Recapping Day 1 of WNBA Free Agency: McCoughtry to Vegas, Toliver returns to LA, Clarendon to NY

Photo Credit: Steve Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images

The hours prior to the start of WNBA free agency were filled with teasing tweets, indicating Feb. 10 would be a seismic day in the W.

Of course, we had to wait and see if the start of the WNBA’s free agent period would be as advertised or if it would be one big dud.

Feb. 10 was no dud – it was real and the tea was being served from Connecticut to Seattle, from Atlanta to Las Vegas and from New York to Los Angeles.

Atlanta to Las Vegas? Hmmm….

The first shoe to drop was a major one involving one of the more ballyhooed free agents in Angel McCoughtry. It was the worst kept secret that she would be leaving Atlanta, but which team would she suit up for in 2020.

As we got closer to her announcement news broke that it came down to three teams – the Las Vegas Aces, the Los Angeles Sparks and the Seattle Storm. Two of those teams – the Aces and Sparks – were all in on the Liz Cambage sweepstakes last year which resulted in Cambage landing in Vegas.

To start free agency in the WNBA, the Aces did it again.

Bill Laimbeer’s Aces team already had A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride. With the addition of Angel McCoughtry to Vegas, the Aces’ plan for 2020 is crystal clear – championship or bust.

McCoughtry essentially made the difference in the Dream either being contenders as they were in 2018 or a lottery team which is what Nicki Collen’s squad was without her. If she was healthy for that 2018 semifinals series with the Washington Mystics, we are probably talking about the Dream in the WNBA Finals that season with the Seattle Storm.

Aside from the basketball ramifications – is McCoughtry’s Ice Cream coming to Sin City? One would think it would be…

With McCoughtry having departed the Big Peach for Sin City, that left was soon followed by the Dream’s next move of free agency Day 1 by completing a trade with the Sparks for Kalani Brown.

The deal sent Brittney Sykes and Marie Gulich to Tinseltown.

Such a deal is huge from Brown’s perspective because it will allow her to see more time on the court. That was not going to happen in Los Angeles with a veteran-laden Sparks team that is comprised of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams among others.

Not to mention…someone else they would add on the first day of free agency…

Collen’s team she will field in College Park this season is young and will only bolster Brown’s development at the next level as Atlanta continues its rebuild.

Along with the news of the signing itself, lots of onlookers on social media made a big deal about Brown wearing what appeared to be an updated Atlanta Dream jersey with the team’s new logo that was unveiled at the same press conference where the Dream announced the move to Gateway Center Arena.

It was later made clear that it is not the team’s new uniform.

By the way – the day of September 13 should be circled on the calendars of many “Dreamers” throughout ATL. That is when the Aces, McCoughtry and all, pay its one and only visit to Atlanta this season.

The next major shoe to drop hit us all like a curveball – or in WNBA terms, a half-court heave.

We had to do it, faithful citizens of Skytown. We had to do it…

Anyway, that shoe that dropped was in one of the more unexpected places. It was known that Elena Delle Donne (reigning regular season MVP) and Finals MVP Emma Meesseman would be returning to Washington to defend its 2019 crown.

A few years ago, prior to the 2017 season, the Mystics began its ascent to the top of the WNBA’s food chain by welcoming both Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver to the Nation’s Capital. Delle Donne was previously in Chicago and Toliver was previously in Los Angeles.

In Toliver’s case, what was old is new once again.

Staying true to form, the Sparks add yet another veteran presence to a team already chock full of seasoned vets.

This only made opening weekend in the WNBA even more interesting come this May. When the Mystics receive their championship rings and its 2019 championship banner at DC Entertainment and Sports Arena, guess which team they will play?

That’s right – the Los Angeles Sparks. This means Toliver will accept her 2019 championship donning purple and gold, just as she accepted her 2016 title in LA wearing red, white and blue.

For now, she will stay within Monumental Sports and Entertainment as she is also an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards.

The beginning of free agency got out to a mixed start for the 2019 WNBA runners-up, the Connecticut Sun.

The distance between Uncasville, Connecticut and Seattle is nearly 3,000 miles and three time zones. But that is how far Morgan Tuck will go to get to her destination as it was announced she would be heading to the Storm.

Draft picks were also exchanged between Connecticut and Seattle as the Sun sent the No. 11 overall pick to the Storm in exchanged for the No. 7 pick.

While now former member of the Sun will be heading to the other side of the country, another can take a short drive right down the street.

Even though Walt Hopkins is taking over a New York Liberty team in transition (both in terms of its arena and its roster), Jonathan Kolb made New York’s presence known to open the first day of free agency by welcoming Layshia Clarendon to Gotham.

Similar to the Dream, the Liberty are also in the throes of a rebuild, albeit New York’s appears to be further along than Atlanta’s. The Liberty are a team that has progressively got younger these past few seasons and adding another veteran presence in Clarendon to compliment the entrenched veteran presence of Tina Charles could speed up the rebuild in Brooklyn.

It is also seen as one that will help the development of Sabrina Ionescu given her name is called first at this year’s draft. We shall see as the Libs remain on the clock.

While the Sun may have parted ways with Tuck and Clarendon, a major piece of Curt Miller’s puzzle is staying put in New England.

The 2019 season saw Jonquel Jones make her second All-Star appearance in addition to a WNBA Finals appearance – her first. Jones will once again join a Sun team that also has a young core of Courtney Williams, Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas as Connecticut looks poised to contend once again in 2020. In addition, the Sun also re-upped with Natisha Hiedeman.

As for the Dallas Wings, Greg Bibb, Brian Agler and company made no shortage of signings to start free agency as the Wings re-upped with Moriah Jefferson, Megan Gustafson, Imani McGee-Stafford, Karlie Samuelson and Morgan Bertsch. The Jefferson and Gustafson deals are both multi-year.

Jefferson went from the Aces to the Wings in last year’s Liz Cambage trade. Gustafson was drafted by the Wings last year before being cut only to be resigned by the team. With Skylar Diggins-Smith looking to play elsewhere in 2020, this season on paper will be another where coach Brian Agler will get a close glimpse of what he has on his young team.

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