The Seattle Storm re-signed up-and-coming center Ezi Magbegor to a two-year deal this past Saturday, locking in the young Australian star for $159,650 in 2023 and $155,000 in 2024. The deal tabs Magbegor as a key building block for a Seattle franchise that has seen its championship window slammed shut since the start of the WNBA’s 2023 free agency period.
The Storm also signed two veterans: Sami Whitcomb ($142,500 in 2023 and $140,000 in 2024), who last played for Seattle from 2017-2020, and Kia Nurse ($142,500 in both 2023 and 2024), who missed the entirety of the 2022 season while rehabbing a torn ACL. Nurse last played for the Phoenix Mercury in 2021.
Seattle rounded up its flurry of free agency activity by signing Arella Guirantes and Kaila Charles to training camp contracts. Guirantes played one season in the WNBA (2021) with the Los Angeles Sparks, while Charles spent two seasons (2020 and 2021) with the Connecticut Sun and brief stints in 2022 with the Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty.
By the numbers*
Free agents (type) (2022 salary)
- Gabby Williams (restricted) ($144,000)
- Epiphanny Prince (unrestricted) ($115,000)
- Jantel Lavender (unrestricted) ($72,141)
- Tina Charles (unrestricted) ($34,285)
Total average salary of free agents: $425,897
Total team salary: $394,936
Cap space: $1,025,564
With former Seattle superstar Breanna Stewart now a member of the New York Liberty and the Storm unable to sign an equal amount of high-level talent to replace her, Seattle has officially entered a rebuilding phase that, considering the circumstances, has gotten off to a good start with Magbegor’s re-signing.
Magbegor, a 23-year-old center who was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2022 before the Storm’s midseason acquisition of Tina Charles diminished her role, entered the 2023 WNBA free agency period as a reserved free agent, meaning she could only negotiate with Seattle. The Storm rewarded Magbegor with a hefty raise, and it’s all but assured that she’ll once again be starting for the team in 2023.
The rest of Seattle’s moves fill out the team’s depth on the wing for the next two seasons. Whitcomb first burst onto the scene for the Storm in 2017 and became a valued member of the team’s rotation for the next three seasons, establishing herself as one of the WNBA’s deadliest 3-point shooters and winning championships with the Storm in 2018 and 2020. Now 34 years old, Whitcomb is in the twilight of her career, and Storm general manager Talisa Rhea alluded to her experience when describing the role she’ll play for Seattle in 2023.
Nurse, meanwhile, was named a WNBA All-Star during her second season in the league (2019), and Seattle hopes that she can regain that form in 2023 and beyond. The 6-foot Nurse will likely be expected to defend bigger players on the wing, while her physicality will surely be of use to the Storm on offense; Nurse ranked No. 5 and No. 7 in made free throws in 2019 and 2020, respectively, as a member of the New York Liberty.
As for Guirantes and Charles, they’ll be competing for bench roles behind Whitcomb, Nurse and incumbent star Jewell Loyd in 2023. While Guirantes and Charles are on team-friendly training camp contracts, given Seattle’s situation, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one of them make the team’s final roster.
After missing out on Vandersloot, which point guard will the Storm sign?
None of these moves, however, address something Storm fans have been wondering for quite some time: Who will replace Sue Bird?
There was a brief moment when it looked like ex-Chicago Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot would be the heir to the legendary Bird, but Vandersloot eventually chose to join Stewart in New York, leaving Seattle with a handful of veteran free agents at the position to choose from — all perfectly capable players, but none with Vandersloot’s offensive acumen.
The Storm have thus far not signed a point guard, and while Whitcomb and Loyd have experience playing the position in stretches, neither are best cast as a full-time ball-handler. If the Storm don’t address this soon (steady hands such as Moriah Jefferson, Jordin Canada and Bria Hartley are a few names still available on the free agent market), they may choose to simply look to the draft for their next point guard. The earliest the Storm will pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft is No. 8 overall, and if they’re looking to take a guard with that pick, players like Charisma Osborne (UCLA), Jacy Sheldon (Ohio State), Ashley Owusu (Virginia Tech) and Celeste Taylor (Duke) would be possibilities. The Storm also own the rights to Australian guard Jade Melbourne, who they selected in the third round of the 2022 WNBA Draft; Melbourne is still very young at just 20 years old, but this season would be the perfect opportunity for her to make her WNBA debut on a team in desperate need of her skills.
Will Williams be able to play?
Another question that still needs answering concerns the future of forward Gabby Williams, whose status as a restricted free agent will give Seattle a chance to match any offer made by a rival team and keep her on for 2023.
Williams may not even get a chance to play, however. In accordance with the WNBA prioritization clause that takes effect this year, any player who is not with their respective WNBA team by the start of the regular season will automatically be suspended by the league for the entirety of the season.
That’s a problem for Williams, who is currently playing overseas for French basketball club LDLC ASVEL Féminin. The end of the Ligue Féminine de Basketball season will overlap with the beginning of the 2023 WNBA season, meaning that Williams could be forced to take the summer off. If that’s the case, the Storm will be down one of their most athletic players and their best defensive playmaker on the perimeter.
* All salary numbers come from Her Hoop Stats.