While many of the top players in WNBA history have been enduring pillars for a single franchise — Tamika Catchings in Indiana, Lisa Leslie in L.A., Sue Bird in Seattle and Diana Taurasi in Phoenix to name a few — there have been plenty of all-time greats and current stars who have changed teams. With Elena Delle Donne headed to Washington D.C. in the latest blockbuster, here are some of the biggest trades in WNBA history.
- Details: Washington acquired Elena Delle Donne; Chicago acquired Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and Washington’s first round pick (second overall) in the 2017 WNBA draft.
Impact: Delle Donne becomes only the second player - after Tina Charles - to have won Most Valuable Player honors and be traded. Delle Donne won the award in 2015, one of many awards she has collected in her four-year WNBA career.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Delle Donne would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors and the first of her three All-Star selections. She is also a three-time All-WNBA selection (two First Team nods), won her first scoring title in her 2015 MVP season and won an Olympic gold medal in 2016 as part of Team USA.
Delle Donne averaged 20.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during her four years with the Sky and is coming off a season in which she averaged 21.5 points (second in the league), 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 28 games as she finished third in MVP voting.1 of 9
- Details: New York acquired Tina Charles; Connecticut acquired Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Bone and New York’s first round pick in 2015.
Impact: Charles was drafted first overall by the Sun in 2010 and went on to win Rookie of the Year honors, shatter double-double records and in 2012 was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Before Delle Donne, she was the only MVP to be traded.
Following the 2013 season, Charles requested a trade to New York and rather than watch their franchise star sit out the season, the Sun obliged with a draft day trade with the Liberty. This was one of many trades in WNBA history that revolves around a player returning to her hometown. It is also one of a handful trades that were sparked by a player request/demand and not a team-driven decision.
After going 15-19 in Charles’ first year in the Big Apple, the Liberty have finished atop the Eastern Conference in each of the last two seasons with Charles as their anchor, playing at an MVP level. This past season, she became just the second player in WNBA history to lead the league in both scoring (21.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.9) in the same season.2 of 9
- Details: As part of a three-team deal, Minnesota acquired Sylvia Fowles and a 2016 2nd round pick from Chicago; Chicago acquired Erica de Souza from Atlanta; Atlanta acquired Damiris Dantas, Reshanda Gray and a 2016 first-round pick from Minnesota.
Impact: In an example of a trade where the rich got richer, the Lynx acquired Fowles - a two-time Defensive Player of the Year at the time (she’s added a third since the trade) - to be the anchor for a team coming off two championships and three Finals appearances in the previous four seasons. Already touting a lineup with All-Stars Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, the Lynx added the final piece to a puzzle that landed them their third WNBA title in five seasons.
Similar to Charles, Fowles demanded to be traded from Chicago and had Minnesota picked as her desired destination. Despite Chicago coming off a Finals appearance and All-Star talent around her (Elena Delle Donne, Cappie Pondexter), Fowles was ready to move on after seven seasons in the Windy City.
Since the move, Fowles has advanced to the WNBA Finals in each of her two seasons in Minnesota, winning her first title and Finals MVP honors in 2015 and coming just shy of back-to-back titles in a classic matchup with Los Angeles this past October.3 of 9
- Details: As part of a three-team trade, New York acquired Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Mazzante from Phoenix as well as Chicago’s 2010 2nd round draft pick; Chicago acquired Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld from New York; Phoenix acquired Candice Dupree from Chicago.
Impact: This three team trade centered on two top-tier players asking to get out of their current situations. Cappie Pondexter had just won her second WNBA title in three years as part of the Phoenix Mercury, but was looking to relocate to New York for new opportunities both on and off the court.
Candice Dupree was an All-Star that had been with the Sky since its inception in 2006. In her four years in Chicago, the Sky went just 47-89 (.346) and never had a winning season let alone a playoff berth. Now she was joining a team that won two championships in the previous three seasons. While the Mercury were a playoff fixture, it wasn’t until 2014 that Dupree finally tasted championship success with a three-game sweep of – yes – the Chicago Sky.
As for Pondexter, she continued to play at an All-Star level in her five seasons in New York, but has yet to make it back to the WNBA Finals since leaving Phoenix. In 2015, she was on the move again, this time to her hometown of Chicago in exchange for fellow Rutgers alum and New York native Epiphanny Prince.4 of 9
- Details: Minnesota acquired Lindsay Whalen and the No. 2 pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft; Connecticut acquired Renee Montgomery and the No. 1 pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft
Impact: This trade was made months before the 2010 WNBA Draft, which the Sun opened up by selecting Tina Charles with their newly acquired No. 1 overall pick. The Lynx got the point guard they needed to orchestrate their team at a championship level, while the Sun got a dominant big as their new centerpiece to build around.
