There is a general rule of thumb we WNBA fans understand around this time of year – if there appears to be not enough news on the free agency front, that means major news is on the verge of dropping.
And did it ever.
A few days ago, the Atlanta Dream made the first free agency splash when they acquired Danielle Robinson in a deal that sent Kristy Wallace to the Indiana Fever. While that trade certainly made headlines across the WNBA family, New York Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb would not allow his team to be outdone by Dan Padover in College Park.
Yesterday, it was reported that the Liberty were on the verge of completing a trade that would send Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun to Atlantic and Flatbush. The third team reportedly involved in the trade? The Dallas Wings.
According to various reports, the Liberty would acquire Jones as well as Kayla Thornton in the deal from Dallas. As for Greg Bibb, Amber Cox and Latricia Trammell in Dallas, they would acquire Natasha Howard from the Liberty as well as Crystal Dangerfield. The Sun would acquire Ty Harris from the Wings, Bec Allen from the Liberty as well as the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft which is held by New York.
If there was any question that the last two playoff appearances the Lib have made in the last couple of seasons has shifted the mindset of New York’s front office to “win now,” this trade if/when completed will erase those doubts. Jones is a former league MVP and four-time All-Star. In addition, she has played in two WNBA Finals during her tenure with Connecticut. Also, Thornton is a defensive stalwart for a team that had issues the last couple of seasons closing out games.
Last season, Jones averaged 14.6 point and 8.6 rebounds and was a major reason why the Sun were Finalists last season against the Las Vegas Aces.
In addition, the fact that the Liberty are willing to part ways with their No. 6 overall pick and send it the Sun’s way is another sign New York is ready to once again being one of the WNBA’s elite teams.
From a basketball standpoint, this makes all of the sense possible for the seafoam, black and copper. Anyone who has watched Liberty basketball the past couple of seasons can clearly see that New York has been strong with shooters in the backcourt but a bit thin near the rim. The Liberty have attempted to remedy this problem in recent seasons with Natasha Howard, Stefanie Dolson and Han Xu.
This remedies that problem in the biggest way possible – and puts the other 11 WNBA teams on notice that the days of New York’s offense being one dimensional are over.
In addition, reports have suggested that Jones wanted to play in New York. Jones will soon get that wish as Lib Loyals at Barclays Center will soon get a clear glimpse of her fielding pick and rolls from Sabrina Ionescu.
As for the Connecticut Sun, one wonders exactly why they would trade a cornerstone of the franchise a year removed from reaching another Finals.
This has been a busy offseason for Connecticut with former coach and general manager Curt Miller heading west to the Los Angeles Sparks where that franchise recently hired a separate general manager in Karen Bryant. Jen Rizzotti has assumed the reins as the team’s president, Darius Taylor and Morgan Tuck are general manager and assistant general manager, respectively, and new coach Stephanie White is assembling a staff that includes Abi Olajuwon, daughter of Hakeem and former Tulsa Shock player.
Also – the Sun are reportedly about to execute another deal that would reunite Jasmine Thomas with coach Miller in Los Angeles. Connecticut’s haul would include Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Jasmine Walker and Kianna Smith in exchange of Thomas plus a draft pick.
The Sun is not a team one would expect to rebuild, but rather reload. There is a real possibility that Connecticut’s trade of Jones to New York is all but a declaration that they are in on the Breanna Stewart sweepstakes.
While much of the chatter around Stewie has been around that meeting that she had with Joe and Clara Wu Tsai last offseason – seemingly a foreshadowing that she would soon return to her native New York State to sport the Liberty’s colors, this makes sense as well.
Basketball fans need to remember that while the idea of landing Stewie is an attractive thought, getting a player with her talents and her resume would result in a major cap hit. A somewhat interesting irony is because of the terms of the 3-team deal, the Liberty may have actually saved cap space and arguably put themselves in a potentially better position to bring the Empire State’s favorite daughter home.
One would think the Sun would have the cap space to land her and given she is an alum of UConn, it could be the mindset of Rizzotti and Taylor to want to bring one of the Nutmeg State’s favorite daughters back to said Nutmeg State.
Of course, Stewart is not the only major frontcourt free agent out there as many a team will likely be wheeling and dealing with current Spark Nneka Ogwumike and her former teammate Candace Parker – currently at the Chicago Sky.
Breanna Stewart is not simply a player one can sign to a major contract (and the same applies to Parker and Ogwumike). She would almost certainly command at least a max deal and possibly what the W’s version of a supermax contract is.
The Sun adds a couple of talented players plus a draft pick and put themselves in position to land a free agency big fish, Dallas adds a couple more pieces to build around Arike Ogunbowale and the Liberty firmly re-establish themselves as WNBA contenders.
We are still two weeks out from players officially being able to sign with teams and already we are getting hints that this free agency period will indeed be as chaotic as advertised.
Everyone tightly buckle your seat belts, WNBA fans. This ride is about to get real wild…