After months of speculation and rumors, Liz Cambage has found a new home. On Thursday, the Dallas Wings completed a trade with the Las Vegas Aces to send Cambage to Vegas, in exchange for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and first and second picks in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
With the long-awaited trade now official, let’s take a closer look at the deal and what it means for Dallas, Las Vegas and the WNBA.
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 16, 2019
1. The Aces Are Contenders Now
Missing out on the playoffs by one game last season, the Aces were expected to vault into the postseason mix this season (even before this trade) as their young roster took the next step with another year of experience.
By pairing a talent like Cambage with reigning Rookie of the Year A’ja Wilson, the ceiling for Las Vegas has been shattered. Cambage led the league in scoring (23.0 PPG), finished second in rebounding (9.7) and fifth in blocks (1.7) while finishing as the runner-up in the MVP race. Wilson was third in scoring (20.7) and sixth in both rebounding (8.0) and blocks (1.7), as she became the unanimous pick for Rookie of the Year.
Keep in mind it was Cambage and the Wings that edged out the Aces for the eighth and final playoff spot last season. In three games against the Aces last season, Cambage averaged 29.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, while shooting 62.7% from the field. It’s much better to have that player on your side, rather than trying to slow her down.
The Aces now not only have a dominant frontline with Cambage and Wilson, but plenty of shooters to surround them with in Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum and Sugar Rodgers. Don’t forget about No. 1 pick Jackie Young, a versatile player that can score inside and out and defend. Add a coach in Bill Laimbeer that has three WNBA championships and two Coach of the Year honors on his resume, and the Aces have all the pieces to compete for a championship in their second year in Las Vegas.
2. The Wilson/Cambage Pairing Is Just Scary
Throughout his playing and coaching career, Bill Laimbeer has always embraced the role of the villain. His next role may be that of ‘The Joker’ this year, as he may be smiling from ear to ear all season long if his frontline torments the rest of the WNBA.
Cambage and Wilson — both superstar talents — have games that should complement one another. Last season, Cambage finished second in FG attempts from the restricted area, shooting 74.4% (177-of-238) on those attempts (third among players with at least 100 attempts). Wilson finished second in FG attempts from mid-range, shooting 43.9% (101-230) (fifth among players with at least 100 attempts). While Wilson did not attempt a 3-pointer in her rookie year, Cambage made 12 of her 37 attempts (32.4%) last season.
Both players finished with 1.7 blocks per game last season, with Cambage adding a physical presence in the paint, while Wilson has the speed and quickness to defend in the post and out to the perimeter.
Outside of the Ogwumike-Ogwumike-Parker trio in Los Angeles, there may not be a more fearsome frontline in the WNBA this season. Or in recent memory. Laimbeer should love every minute of his bigs imposing their will on opponents.
3. Dallas Can Move On
Since Cambage requested a trade from the Wings back in January, this tenuous situation created uncertainty surrounding the team’s future. Getting this deal done before the season tips off next week lifts that burden off the team and allows them to move on with the players that will suit up this season.
The Wings have a new head coach in Brian Agler, who is using training camp to implement his system, learn the strengths and weaknesses of all of his players and find the best ways to put them in position to find success. With the trade now complete, Agler knows definitively which players he will have on the court to open the season and can focus on getting them prepared to compete.
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) May 16, 2019
4. Moriah Jefferson Gets A Fresh Start (Eventually)
In 2016, Moriah Jefferson finished as runner-up for Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 13.9 points, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals in San Antonio. The 5-foot-6 guard used her speed, quickness and intelligence to make up for what she lacked in size and strength.
Unfortunately, her follow-up season was cut short by a knee injury that eventually required surgery. She missed the second half of the 2017 season and the first half of the 2018 season. Upon her return, she averaged 5.4 points and 2.1 assists in just 15.7 minutes per game off the bench in 16 games for the Aces.
“Since we began discussions around a potential deal in January, Moriah Jefferson and Isabelle Harrison have been the players we have sought to add to our team,” Dallas Wings President & CEO Greg Bibb said in the team’s trade announcement. “While Moriah may ultimately decide to sit out the 2019 season, we are willing to wait for her first appearance in a Wings uniform. We believe she is an elite-level point guard and we are excited for her to join her hometown team and to be a key part of our organization for the foreseeable future.”
If Jefferson does not play this season, that will be a blow for Dallas, who could use some depth at the point guard spot with Skylar Diggins-Smith out for the foreseeable future as she continues to recover from having her first child last month.
The Cambage trade also brought in Isabelle Harrison, who missed all of 2018 due to personal medical reasons, but averaged 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in her last WNBA season (2017 in San Antonio). The 6-3 center is healthy and set to enter her fourth WNBA season.
The Wings made a subsequent trade on Thursday that brought Imani McGee Stafford to Dallas, in exchange for a third round pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. While the Wings lost a 6-foot-8 presence in Cambage, they added a 6-foot-7 player in McGee Stafford who will add depth, size and rim protection to the Wings frontline. McGee brings career averages of 4.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks in just 14.4 minutes per game.
Similar to Jefferson, McGee Stafford has a connection with Texas after playing her collegiate ball at the University of Texas, where she became the first woman to score 1,000 points, collect 1,000 rebounds and record 200 blocks in her career.
5. A Superstar Is Back On Court
With the 2019 WNBA season set to tip off on May 24 without a few league stars, including reigning MVP Breanna Stewart, former MVP and four-time champion Maya Moore and former MVP and all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi, this trade ensures that one of the league’s truly biggest stars returns to the floor.
Cambage is one of the best women’s basketball players in the world and with this trade now complete, she will once again compete in the best women’s basketball league in the world. The game and the league are better with a player of Cambage’s talent on the court and not in a trade dispute.