The Las Vegas Aces continued their free agency activity on Thursday by signing Riquna Williams, a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks since 2017, to bolster the backcourt.
The Aces cored center Liz Cambage early in free agency. And with shooting guard Kayla McBride in January announcing her decision to sign with the Minnesota Lynx, Las Vegas wasted no time in plucking Chelsea Gray from LA and signing her to a multi-year deal. Gray and Williams are good outside shooters who can also drive to the basket. The Aces’ backcourt is starting to look pretty solid in the wake of McBride’s surprise departure.
WNBA champion Chelsea Gray is headed to the Las Vegas Aces after five years with the Sparks, per @TheNextHoops— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 28, 2021
She's teaming up with MVP A'ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Angel McCoughtry
Watch out for the Aces pic.twitter.com/qcVfPazC3C
The Aces have a great core of players already under contract for 2021: A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Angel McCoughtry and Dearica Hamby. But bringing Cambage back through the core designation eats about 25% of the cap they had available.
Additionally, Lindsay Allen and Emma Cannon are with the team on training camp contracts. Allen was the team’s starting point guard in 2020 while Kelsey Plum recovered from an Achilles injury. Cannon was added late in the season after Hamby went down with an injury; Cannon made six appearances in the postseason.
These players do not count against the cap unless the Aces sign them to regular contracts.
By the numbers*
2021 Free Agents (type) (salary)
- Danielle Robinson (Signed three-year contract with Indiana Fever)
- Kayla McBride (Signed three-year contract with Minnesota Lynx)
- Sugar Rodgers (Unrestricted) ($80,000)
- Carolyn Swords (Unrestricted) ($68,000)
- Cierra Burdick (Unrestricted) ($58,480)
- Total salary of free agents: $206,480
- Total team salary (includes Cambage’s supermax cap number and additions of Gray and Williams): $1,209,919
- Cap space: $129,081
McBride was their top free agent as previously noted:
The Aces will probably bring back one player on their list of free agents: Kayla McBride. Although the Aces have six open roster spots and five when they bring back McBride, they could look elsewhere to fill out the rest of their roster.
McBride has been a fixture with the Aces franchise since 2014 and is one of the best two-guards in the league. However, her shooting numbers were down in 2020. Look for a multi-year deal as the Aces currently have just two players under contract in 2022.
Long term, the Aces have quite a bit of flexibility but with multi-year deals expected for McBride and Cambage, their ability to keep all of their stars in 2022 does come into question. For now, the Aces still look to be title contenders.
And, as previously speculated:
With McBride off to the Lynx, the Aces can now afford to bring back Danielle Robinson and possibly Sugar Rodgers.
While Robinson was a nice contributor for the Aces last season, Las Vegas cannot afford such an expensive option off the bench. With Cambage likely back into the fold in 2021, Swords can go back into retirement.
Rodgers played in every game in 2020 and has been with the Aces for two seasons. She has been a bench player throughout her time with Las Vegas and could see her spot go to Allen or Cannon in 2021.
If the Aces bring back Robinson and Rodgers, that leaves $234,771 cap space remaining. If the Aces sign Gray to a salary of $110,000, that leaves about $124,000 of cap space for possibly another player. With Kelsey Plum already on the roster and presumably the starting point guard, Gray would move to shooting guard or maybe vice versa.
If the Aces decide to bring back Rodgers and Robinson, they would be set at the guard position. Maybe they use the additional cash to sign some depth in the post. If the Aces decide they need one more player to fill out their roster, Glory Johnson or Jessica Breland could be options.
If Las Vegas goes against re-signing Rodgers and Robinson, the Aces could look to sign a guard. Riquna Williams, Essence Carson and Bria Holmes are three players that could be on the Aces’ radar.
Burdick was a restricted free agent but the Aces did not extend a qualifying offer by the deadline, which converts her to an unrestricted free agent. Burdick played in a total of 17 games (regular and postseason) and was a non-factor for the club.
Chelsea Gray signed for a two-year deal ($190,000 this year and $196,000 in 2022) and the Aces extended Dearica Hamby’s contract through 2022. Williams signed a one-year deal reportedly worth $91,250 and adds an eighth player to the roster.
As noted above, our cap number includes a one-year supermax deal for Liz Cambage worth $221,450, which leaves just over $129,000. The addition of Cambage leaves three available roster spots. The salaries of the first and second draft picks in 2021 total $125,918, so it should be assumed that any players who make the team will sign in the $60,000 to $65,000 range.
Unless, of course, Cambage opts to miss the season. In that scenario, the Aces would have sufficient room to bring in another mid-level free agent and sign their draft picks with ease.
Reports have circulated that Jessica Breland will not be back with the Phoenix Mercury. If this turns out to be true, she will have many suitors and the Aces could be a landing spot — if, of course, they get wind that Cambage will sit out the 2021 season.
This story was updated to reflect Kayla McBride’s free agency move from the Las Vegas Aces to the Minnesota Lynx and Chelsea Gray’s and Riquna Williams’ free agency moves from the Los Angeles Sparks to the Las Vegas Aces.