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WNBA Free Agency Roundup: Courtney Vandersloot is the next domino to fall

The defending champions could look dramatically different next year.

Chicago Sky v Washington Mystics Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Free agency is officially upon us, and the first question of the day is: What are the Chicago Sky doing?

The Sky re-sign Kahleah Copper and replace Stef Dolson, but the VanderQuigs remain free agents

Let’s start with the good news for Chicago. After coring Kahleah Copper, the 2021 Finals MVP is back on a two-year deal.

The other big headline of the weekend was that Emma Meesseman will be moving from the Mystics to the Chicago Sky, who just hired fellow Belgian legend Ann Wauters as an assistant coach. Meesseman isn’t exactly a like-for-like replacement for Stefanie Dolson, who is signing with the Liberty, but is another outstanding offensive frontcourt player. Lest we forget, she was the Finals MVP in 2019, joining two other Finals MVPs in Chicago: Candace Parker and Copper.

Meesseman isn’t a center, so Parker should be pushed to the 5 more often than she was a year ago, but that’s arguably her best position defensively. Keeping Parker close to the basket means more rebounds for the two-time champ and more chances to lead the break. Signing Crystal Bradford also gives the Sky more athletic wing depth, especially if Diamond DeShields is on her way out.

The problem is that the Sky are still yet to come to terms with the VanderQuigs, and Holly Rowe reported on the ESPN free agency special that Vandersloot got a “wildly disrespectful” offer from Chicago. On top of that, Sloot’s European team UMMC Ekaterinberg is trying to pay her to sit out the 2022 season — and if that sounds familiar, it’s because they did the same thing with Diana Taurasi in 2015, when she was the same age Sloot is now.

Presumably, re-signing Sloot is a precondition to re-signing Allie Quigley, so this is an important pivot point in Chicago’s offseason. The Sky cannot afford to lose both of them if they want to contend for another title.

Other 2021 semifinalists are reloading

Connecticut is getting Jonquel Jones back on a two-year deal below the supermax. That will give the Sun a little more breathing room to bring back Courtney Williams and still roster 11 players.

Phoenix is bringing back Sophie Cunningham, and Holly Rowe reported on the ESPN Free Agency special that Tina Charles is likely to join the Mercury in 2022 as well. Charles has said that winning is her main priority, and she will have to put her money where her mouth is, because Phoenix cannot pay her like the MVP candidate she was in 2021.

The Mercury love going after stars, but the fit of Charles next to a frontcourt that already has Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner makes little sense. None of those players can slide to the 3, and bringing one of them off the bench is a poor use of resources. The rumored interest between DeShields and Phoenix makes far more sense, even if Charles is a superior player to DeShields, simply because the Mercury need a wing in the bad way.

The Storm are running it back

Sue Bird is playing one more year, and the rest of the Big Three is also staying in Seattle. The AP reported that Jewell Loyd agreed to a deal to remain in Seattle after being cored — though she also took a meeting with the New York Liberty before the terms were finalized — and it is a two-year deal for the Olympian at the supermax.

Breanna Stewart is also sticking around. She agreed to a one-year supermax deal, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. After Stewie took a meeting with the Liberty during free agency, the length of her deal could raise some eyebrows, especially because Seattle will not be able to core her now that Loyd is on a two-year contract. But that’s a problem for the 2023 Storm to deal with.

As for 2022, Seattle is also retaining its starting center Mercedes Russell, who had an outstanding season on both ends of the floor — who can forget her game-saving block in the play-in round against Phoenix (even if the Mercury ended up winning that game). Per Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats, Russell is getting a three-year fully-protected deal worth $160,000 per season.

One more year for another legend

Sylvia Fowles and the Lynx made it official Monday that one of the best centers in WNBA history is playing only one more season before retiring. The seven-time All-Star, two-time champion, and 2017 MVP took a slight discount on her final contract, as she will be making $200,000 instead of the supermax.

Even without Napheesa Collier available for at least the beginning of the season due to her pregnancy, the Lynx are operating as a contender. They are also retaining Layshia Clarendon — an important stabilizing force in 2021 — after previously agreeing to terms with Angel McCoughtry.

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