WNBA free agency promises to be wild. On Jan. 11,, teams started making qualifying offers and core designations. On Jan. 21, teams and players begin negotiating, with contracts open to be signed on Feb. 1. Check back here for updates and analysis.
Monday, Feb. 6
While Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker’s moves in free agency made the biggest headlines, there have been plenty of moves by teams who aren’t the New York Liberty or the Las Vegas Aces. Let’s take a look at the moves teams we haven’t talked about have done, lighting-round style.
Atlanta Dream: In addition to trading for Allisha Gray and Danielle Robinson, the Dream re-signed Nia Coffey and AD Durr, who was a key midseason addition last year. They will continue to be important bench players for coach Tanisha Wright.
Chicago Sky: Let’s not sugarcoat this. The Sky’s free agency has been mostly a disaster, with departures by Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Azurá Stevens and Allie Quigley. Kahleah Copper is the only starter remaining from the 2021 championship team. They did pick up Courtney Williams, Isabelle Harrison and Elizabeth Williams (no relation to Courtney), but those additions aren’t enough to make up for what Chicago has lost this offseason.
Dallas Wings: With new head coach Latricia Trammell, the Wings signed Teaira McCowan to an extension and traded for Natasha Howard. Clearly, defense will be a priority.
Indiana Fever: With the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Fever were mostly quiet, except for signing Erica Wheeler and Victoria Vivans. Their big night comes in April.
Phoenix Mercury: Locking down Sophie Cunningham was the Mercury’s lone move. Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi remain unsigned, but both have said they’re coming back to the only WNBA team they’ve played for.
Washington Mystics: Signing Brittney Sykes and trading for Amanda Zahui B. will strengthen the defense of the Mystics, who are expecting a healthy, well-rested Elena Delle Donne for the first time in years.
Thursday, Feb. 2
FREE AGENCY: Courtney Vandersloot to New York Liberty
After 12 seasons in Chicago, Vandersloot has signed with the Liberty. She is joining former MVPs Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who also happened to play with Vandersloot at UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia. Vandersloot broke the news on her Twitter account.
Vandersloot is an assists machine and is currently the career leader for dimes among active players (third overall) with 2,386 assists. She picked up the nickname “The General” because of her ability to dictate an offense and get the ball in the hands of her Sky teammates. In 2021, Vandersloot and Candace Parker led Chicago to its first WNBA championship.
On Tuesday, Vandersloot announced she would not re-sign with the Sky. Allie Quigley, Vandersloot’s wife and Sky teammate, said she was sitting out the 2023 season. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that Vandersloot’s free agency was tied to the plans of Stewart, who had the league’s all-time assists leader — Sue Bird — as her point guard.
In New York, Vandersloot, a four-time All-Star, will team up nicely with Stewart, Jones and Sabrina Ionescu. The biggest question facing coach Sandy Brondello is how she can find enough playing time for all of the Liberty’s stars. It’s a nice problem to have.
FREE AGENCY: Azurá Stevens to Los Angeles Sparks
The Sparks not only held onto star players Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, but they reportedly are also set to sign Stevens, a speedy center who was most recently with the Sky.
In Chicago, Stevens was a key part of the team’s 2021 championship. After the Sky signed Emma Meesseman, Stevens came off the bench and still averaged 10.6 and 1.1 blocks per game. On any other WNBA team, she would have been a starter, but Chicago’s frontcourt featured Meesseman and Candace Parker. Still, Stevens played 21.9 minutes a game, signaling how much Sky coach James Wade relied on her.
In Los Angeles, Stevens, who turned 27 on Wednesday, will be reunited with Katie Lou Samuelson, her teammate at UConn, and will be part of a frontcourt with Nneka Ogwumike, a former MVP winner who is committed to turning the Sparks into a winner again. Stevens’ shot-blocking and Ogwumike’s rebounding, paired with the backcourt speed of Lexie Brown and Jasmine Thomas, means that the Sparks can have an outstanding fast break.
