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Inside The W With Michelle Smith: Free Agency 2020 Rapid Reaction

It has been wild. Riveting. Consequential.

This WNBA free agency period has been unlike any other in league history, following a historic Collective Bargaining Agreement that led to an increase in player salaries, an increase in salary caps and a flurry of big moves in the free agent market.

The five biggest re-signings

1. Elena Delle Donne, Washington. The Mystics locked in their star and now will wait for her back to heal in time for the start of their title defense.

2. Breanna Stewart, Seattle. Stewie’s return from an Achilles injury seems complete, based on her return with USA Basketball. And the Storm made sure she isn’t going anywhere.

3. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut. Jones is the centerpiece to the Sun’s quest for a title.

4. Brittney Griner, Phoenix. Griner said she was staying in The Valley, and made it official on Friday by signing a multi-year contract with the Mercury.

5. Courtney Vandersloot & Allie Quigley, Chicago. There have been reports that this backcourt duo will remain with the Sky come 2020, but no official announcement has been made yet.

The five biggest moves

1. Skylar Diggins-Smith to Phoenix. Diggins-Smith made it clear that she wanted a fresh start, while the Wings wanted to make sure they got a lot in return (three first-round picks) for losing a four-time All-Star. Phoenix gets one of the best point guards in the WNBA, and a scorer who can supplement the backcourt offense that isn’t quite as sure a thing in this late phase of Diana Taurasi’s career. Diggins-Smith can get to the rim, hit 3-pointers and feed the ball inside to Brittney Griner. Her time with USA Basketball means she won’t need anytime at all to get back up to speed after missing last season, and her presence on the floor running the point makes the Mercury hopeful that they can compete for their first title since 2014.

2. Kristi Toliver (back) to LA. Toliver won a title in L.A. and then left for Washington. She then won a title in Washington and now is back in L.A. after three seasons to play again alongside Chelsea Gray (presuming she re-signs), Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. Toliver spent seven years with the Sparks the first time around. This time she’s signed a three-year deal and it will quite literally be like having another coach on the floor for Derek Fisher. This off-season Toliver continued serving as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards.

3. DeWanna Bonner to Connecticut. In order to make room for signing Diggins-Smith and to get the draft picks needed to get the deal done, Phoenix had to part ways with one of the best players in franchise history. Bonner was ready to move on after 10 seasons in Phoenix. She brings championship-level experience and versatility to a team that was one win away from competing for a title in 2018 and will be ready to battle for one again with a core group that includes Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. Adding Bonner gives the Sun their own version of a Big Three.

4. Angel McCoughtry to Las Vegas. The five-time All-Star has never played anywhere but Atlanta, and now she will find her way in the middle of one of the most talent-rich lineups in the league. McCoughtry, who played nine seasons with the Dream, has missed two of the past three WNBA seasons – one season to rest and another due to injury – but as one of the most consistent scorers in the league, she will have an opportunity to find her place in the Aces lineup without the pressure of being a go-to offensive option. Las Vegas reached the semifinals last season after adding Liz Cambage. Can they win a title now after adding McCoughtry?

5. Draft pick stockpile in Dallas. The Wings parted ways with Diggins-Smith, and Glory Johnson, two of their mainstay players over the past few years, and in return, they have loaded up on first-round draft picks. Dallas has the No. 2, No. 5, No. 7 and No. 9 picks in the first round of the April 17 draft. A chance to remake a team, already buoyed by young talents such as Arike Ogunbowale and Moriah Jefferson.

The five biggest mysteries

1. Is Tina Charles staying in New York? Rumors have persisted throughout the free agency period that Charles would end up in a new home. But at this point, it seems she won’t be anywhere but Brooklyn come May, alongside a No. 1 draft pick and new addition Layshia Clarendon.

2. Who will replace Odyssey Sims in Minnesota? The Lynx will reportedly play this season without Sims. They reportedly made a run at Diggins-Smith, but are in need of a scoring guard to set the tone in the backcourt as Seimone Augustus presumably plays her final season.

3. What’s Tamika Catchings got going in Indiana? The Fever re-signed Tiffany Mitchell this week, but beyond that, it’s been a quiet free agency period for new GM Catchings and head coach Marianne Stanley. Indiana had most of its young players under contract already, and may be standing pat hoping for some leaps and bounds in 2020.

4. How will Atlanta move forward in a new era? With no more Angel McCoughtry, the player that defined the franchise for nearly a decade, the Dream will carve out a new identity with a new group of players, including a frontcourt that includes two new acquisitions in veteran Glory Johnson and young center Kalani Brown, obtained in a trade with Los Angeles that sent Brittney Sykes to the Sparks.

5. What big moves are left on the table? Is Gray ready to re-sign in Los Angeles? Is Liz Cambage nailed down for a second season in Las Vegas? Is Connecticut going to let go of either Courtney Williams or Shekinna Stricklen after getting Bonner?

Stay tuned.


Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes columns on WNBA.com throughout the season and offseason. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.