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1 Move Every WNBA Team Should Consider

Jackie Powell@@classicjpowContributor INovember 24, 2021

Arike Ogunbowale
Arike OgunbowaleDanny Karnik/Associated Press

Last week we examined the specific needs of each WNBA team going into 2022 as general managers prepare for free agency in January and February followed by the draft in mid-April. Now the looming question is "how?" How do these teams address their needs? What trade or move should each consider? And how could the champs run it back?

Once again, we'll begin with the defending champion Chicago Sky and conclude with the team most likely to have the No. 1 pick with the Indiana Fever.

     

Chicago Sky: Trade 2020 No. 8 Pick Ruthy Hebard

Danny Karnik/Associated Press

During the Sky's playoff run, there was a lot they obviously did right. But a move I questioned from head coach and general manager James Wade was how he used Ruthy Hebard down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. Hebard, a 6'4" pick-and-roll wizard, fell to the bottom of their depth chart. She sat behind veteran reserve posts Stefanie Dolson and Astou Ndour-Fall.

Is it Hebard's lack of experience shooting from the perimeter? I do remember watching her warm up before the Finals and noticed that she was working on her long ball. Since the Sky have their sights set on trying to run it back to the Finals by re-signing their core, I don't know how Hebard fits into that plan. Do the Sky even know?

Why not trade her for either a backcourt player still on her rookie-scale deal or a draft pick who might not even make it past training camp? This would clear some salary-cap space so they can bring back at minimum Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper.

      

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Phoenix Mercury: Pursue New York's Leaonna Odom at All Costs

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The Liberty's Leaonna "Neah" Odom fits what the Mercury need most. She possesses the defensive skill and will to guard someone like Kahleah Copper, who the Mercury had no answer for in the Finals. And she's on her rookie-scale contract for at least a season or two, depending on if she gets a team option.

Odom also has the athleticism that allows her to move and jump really well off the ball. Imagine Brittney Griner having more than one option to pass to out of a double-team in the paint besides Brianna Turner. Turner lived in the dunker spot in 2021, and that's exactly where Odom can play too.

The only issue with trading for Odom is her perimeter game is still a work in progress. Her shooting stroke is smooth and pretty, but she's had issues trusting herself to take those shots when she's open. Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello will have the opportunity to watch her this offseason play in Australia for the WNBL's Sydney Uni Flames to get a better sense of her game.

But the issue for Phoenix will be satisfying New York on the other side of the trade. Who or what can the Mercury give up? Odom was a 2020 second-round pick, which means New York might ask for Phoenix's 2022 second-rounder in return.

      

Connecticut Sun: Part with Most Improved Player Brionna Jones to Clear Space

Stew Milne/Associated Press

The Sun are also feasibly just one move away from winning a championship. Most actually thought they were ready to do just that in 2021, but what may have hindered them was a lack of adversity during the regular season and a lack of clutch shot-making in their backcourt.

The Sun must acquire backcourt weapons. That could be done by signing Jewell Loyd, an unrestricted free agent. Or it could mean trading for Kelsey Mitchell, placing her on a winning team for the first time in her career.

But to do either, the Sun need to clear their salary sheet, which currently has six players signed, excluding 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones. Assuming the Sun re-sign Jones to a deal nearing $200,000, that leaves them with a bit over $300,000 left to make sure one of the guards mentioned above is on their payroll. That would mean eight players signed with a bit over $100,000 left for at least three more players.

The Sun need to clear some space, and the way to do that would be by trading MIP Brionna Jones to a place like Seattle, especially if the Storm lose Loyd and Mercedes Russell to free agency.

      

Las Vegas Aces: Lure a GM Away From the NWSL

Steve Marcus/Associated Press

Before I can even mention player personnel for the Las Vegas Aces, this team ought to hire a GM—and STAT. But Bill Laimbeer doesn't trust just anyone. Vegas' head coach should look for someone who's comfortable working alongside a three-time WNBA champion. Dan Padover worked under Laimbeer for around 10 years, and I wouldn't expect Laimbeer to venture that far outside his circle.

The first name that comes to my mind is Kristin Bernert, an executive who has also worked with Laimbeer for around 10 years with both the Detroit Shock and New York Liberty. Bernert is known as the executor of a number of moves, including trading Cappie Pondexter for Epiphanny Prince, which allowed the 2015 Liberty to finish atop the Eastern Conference.

However, Bernert is currently the interim head of business operations for NJ/NY Gotham FC. That shouldn't scare Laimbeer that much, though, as he was the coach who lured former Aces center Carolyn Swords out of retirement in 2020.

     

Minnesota Lynx: Bring Bella Alarie to Minneapolis

Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Does this sound like it's coming out of left field? Maybe, but think about it: Alarie would fill a bunch of needs in the Lynx's frontcourt, as she's more of a true 5 who can stretch the defense and play solid defense. She could take pressure off Sylvia Fowles and has had experience guarding opposing teams' best and most experienced centers. Having Alarie on the floor could also open up the paint for Napheesa Collier, as one of her strengths is driving and scoring through the lane off the bounce.

While this move would be an admission that signing Natalie Achonwa was a mistake, head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve's mission should be fielding the best team possible. Alarie, who is undervalued in Dallas, would get an opportunity to learn from and back up one of the best centers ever in Fowles if the all-time leader in rebounds returns to the W and the Lynx.

