When it comes to action and excitement, WNBA free agency arguably has exceeded expectations. Things kicked off with reports that Candace Parker was leaving LA for Chi-Town and have begun to wind down with a trade sending Natasha Howard from the Pacific Northwest to Brooklyn in exchange for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft.
Other big names who have found new basketball homes include:
- Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles to Las Vegas)
- Kayla McBride (Las Vegas to Minnesota)
- Aerial Powers (Washington to Minnesota)
- Alysha Clark (Seattle to Washington)
- Kia Nurse (New York to Phoenix)
- Cheyenne Parker (Chicago to Atlanta)
However, some things still remained unsettled. Here are three critical questions.
What about the missing Mystics?
The then-defending champion Washington Mystics entered the 2020 WNBA season a different team, down a number of players due to their decisions to opt out of the 2020 season.
Entering the 2021 season, it seems that the Mystics will again look like their championship-caliber selves, with a re-signed Tina Charles and newly-signed Alysha Clark enhancing DC on both ends of the floor. Yet, two of Washington’s championship pieces have yet to sign new contracts — Emma Meesseman and Natasha Cloud. While we cannot be certain about any behind-the-scenes discussions, these delays appear explainable.
The pride Meesseman takes in playing for the Belgian National Team has been well-documented. With EuroBasket and the Olympics scheduled for the summer of 2021, Meeseman may choose to take a break from the WNBA. Alternatively, she could wait to join the Mystics after the Olympic break, possibly boosting DC with some vintage Playoff Emma performances just in time for the championship chase.
It should be noted that Meesseman, as an unrestricted free agent, is eligible to sign with another team. While it is almost impossible to envision Meesseman taking her talents to another organization, this year’s flurry of unexpected free agency action suggests it would be unwise to absolutely rule out this option.
As we previously pondered:
Cloud also could be weighing whether or not to play in the WNBA in 2021. Last year, when she opted out of the 2020 WNBA season, she further established herself as one of the sports world’s most insightful, engaged athletes, immersing herself in the efforts for justice and equality around issues of police brutality, gun control, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights and more. Cloud may again choose to prioritize concerns that are bigger than basketball.
The star guard stated unequivocally in response to this piece that she plans to play the season, writing on Twitter that she is not opting out of the season:
I’m not opting out the 2021 season.— Natasha Cloud (@T_Cloud4) February 27, 2021
Cloud is on a suspended-expired contract, meaning that, should she decide to play, she can only negotiate a new contract with the Mystics. Because of what she means to the organization, both on and off the court, it is hard to imagine that Mike Thibault and the Mystics’ brass are playing hardball with any ongoing contract negotiations.
Where will Odyssey’s odyssey end?
In order to open up a protected veteran roster spot for Aerial Powers, the Minnesota Lynx had to part ways with Odyssey Sims, sending her to the Indiana Fever, along with a pair of draft picks and the exclusive negotiating rights to Temi Fagbenle. The Fever then opted to waive Sims, making her available to any team. Because Sims will be paid her $119,000 salary, a team doesn’t need tons of a cap space to sign her, as they can offer her the veteran minimum contract of $70,040.
Although she was returning to the court soon after giving her birth to her son, Sims provided the Lynx with pugnacious play in 2020, averaging 9.4 points and 3.5 assists in 18.5 minutes per game. In fact, Cheryl Reeve might like to have Sims back in Minnesota, as her squad currently lacks a backup point guard. However, hard feelings probably make an immediate reunion unlikely.
If the aforementioned missing Mystics decide not to play in the WNBA in 2021, Washington certainly could use Sims’ services, possibly even as their starting point guard. Another interesting destination could be the Windy City. While the Chicago Sky signed Brittany Boyd as a possible backup point guard, Sims’s track record suggests she could offer a higher level of reliable play behind Courtney Vandersloot.
Even if Washington or Chicago do not give Sims a call, she certainly should find a new home. If any organization loses a guard to a serious injury during the remainder of the offseason, expect them to rush to offer Sims a contract.
Will veterans get the opportunity for a bounce-back season?
Among the unsigned free agents are Glory Johnson and Sydney Colson, both of whom had the starts of their 2020 seasons delayed by positive tests for COVID-19. Johnson, who was with the Atlanta Dream, tested positive upon arrival in Bradenton, FL, forcing her to quarantine in a hotel room for an extended period of time. Colson, a member of the Chicago Sky, missed the first two weeks of the season because she tested positive before traveling to Florida.
Even after returning to the court, neither player seemed to be herself.
In only 15.1 minutes per game for an injury-laden Dream team, Johnson averaged a career-low 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. However, she did flash her fastball in a mid-August matchup against the Los Angeles Sparks, scoring 23 points on 62.5 percent shooting from the field. In 2019, her final season with the Dallas Wings, she added the 3-pointer to her game, firing 3.7 per game and converting them at a rate of 34 percent. It seems a fully-healthy, well-conditioned Johnson could again contribute to a WNBA team. She recently signed with Turkey’s Kayseri Basketbol, giving front offices an opportunity to evaluate her form.
After serving as a reliable backup point guard for the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, Colson struggled to get on the court for a Sky squad that also was beset by injuries. She played only 6.5 minutes per game in 17 games, averaging 1.6 points and 0.8 assists. In comparison, Colson played 11.5 minutes per game in 33 games during her season in Vegas. She was a season-long plus-1.2 on averages of 3.3 points and 1.8 assists. Colson also is a member of the WNBPA’s Social Justice Council, suggesting she could bring valuable leadership to a young team.