Thornton are all protected, but anyone else could be cut. Bella Alarie (No. 5 in 2020), Tyasha Harris (No. 7 in 2020), Megan Gustafson (No. 17 in 2019) and Marina Mabrey (No. 19 in 2019) will be competing with picks No. 5, 7 and 13 for four roster spots.

It should be noted that Mabrey led this group with 10 points and 21.3 minutes per game in 2020. Harris (6.8 points, 2.7 assists and 19.6 minutes) was the next most valuable, followed by Alarie and Gustafson.

Money shouldn’t factor into who makes the roster. If the team keeps picks No. 1, 2, 5 and 7 as well as either Alarie or Harris at $66,555 (the most expensive scenario), the team will have spent $1,238,471 in total salaries, well below the salary cap of $1,339,000.

In the draft, the Wings could take back-to-back centers in 6-foot-5 Charli Collier of the University of Texas and 6-foot-4 Awak Kuier of Finland (arguably the two best players available). They need help in the frontcourt and those two may not step on each other’s toes too much with both being able to stretch the floor.

Then they would have Ogunbowale and Gray in the backcourt, plus Sabally: the quintessential 3.

We previously reported:

All seven of the Wings’ unprotected players who are not free agents make under $70,000 because they are on rookie contracts. Dallas was the youngest team in the league in 2020 and could continue building up talent for the future with three first-round draft picks this year’s draft: No. 2, No. 5 and No. 7.

The jobs of fan favorites Megan Gustafson and Katie Lou Samuelson are not safe because they may be replaced by the 2021 draft picks. But Dallas will have plenty of money remaining to build its roster, regardless of who makes the team, because it would just be exchanging rookie contracts for rookie contracts. Thus, the Wings can re-sign Allisha Gray if they want to, and they should, because Gray brings a combination of experience and youthful energy.

She was third on the team in scoring last year with 13.1 points per game.

The Wings’ biggest contributions in 2020 came from their guards, plus Sabally, a small forward who experimented with playing at the 4-spot, and Kayla Thornton, a sharpshooting small forward. Dallas did not get significant contributions from a true big. And while post players Isabelle Harrison and Astou Ndour are guaranteed to return for Dallas, they need help.

The Wings likely won't get a shot at drafting Texas junior forward/center Charli Collier, even if she declares for the draft — most mock drafts have her going at No. 1 to the New York Liberty. However, Awak Kuier from Finland and Natasha Mack of Oklahoma State are other options who could aid the Dallas frontcourt.

Meanwhile, stretch-forward Bella Alarie, the No. 5 draft pick in 2020, deserves more time to prove herself.


*All WNBA salary information courtesy of Her Hoops Stats and Spotrac and is current as of Feb. 9, 2021.