Adding Stevens is just the latest move in a busy offseason for L.A. First, Curt Miller was hired to be the head coach after he guided the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals. Then, the team added general manager Karen Bryant, who facilitated the trades for Thomas and Dearica Hamby.
This season, the Sparks will look very different than they did in 2022. Considering that they haven’t made the postseason since 2020, this should be a welcome change for fans in Los Angeles.
Wednesday, Feb. 1
FREE AGENCY: Breanna Stewart to New York Liberty
Stewart broke the news herself on the first day of WNBA free agency. The 2018 WNBA MVP tweeted that she’s headed to her home state of New York to play for the Liberty. With the song “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys playing, Stewart first showed a jersey with the words, “I want to do my part to make the world a better place,” then took it off to show a Liberty shirt.
Stewart played for six years with the Seattle Storm, winning two championships there. WNBA legend Sue Bird retired at the end of the 2022 season, meaning Stewart would have been returning to a very different team. She tweeted, rather cryptically, that she was considering the Lynx, Storm, Mystics and Liberty. Another cause she’s spoken up about in the past week is the lack of charter flights for WNBA players and how it affects teams who are constantly traveling. New York owner Joe Tsai, who also owns the Brooklyn Nets, has even been fined by the WNBA for using charter flights. In the end, the team with an owner who hasn’t been shy about spending money on his team won out.
In New York, Stewart will join a team that recently acquired 2019 MVP Jonquel Jones in a trade with the Connecticut Sun. The thought of these two players in the paint makes the Liberty an instantly terrifying team. New York made the playoffs the last two seasons, but couldn’t make it out of the first round. Despite being one of the league’s three original franchises, the Liberty have never won a championship. This is a team and fan base that is hungry for success, and New York proved just how hungry by going out and signing one of the best players on the free-agent market.
Saturday, Jan. 28
FREE AGENCY: Candace Parker to Las Vegas Aces
The two-time MVP announced Saturday on her Instagram account that she will join the Aces, the defending WNBA champions.
While Parker grew up in Chicago’s suburbs, she has spent most of her adult life in Los Angeles. The seven-time All-Star cited both the desire to win her third championship and the chance to be close to her family in L.A. as her main reasons for going to Las Vegas.
“As I’ve gone through free agency this time around, of course I’m thinking of where I can compete for my third championship, but the words home and family are what I kept coming back to. No different than when I signed with Chicago," Parker wrote. "Throughout her 13 years, Lailaa has always sacrificed for me; always put me first; and always supported me in what I wanted or needed to do, even when it was tough on her.
"I need to be there for my daughter, for my son, for my wife. I can’t be without them for parts of the season when Lailaa is in school and I won’t miss her volleyball games or school dances simply because of distance. Lailaa starts high school in August and I need to be there for her, just as she’s been there for me.”
The Aces were already a juggernaut of a team that won both the Commissioner’s Cup and the title last season. They traded away Dearica Hamby in a controversial move, but gaining Parker’s abilities on both ends of the court will make Vegas the odds-on favorite to repeat.
Parker, who turns 37 in April, has played some of the best basketball in her 15-year WNBA career the past two seasons, earning first-team All-WNBA honors in 2021 and 2022. Last year, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Chicago Sky.
The idea of A’ja Wilson and Parker on the same court has to be terrifying to other teams. Wilson, on the other hand, is pretty excited.
Chelsea Gray, the 2022 WNBA Finals MVP who won a championship with Parker on the 2016 Sparks, added her thoughts on the news.
Saturday, Jan. 21
TRADE: Dearica Hamby to Los Angeles Sparks
The Las Vegas Aces traded Hamby, a two-time Sixth Woman of the Year and an All-Star in 2022, to the Sparks for Amanda Zahui B. The Aces also acquired L.A.’s second-round pick in 2024, and the Sparks received Las Vegas’ first-round pick in 2024.
However, the real news came after the trade was announced. In an Instagram post, Hamby made serious accusations against the Aces management, saying the team attacked her character and work ethic.
Hamby, who announced her pregnancy publicly during the team’s championship celebrations last September, wrote on Instagram that she was being moved because of the pregnancy.
