WNBA Trade Deadline 2021: Date, End Time, Top Rumors and Speculation

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2021

ATLANTA, GA  JUNE 26:  Atlanta guard Chennedy Carter (3) brings the ball up the court during the WNBA game between the New York Liberty and the Atlanta Dream on June 26th, 2021 at Gateway Center Arena in College Park, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The second half of the WNBA's 2021 season is less than a week old, and already general managers are running out of time to make midseason upgrades to their squads.

The WNBA trade deadline will pass Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, with the regular season drawing to a close Sept. 19.

For a variety of reasons, the league's trade deadline is often a tame affair, especially when compared to the last-minute dealing fans are accustomed to seeing elsewhere.

Eight of the 12 teams will compete in the postseason, thus limiting the number of GMs who would plausibly be in selling mode. Having two-thirds of the WNBA qualify for the playoffs removes one incentive to embark on a long-term rebuild as well.

In addition, the league's hard salary cap prohibits a front office from having much financial flexibility. Combine that with only having 12 roster spots to go around, and it's almost impossible to hoard draft picks as the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans have done recently or take on a bad contract in return for a more valuable trade asset.

Unfortunately for those who love savoring the drama, there probably won't be anything on par with the series of deals that saw Natasha Howard land with the New York Liberty and the pair of Kia Nurse and Megan Walker wind up with the Phoenix Mercury.

Seattle Storm @seattlestorm

🚨 TRADE ALERT 🚨 Storm acquires Katie Lou Samuelson, Mikiah “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan; Rights to Stephanie Talbot and two 2022 draft picks. 💪  More info ⬇️ https://t.co/Wx1v28tIiF https://t.co/CML6GOu0sq

Among the most realistic candidates to move this week, no domino is bigger than Atlanta Dream star Chennedy Carter.

The second-year guard hasn't stepped onto the court since Atlanta's 118-95 loss to the Las Vegas Aces on July 4. The Dream announced the following day she had been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.

Carter is averaging 16.1 points and 3.4 assists through 27 career appearances. She'd be an obvious target for a team looking to add a dynamic scorer in the backcourt.

Carter's age (22) and contract status—she doesn't hit restricted free agency until 2024—are compelling reasons for the Dream to wait things out.

The Next's Spencer Nusbaum reported in July that "there are concerns ... that Carter does not have a long-term future in Atlanta because of her negative effect on the locker room." Nusbaum added the Dream weren't actively shopping the 2020 first-round pick and that "the players and the organization are extremely hopeful that she becomes a more amicable teammate and that the situation is fixed."

Still, the fact that Carter remains absent is bound to raise questions. The passage of Saturday's deadline will at least bring a temporary cessation to the saga. 

Rather than any landscape-changing swaps, the trade deadline will be the last best shot for playoff contenders to improve around the margins in an effort to chase down the Las Vegas Aces, Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun.

Although those three are arguably the best in the league, there isn't one clear title favorite. The WNBA's playoff structure—the first two rounds are single-elimination before a best-of-five format for the semifinals and Finals—leaves higher seeds prone to upsets, too.

For the Chicago Sky, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury or New York Liberty, one move could be the difference that tips the scales in pursuit of a deep playoff run.