The 2023 WNBA free agency period is expected to be nothing short of seismic, as new coaches and general managers settle into roles, franchise championship windows dwindle and many blockbuster names face big decisions this season.
the most we can talk about, Brianna StewartAnd Candace ParkerAnd Nika Ogomek And Courtney Vandersloot They are among the elite free agents, with Stewart’s selection arguably the most important domino to fall. All of their decisions will undoubtedly affect the league landscape. The WNBA’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, adopted in 2020, has enabled meaningful movement in free agency, and we’ll likely see that taken to a whole other level this winter.
Brittney Griner She is also a free agent, but after returning from Russia, where she was held for 10 months, the All-Star indicated that she wanted to play again in Phoenix Mercurywhere she spent her entire WNBA career.
How the tournament contenders advance — past title winners or organizations that may be a few players away from reaching that level — will be of paramount importance, while other franchises will go into rebuilding processes. How do you like the difference Minnesota LinuxAnd Atlanta DreamAnd Los Angeles Sparks And Indiana fever The two who have two new coaches working over the next few weeks may not put them in the title race this year but could be the building blocks needed for future success.
Qualified offers and key appointments will be delivered to players from January 11-20, while player negotiations will begin on January 21. Contracts may be signed on February 1.
Ahead, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Alexa Philippou, and MA Voepel gave their predictions, analysis, and thoughts on what to expect over the next few weeks.
Which bands are you most curious to watch?
Filippo: the Chicago Sky. They were on the brink of making back-to-back Finals appearances before being upset by the Sun in the semifinals. Now, the majority of their core players (step aside Qalaia copper) agents are free. Will Candace Parker — who said in November that she intends to play this season — return to Chicago? Will Courtney Vandersloot be lured away? What will come of Allie QuigleyAnd Emma Meissman And Azura Stevens? If the team looks mostly like it did in 2021 and 2022, it will be in championship contention again. But this is definitely not certain.
Voepel: The dream is in building, not maintenance, so this free agency period is just one step of that process. However, Dream still has plenty of space, engaged ownership, and a desire to bring in a high-profile signing or two. Perhaps it is not realistic to dream about aiming for the 2023 championship, but what is happening now may have an impact on their title hopes in future seasons.
Belton: sparks. It’s a new era in Los Angeles with Karen Bryant as GM and Curt Miller as head coach, and the Sparks have enough room to re-sign Nneka Ogwumike and add another free agent max. Could this player be Parker’s return to Los Angeles? I’m sure the league has taken note Bryant said on the record last week that the Sparks would be interested in bringing her back.
Which team has the most risks in free agency?
Voepel: There are so many dominoes that can fall that it’s hard to say which one team has the most riding in this round of free agency. After signing two or three of the biggest free agents, this will be even more noticeable. But for now, it might be heaven. They had a chance to get back into the WNBA Finals last season after winning it all in 2021, and it slipped away. Now, can they keep the core together or do they really become a different team?
Belton: Since I’ve been writing about the offseason for about six months, I must say Seattle Storm. We haven’t seen Seattle plan the future without Sue Bird since he was drafted in 2002, and there’s no point guard on the roster with Brian January retiring as well. Starting small forward and restricted free agent Gabe Williams He is the player most likely to be affected this season by the WNBA’s new ranking rule. Add Stewart’s free agency and Storm should have multiple contingency plans in place.
Filippo: I agree with Voepel and Pelton, but storm and sky no matter, Mercury may have the most pivotal free agency and offseason on a larger scale. Re-signing Griner appears to be in the stock, but is there a way to rejuvenate a team that seemed mired in personality clashes (between players, between coaches and players) last season? What is it Skylar Diggins SmithA future in Phoenix? The so-called super team that Mercury put together in free agency last year didn’t work out, but with him Diana Taurasi In the twilight of her career and a Finals appearance just two years ago, can the Mercury still build a team that can compete for the championship?
Where will Brianna Stewart sign for the 2023 season?
Belton: Look away first, Storm fans. I think Stewart is going to New York Liberty. We’ve seen something similar to Chelsea Graywho met with Las Vegas Aces in 2020 before re-signing on a one-year deal, much like Stewart did after meeting Liberty in their most recent off-season. Gray went on to join the Aces a year later, and my bet is that Stewart will follow the same path.
