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2021 WNBA Free Agency: New York Liberty have plenty of room to maneuver

After a disastrous 2020, the New York Liberty have several ways they can approach the 2021 free agency period. Beyond re-signing Amanda Zahui B., the team has enough cap space to take a swing on some big names.

Dallas Wings v New York Liberty
The New York Liberty have just one unrestricted free agent to make a decision on entering 2021: Amanda Zahui B.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Liberty made WNBA history in 2020, but mostly for the wrong reasons. An inexperienced and patchwork roster marred by injuries, opt-outs and other absences left the Liberty depleted from the start, and they won just two games the entire season — the fewest by any team in the league’s existence.

As it pertains to free agency, however, the Liberty aren’t in a poor position. The number of young players on the team in 2020 means New York’s roster is loaded with cheap contracts, giving the Liberty plenty of cap space to re-sign their lone unrestricted free agent — center Amanda Zahui B. — and make a big splash or two should other free agents want to join the team.


By the numbers*

2021 Free Agents (type) (salary)

  • Amanda Zahui B. (Unrestricted) ($110,000)
  • Joyner Holmes (Reserved) ($57,000)
  • Paris Kea (Reserved) ($41,040)
  • Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (Reserved) ($41,965)
  • Rebecca Allen (Suspended-Contract Expired) ($13,600)
  • Stephanie Talbot (Suspended-Contract Expired) ($49,498)

Team figures:

  • Total salary of free agents: $313,103
  • Total team salary (not including above players): $870,564
  • Cap space: $468,436

Analysis

Atlanta Dream v New York Liberty
Joyner Holmes was just one of many rookies who played for the 2020 Liberty. New York owns her negotiating rights, but with several key players due back in 2021 and another high draft pick en route, Holmes may be the odd woman out.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty may have had a lousy 2020 season, but they’re in for an exciting 2021 free agency period that will almost certainly yield a stronger roster than what they were left with last year.

For starters, if New York is able to bring just one of its two Australian sharpshooters (Rebecca Allen and Stephanie Talbot) back to the States, the team will gain much-needed outside shooting — just one of the many areas it struggled in last year. The good news for New York is that both Allen and Talbot qualify as “Suspended-Contract Expired” players, meaning that the Liberty own their exclusive negotiating rights. New York also owns the negotiating rights to Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Paris Kea and Holmes — all reserved players.

This means the Liberty have more than enough cap space to offer Zahui B. a healthy new contract, as a priority. She’s an unrestricted free agent and will surely be drawing interest from other teams, but New York should be able to offer at least as much money (and playing time) as those seeking her services — if not more.

Even after re-signing Zahui B. and one or more of its reserved players, New York should have room to go after one of the bigger names in 2021’s free agency class. Simply put: Thanks to its glut of cheap, rookie-scale contracts, the Liberty have a lot of cap room ($468,436) without necessarily needing to bring anyone from last year’s team back. Compare this situation with that of, say, Chicago or Washington, and New York’s free agency to-do list will look quite relaxed.

Of course, New York owns the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, and ideally, guards Asia Durr and Marine Johannes — both of whom sat out the 2020 season — will be back in the fold as well. Because of this, there’s little doubt that the Liberty will look considerably different in 2021. Unlike most WNBA teams entering the free agency period, though, New York’s inevitable overhaul may not be due to a lack of money, just a lack of available roster spots.


*All WNBA salary information courtesy of Her Hoop Stats, High Post Hoops and The Next and is current as of Jan. 19, 2021