Being traded is part of the business. Being lied to, bullied and manipulated and discriminated against is not. I have had my character and work ethic attack. I was promised things to entice me to sign my contract extension that were not followed through on. I was accused of signing my extension knowingly pregnant. This is false. I was told that I was a “question mark” and that it was said that I said I would “get pregnant again” and there was concern for my level of commitment to the team. I was told that I “didn’t hold up my end of the bargain” (Because “no one expected me to get pregnant in the next two years.”) Did the team expect me to promise not to get pregnant in exchange for the contract extension. I was asked if I planned my pregnancy. When I responded “no,” I was then told that I “was not taking precautions to not get pregnant.” I was being traded because I “wouldn’t be ready and we need bodies.” I planned to play this season, and I have expressed my desire to play this season. I have pushed myself throughout my entire pregnancy and have continued to work out (basketball included) on my own and with team staff — even on days where it was uncomfortable to walk, only to be inaccurately told that I was not taking my workouts seriously. … I remained transparent with everyone within the organization, yet my honesty was met with coldness, disrespect, and disregard from members of management.”
Hamby missed several games of Las Vegas’ championship run after she suffered a knee injury late in the 2022 season, but she played key minutes off the bench in the semifinals and finals. Before that, she had been an integral part of the Aces since even before they moved to Las Vegas.
The WNBA players association promised a comprehensive review of the situation. The 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement put into place provisions for pregnant athletes, and the players union will investigate if that CBA, or any laws that protect pregnant workers, were violated.
When she does return to play, Hamby will be part of a new-look Sparks team that has added former Connecticut Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas and ex-Sun head coach Curt Miller. L.A. has lots of room on its roster and under its salary cap, so the Sparks will be players in free agency.
Zahui B. last played in the WNBA in 2021, averaging 5.1 rebounds and 9.3 points per game. Her contract was suspended in 2022 because the Sparks were concerned about her overseas commitments.
Wednesday, Jan. 18
TRADE: Allisha Gray to Atlanta Dream
Gray is headed to Atlanta, according to ESPN. Terms are still being worked out on what the Dallas Wings will get in return for the Olympic gold medalist with the 3x3 team and 2017 Rookie of the Year.
The Wings reached the playoffs last season and took a game from the Connecticut Sun before being eliminated. After that loss, the Wings signaled they were going in a new direction by not renewing coach Vickie Johnson’s contract. Latricia Trammell was hired, and the team acquired 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard in a three-team deal.
For the Dream, Gray can provide some stability and explosive scoring. She will complement Rhyne Howard, the 2022 Rookie of the Year, in the paint. Gray scored 13.3 points a game in 2022.
Atlanta hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2018. While the Dream showed flashes of how good they can be when led by Howard last year, injuries hampered their 2022 campaign. Making a move for Gray shows how serious Atlanta is about ending its postseason drought.
Monday, Jan. 16
TRADE: Jonquel Jones to New York Liberty
Before free agency has had a chance to start, teams have already been making trades. The Liberty made a big move by dealing for Jones, the 2021 MVP, in a three-team trade with the Connecticut Sun and the Dallas Wings. New York also acquired Kayla Thornton. For those two players, the Sun picked up Rebecca Allen, Tyasha Harris and the No. 6 pick in the draft, while the Wings added Natasha Howard and Crystal Dangerfield.
Jones, 29, has led the WNBA in blocks three times and is a two-time All-Defensive team selection. The four-time All-Star forward can control the paint like few other players. Now, she’ll be getting the ball from Sabrina Ionescu, who was second in the league in assists last season. The two should make a dynamic pick-and-roll combo and help the Liberty get out of the playoffs' first round for the first time since 2017. Jones also brings plenty of postseason experience to a relatively young Liberty squad.
The Sun, led by their new general manager Darius Taylor and new coach Stephanie White, weren't finished dealing. They also sent veteran point guard Jasmine Thomas to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Jasmine Walker and the rights to Kianna Smith. This trade reunites Thomas with Curt Miller, the Sparks’ new coach, and shows that Connecticut is building a new team.