Minnesota’s effort to land Whalen went beyond her skills as one of the top point guards in the game. Whalen is a Minnesota native and helped put the University of Minnesota women’s hoops program on the map. In addition to being a great feel-good homecoming story, it was also a key move in building the Lynx into the latest WNBA dynasty that has played in five WNBA Finals and won three championships since Whalen arrived.
On the flip side, the Sun had only four years with Charles before she requested the trade that we chronicled earlier.5 of 9
- Details: Seattle acquired Cash; Detroit acquired the No. 4 pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft
Impact: After winning two championships in Detroit, All-Star forward Swin Cash was traded to Seattle prior to the 2008 WNBA Draft. It was no secret that Cash and Shock coach Bill Laimbeer clashed during their time together in Detroit. Following their Game 5 loss in the 2007 WNBA Finals, Cash knew she had most likely played her final game as a member of the Shock.
In Seattle, Cash reunited with former college teammate Sue Bird and formed a formidable trio with Bird and reigning league MVP Lauren Jackson. Cash would play four seasons in Seattle and helped the Storm win its second championship in 2010. Meanwhile, the Shock would go on to win their third championship just eight months after trading Cash.
After her fourth season in Seattle, the Storm traded Cash along with forward Le’coe Willingham and a 2012 second round draft pick to Chicago for the No. 2 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft. With her career winding down, Cash was traded to Atlanta in May of 2014 and again to New York in July of 2014. And who was it that brought Cash to New York for the final two-and-a-half seasons of her career … Bill Laimbeer.6 of 9
- Details: Detroit acquired Katie Smith and a 2006 second round draft pick; Minnesota acquired Chandi Jones, Stacey Thomas and a 2006 first round pick
Impact: Midway through the 2005 season, the Minnesota Lynx found themselves in a familiar position – hovering around .500, good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to advance. In the previous two years, the club finished 18-16 and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs. And it appeared 2005 was going to keep the trend going.
So, the Lynx made the difficult decision to trade Smith, an All-Star guard that had carried the team since it joined the WNBA in 1999 in order to collect younger players and draft assets to build a stronger overall roster. Following the trade, the Lynx faltered down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs. But their misfortune was quickly relieved when they won the draft lottery for the top pick in the 2006 Draft, which they used to select their new cornerstone player – Seimone Augustus.
As for Smith, she joined a Shock team that had already won one championship and was in a position to win more with a deep and talented roster helmed by Bill Laimbeer. Smith brought her leadership, toughness and dead-eye shooting (she remains the WNBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made) and helped the Shock win two more championships in 2006 and 2008.7 of 9
- Details: Indiana acquired Katie Douglas; Connecticut acquired Tamika Whitmore, a 2008 first round draft pick, draft rights to Jessica Foley (a third-round pick in 2005)
Impact: Douglas, an Indianapolis native that starred at nearby Purdue University, spent the first seven seasons of her WNBA career split between Orlando and Connecticut. But before her eighth season began, she wanted to return home. She requested a trade from Connecticut to Indiana and it was granted by the Sun.
Douglas was coming off back-to-back All-WNBA selections in 2006 (First Team) and 2007(Second Team) as well as three-straight All-Defensive First Team selections as she headed to the Fever in the prime of her career and continue her career. Douglas was both an elite defender and perimeter shooter, who still ranks sixth all-time in 3-pointers made (726) and 10th in scoring (5,563). She continued to play at an All-Star level in Indiana and in 2012 helped lead the Fever to their first and only WNBA championship.
Meanwhile, Whitmore would only play 58 games over two seasons in Connecticut and Ketia Swanier – the player they selected with the 2008 first round pick acquired in the trade – only played one season with the Sun.8 of 9
- Details: San Antonio acquired Becky Hammon and a 2008 second round draft pick; New York acquired Jessica Davenport and a 2008 first round draft pick.
Impact: After attempting to pry Becky Hammon from New York for years, Dan Hughes finally got the point guard he wanted to build the Silver Stars around thanks to a draft day trade in 2007. The move stunned everyone – especially Hammon – who had been an All-Star and fan favorite in New York after joining the team as an undrafted rookie in 1999.
As good as she was in New York, she was even better in San Antonio. In her first season with the Silver Stars, Hammon averaged 18.8 points and 5.0 assists – career-best numbers at the time – as she finished as the runner up to Lauren Jackson for league MVP. It was also the first of three straight All-WNBA selections, including two First Team nods.
After having failed to make the playoffs in the team’s first four years in San Antonio, 2007 was the beginning of a six-year playoff streak that was highlighted by a WNBA Finals appearance in 2008. San Antonio’s playoff streak came to an abrupt end in 2013 as Hammon played just one game due to a knee injury. It was while rehabilitating that injury that Hammon began attending practices, coaches meetings and games with the San Antonio Spurs, which eventually led to her current position as an assistant coach with the NBA team.9 of 9