A Tale of Two WNBA Free Agencies

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Much of the pre-February 1st chatter surrounding WNBA Free Agency would be that the 2022 version would have a great chance to drastically alter the landscape of the W. 

We are still only in the first few days of free agency and already that appears to be the case. 

Two things are more than apparent. The first being that the Las Vegas Aces have no intention to rest on their laurels after winning a championship last season and re-loaded notably with the addition of Candace Parker, who has won championships with the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky. The Aces also added Alysha Clark whose resume includes stints with the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics. 

The second is that the New York Liberty are back. The additions of Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Jonquel Jones to go with a roster that has made the postseason the last couple of seasons is proof that Joe and Clara Wu Tsai are committed to raising a championship banner to the rafters of Barclays Center. 

Aces-Liberty will be the hottest ticket in either Sin City or Atlantic & Flatbush the next few seasons and it is virtually a shoo-in we will see both of these teams in the Finals at least twice over the next few years. 

By the way – can this get the Tsais to open up the upper deck for Lib games as we are sure they are dealing with unbridled demand. It was a bag fumble on the Liberty’s part that it was not opened for Game 3 of last year’s first-round playoffs with Chicago. 

But while the shiny objects that may be the Aces and Liberty may be the easy foci of free agency so far, there are two teams that may be less obvious that have seen themselves on opposite ends of the free agency spectrum. 

Those being the Sparks and Sky. 

Let us start with the team that calls Crypto.com Arena home. Los Angeles has had a great free agent period so far and it is proof that the hiring of Curt Miller as head coach and Karen Bryant as general manager are already paying dividends for the Sparks. 

They made a trade with Miller’s former Connecticut Sun to bring Jasmine Thomas to the team. 

They made a trade with the Aces to land former Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby to the Sparks (even though it cost them an Amanda Zahui B. who recently was traded to the Mystics for draft picks). 

They added Azura Stevens as a free agent signing. They added Stephanie Talbot, Layshia Clarendon and re-upped with Lexie Brown.

Not to mention they successfully re-upped with both Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. 

The Sparks are looking like the team that has first dibs on disrupting the two-headed monster at the top of the WNBA’s food chain. Others such as the Mystics and Phoenix Mercury may have something to say about it, but free agency has gone smooth so far for the W’s purple and gold franchise. 

Then…there is the Chicago Sky. 

Yes, the organization and city will always have the euphoria it experienced in 2021 when it won its first ever championship. But the Sky were closing in on a possible repeat effort last season. 

Chicago had a lead in the fourth quarter of Game 5. A chance to defend their championship in the Finals against Las Vegas was in sight – until the Sun had other ideas and broke Skytown’s hearts. 

Since then – they lost Sloot to the Liberty, Ace to the Aces, Azura to the Sparks and Allie Quigley will not be playing this season though she is not retiring. 

Lately, though, Chicago has seen a couple of rays of hope that perhaps the Sky is not falling. James Wade, the last remaining coach & general manager in the W, managed to add Courtney Williams (formerly of Connecticut), Elizabeth Williams (formerly of the Atlanta Dream) and Isabelle Harrison (formerly of the Dallas Wings) to go along with former Finals MVP Kahleah Copper. 

Plus, it looks like the franchise will have a new co-owner in former Slack executive Nadia Rawlinson (also new operating chairperson). 

Could our predictions of the Sky being in tank-mode for their next door neighbor in Iowa, Caitlin Clark, be premature? Only the time of the 40-game WNBA season will tell that story. 

Free agency, as chaotic and fun as it can be for us fans, can be either feast (in the case of the Sparks) or famine (in the case of the Sky) depending on who one talks to. You either do the free agency thing or the free agency thing does you. 

That sounds like a very interesting conversation Karen Bryant and James Wade would have nowadays.