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Inside the W with Michelle Smith: Tina Trade Shakes Up Draft

With the much-anticipated WNBA Draft 2020 presented by State Farm looming on Friday (7 PM ET, ESPN), a three-team trade shook up both rosters and the Draft Board in one fell swoop.

The headline moment in Wednesday morning’s three-team deal was the movement of seven-time All-Star Tina Charles, the Liberty’s all-time leading scorer, to the defending champion Washington Mystics. It’s a move that answers one of the biggest questions of the WNBA offseason in terms of whether Charles would be in New York when the Liberty begin a new era.

We know that answer now. Here is a quick look at what this deal means for each of the three teams involved.

New York

The Liberty lose Tina Charles, their hometown star, all-time leading scorer and defining player for the past six seasons. But Charles, a seven-time All-Star, seemingly wanted an opportunity to win a title as the Liberty rebuild toward the future. Meanwhile, the Liberty can certainly make an argument for starting fresh in a new era that includes new ownership, a new arena, a new head coach and likely No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu as their marquee player.

New York will get a talented player reaching the peak of her career in Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who averaged a career-best 6.7 points per game in Washington last year as well as a role-playing shooter in Tayler Hill. In addition, they get a collection of draft picks (No. 9, No. 12 and No. 15) that could either be used on some young talent, or an attractive package to make another deal before the end of the draft.

Inside, New York will make up for Charles’ departure by leaning on some younger talent. Amanda Zahui B, who averaged 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game last season, and Kiah Stokes, back after missing the 2019 season, should take on larger roles. Han Xu, the 6-foot-9 center from China, will likely take on more minutes as well.


The Mystics just loaded themselves up for another title run by adding a former MVP to the roster. Charles is a top-tier, experienced post in the frontcourt to play alongside Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman, and it didn’t really cost Washington any frontline players to acquire her. Charles, who will be reunited with Mike Thibault, who coached her for three seasons in Connecticut at the start of her pro career, will be incredibly motivated to win a title.

The addition of Charles to an already potent offense will change Washington’s point of emphasis away from a perimeter-heavy offense (particularly after the loss of Kristi Toliver) to something more “balanced” and certainly most post-driven than it has been. And Charles should have some more freedom inside as she will not be the centerpiece of every team’s defensive scheme given the Mystics’ other offensive weapons. Her presence will also open things up for Delle Donne and crew, giving opponents some difficult defensive choices.


The Wings’ still have three first-round draft picks for Friday night (No. 2, No. 5 and No. 12) and picked up another first-round draft pick in 2021 and will still have a chance to select impact players through the draft or put themselves in position to make another impactful deal.

With the No. 2 and No. 5 picks, the Wings have an opportunity to add some strong building blocks for their future, whether it is Satou Sabally or Lauren Cox at No. 2 and the opportunity to add a point guard with the No. 5 pick to play alongside Moriah Jefferson, who is back from her knee injury recovery and will be back on the floor for the first time since 2018.

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