Voepel: Stewart was in a different position at this point in her career than that of Storm legend Sue Bird at the same age. When Bird was 28, the WNBA’s free agency was very stagnant, and far fewer top players were moving around. Also, Bird wasn’t married with a child at this age as Stewart, so that could have been a factor in the decision.
Later in her career, Bird considered going to her native New York to play, but in the end her heart couldn’t leave Storm. Fellow New York native Stewart also appears to be strongly associated with Storm, who picked her first in the draft 14 years after Baird took her at that spot.
But given the difference and life of free agency, Stewart might make a different choice. Having grown up in Syracuse, and with her wife, Marta, who is from Spain, Stewart may see the Big Apple as a good place for the rest of her WNBA career. Plus, there’s the lure of trying for the Liberty title for the first time in the WNBA, and the chance to play with a dynamic young guard like Sabrina Ionesco. This may all be too much for Stewart to resist.
Filippo: I feel like someone here has to give Seattle fans a glimmer of hope that Stewart can stay with the Storm. Insiders tweeted Meredith Cash Supposedly the upcoming Stewie 1 Reintroduce sneakers”[evoke] The geological formations found in Washington State’s stunning Mount Rainier,” according to Puma. If Seattle folks want to read things through, they might want to take this design as an indication Stewart will come back to Seattle.
Aside from Stewart, who might be the best player to change teams?
Belton: To some extent, this is a matter of perspective about current player ability versus career legacy. Since you’re second in my prediction for free agents in 2023, I’ll say Breonna Joneswho is currently unable to re-sign with Connecticut Sun For salary cap due to team cap problems.
Filippo: Realistically, I think Jones is gone. Otherwise, I’m very intrigued to see what’s going on with Vandersloot. Chicago Sun Times Annie Costabile reported that Vandersloot had meetings With Sky, Storm and Lynx during free agency last year. The Storm connection is obviously well documented (Vandersloot is from Washington and went to Gonzaga), but the idea of her teaming up with Cheryl Reeve is also great. As Costabile points out, Vandersloot’s decision depends very much on what happens with Stewart and Parker, so she’ll probably go back to Chicago after all.
Voepel: Hindsight is often interesting with drafts. How much would chicago or Dallas Suites, who took Alaina Coates and Evelyn Akhator second and third overall in the 2017 draft, such as the return to take Brionna Jones? She ended up going #8 to Connecticut and blossomed into a coveted free agent. Like Kevin and Alexa said, Jones appears to be more confident on the move. We keep coming back to the Stewart-Parker-Vandersloot questions.
But what about Tina Charles? The 2012 MVP turned 34 in December but still has elite skills. What does she want at this point in her career? If you don’t stay in Seattle, where you finished last season, what teams do you see fit? Does being out in the season from Phoenix last year make other teams wary?
Which team will improve the most?
Belton: If we are talking about most wins compared to 2022, the answer could be Los Angeles. But if Stewart really goes to New York, Liberty will make the biggest leap in terms of title contention.
Filippo: Belton took my expectations, so let’s highlight another team. GM Dan Badover and the Atlanta Dream – who have a lot of space and return to Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard — would make some meaningful additions in free agency, which, along with the 2023 overall pick, would see them comfortably back in the playoff race by the fall.
Voepel: When Parker left the Sparks for the Sky in 2021, it was the largest free agency move in WNBA history. If Stewart left the stormtroopers for freedom, it would be even bigger because she is at the peak of her career at 28 years old. If Stewart stays the same, the Sparks could be the team moving forward in 2023 on a free agency basis.
What’s your bold prediction for the WNBA Free/Outside Agency?
Belton: Phoenix Mercury will trade in Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Filippo: The Sun, entering a new era with Stephanie White taking over as technical director and Darius Taylor as general manager, will look a lot different than expected in May. President Jen Rizzotti has discussed the need to improve the team’s 3-point shooting specifically, so there could be some big changes in the backcourt, which could have ramifications for the frontcourt as well. As already mentioned, The Sun cannot pay Breonna Jones the regular maximum salary as it currently is.
Voepel: The Dream, who traded to go up and get the No. 1 pick last year, will consider trading the No. 3 pick this year.