Just hours into the start of free agency in the WNBA, one of the biggest names on the list of available players was officially off the board.
Veteran point guard Renee Montgomery, coming off her second title-winning season in Minnesota, has signed a multi-year contract with the Atlanta Dream. Although most of the Lynx core remains intact for now, this move could have a dramatic impact on both Montgomery’s old team and her new one.
Here are five things to know about the former UConn standout’s move to the East.
1) It only adds to the growing riches in Atlanta. The Dream had a trio of first-time All-Stars in 2017 – Layshia Clarendon, Tiffany Hayes and Elizabeth Williams – and could return superstar Angel McCoughtry after she sat out the season. Montgomery and All-Rookie guard Brittney Sykes bolster the backcourt depth, while Atlanta’s trade for Tamera Young and Imani McGee-Stafford should pay dividends since Sancho Lyttle joined Phoenix in free agency (though Young is a free agent herself).
On paper, the Dream look like a surefire playoff team after finishing 12-22 last season.
2) Atlanta was in desperate need of three-point shooting. Among the reasons they missed the playoffs last year, the Dream shot 29 percent from deep, last in the league. In fact, Atlanta has ranked last in three-point percentage four of the last five seasons.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is just outside the all-time top 20 in total three-pointers and has drained 35 percent for her career. The point guard is coming off a season in which, at age 30, she shot a career-best 42 percent overall and nearly 36 percent from downtown, a mark that ranks as her highest since 2012 and would have been second on the Dream.
3) As things stand now, the Lynx need guard depth. When the Sparks lost Kristi Toliver in free agency coming off their title, they reacted quickly by trading for Odyssey Sims. Montgomery wasn’t a starter for the champions like Toliver, but her departure could result in a similar move, either via free agency or trade. Perhaps the Lynx aim to land Ivory Latta (unrestricted) or Bria Hartley (restricted) as the backup to Lindsay Whalen.
Whalen missed the final 12 games of the 2017 regular season due to injury, and Montgomery filled in nicely as the starter to help Minnesota hold off L.A. for the No. 1 seed. Even with Whalen healthy, it wasn’t uncommon to see Montgomery on the floor in crunch time and playing 25-plus minutes alongside Maya Moore and company. Minnesota’s third point guard, Alexis Jones, surprisingly played crucial minutes in the Finals as a rookie. Maybe the Lynx will give Jones a shot as the full-time backup to Whalen.
4) Montgomery has proven to possess the clutch gene. The Sparks will be glad to see her depart Minnesota, as Montgomery has stepped up in some of the biggest moments against L.A. the past two years. In 2016, she nailed the game-winner in a battle of the unbeaten teams:
Then in their first meeting after the 2016 Finals, Montgomery dropped 20 points off the bench to lead Minnesota to a victory over the Sparks:
5) She brings championship experience to a team in need of it. Despite their wealth of talent, the Dream still boast a young roster that hasn’t seen much playoff success. Head coach Nicki Collen is entering her first season, and as she put it, “Beyond her skill on the court, I believe [Montgomery’s] championship pedigree will help lend leadership in the locker room.”
Atlanta is still searching for its first championship – having lost in the Finals three times – and the franchise should be aiming high with its current roster. Montgomery figures to play a crucial role in what could be an exciting near future.