Minnesota would then have to figure out what the cost would be to land a player with such a high ceiling who could also be a formidable successor to Fowles. Could Alarie land in Minneapolis via a three-way trade? It’s possible. I could envision a trade that sends the Lynx’s 2022 first-round pick to the Sparks and Brittney Sykes to the Wings. Dallas needs another small forward to play either in front of or behind Allisha Gray and another defensive presence in the backcourt.

      

Seattle Storm: Tina Charles Is Seattle's Plan B

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Tina Charles has made it abundantly clear that she wants to win a championship ASAP. At almost 33, she knows that her window to play at a high level is narrowing.

There's another team in the WNBA that's currently facing similar pressures, especially with a future Hall of Famer contemplating retirement. It also helps that said future Hall of Famer, Sue Bird, is quite close to Charles. The pair have a lot in common, as they both grew up in New York, went to UConn and have played together on multiple USA basketball teams throughout their storied careers.

Especially if the Storm can't negotiate a deal with free agent Jewell Loyd, they have to be ready to pull the trigger immediately to get as much star power back for whoever they fail to retain. Seattle has to prove to its fans that it won't make the same mistakes it did last winter. It's also a prudent idea to load up with star power right before the Storm begin the 2022 season in a new arena.

      

Dallas Wings: Trade at Least One of Their First-Round Picks

John Locher/Associated Press

The Wings have two first-round picks in the upcoming 2022 draft, and they don't need either of them. As I wrote previously, they need to create a plan to land some veteran leadership.

If the Wings can't find a team willing to take at least one of their picks, the hunt for veteran help is not all lost, but the road to acquiring it might be a bit more complicated in time for the 2022 season.

In addition to the Wings' lack of veterans, they also have too many shot-creators, including Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey, Allisha Gray and Satou Sabally. To ensure optimal salary-cap space come 2023, they could also consider trading Ogunbowale now. The All-Star Game MVP has one more year on her rookie deal before she becomes a restricted free agent. Who could the Wings trade her to? I'll explain more later.

       

New York Liberty: Harness Leaonna Odom's Value

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Who will want Leaonna Odom more? And which team can give New York what it needs?

Odom proved to be a high-upside prospect in the "Wubble" when she guarded the opposing teams' best backcourt or wing players. She's super athletic, is able to score off the bounce and apparently jumps like she's 6'8" or 6'9". She was initially a great fit in New York, but in came DiDi Richards, who's a little longer than Odom and unlocked her three-point shot a bit quicker than the former Duke Blue Devil.

While Odom was touted to be able to play the 4 or the 5 in college, on the Liberty she was slotted in to play more of the 3 and sometimes the 4. New York has many 3-4s but not enough 4-5s and ought to use Odom's tremendous ceiling to either get a draft pick or a player who's more comfortable playing down low and stretching the floor.

Odom's suitors should include the Mercury, who she fits like a glove, and the Mystics, who desperately need a defensive, cheaper wing who can back up Alysha Clark.

       

Washington Mystics: Use Myisha Hines-Allen as Trade Bait

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The Washington Mystics were probably the most difficult team to complete this exercise for and project. I previously mentioned they will need to know how available Elena Delle Donne will be in 2022. That's still the case, but head coach and general manager Mike Thibault signed a contract extension last week and made a comment that left me thinking.

"After our last two years with the pandemic and injuries, I am looking forward to getting back to a full, healthy team," he said. "I am excited for the offseason and what we can do to reset our team."

What does "reset our team" mean exactly? After examining the Mystics' salary-cap sheet, it's clear they need better, younger reserves. If Delle Donne returns and starts and Thibault brings back Emma Meesseman, who considers Washington to be her second home, the Mystics are going to need more smaller contracts rather than a potential larger one from Myisha Hines-Allen.

Signing and trading Hines-Allen would allow the Mystics to acquire younger, cheaper talent for the second unit. The Mystics could strike a trade with the Liberty that includes sending Hines-Allen for a package that includes Odom, Jazmine Jones (a pick the Mystics traded in the first place to land Tina Charles) and New York’s 2022 first-round pick.

        

Los Angeles Sparks: Gamble on One of the Best Scorers

Danny Karnik/Associated Press

The suggestion I have for the L.A. Sparks might not be the most logical, but it does accomplish what they need most: an offensive firebrand who can score at will. Even if the Sparks' front office doesn't fire Derek Fisher or get him any offensive help to assist him within his coaching staff, there's a solution, although it might be a tad rash.

The Sparks should trade for Arike Ogunbowale and give Dallas Gabby Williams, Jasmine Walker (who tore her ACL in late May) and their 2023 first-round pick. L.A.'s 2022 first-round pick currently belongs to the Wings after the Sparks traded for Walker in the first place. 

However, this could be a win-win for both parties, as the Wings need a more complete and versatile player in Williams, who scores in transition and can facilitate when needed.

       

Atlanta Dream: Free Chennedy Carter

Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Newly hired GM Dan Padover and head coach Tanisha Wright have been clear about their desires to rebuild the Dream "the right way," and a rational first step would be trading the previously suspended Chennedy Carter. Why? Sure, Carter is an incredibly gifted backcourt talent, but if the Dream want to put all of their baggage from last season behind them, getting value for Carter is a good start.

Atlanta should look to the Storm, who apparently were very interested in Carter before the trade deadline. Storm head coach Noelle Quinn was asked about the trade deadline and specifically Carter the day after her team was knocked out of the playoffs, and Quinn smiled and said "no comment." That response tells us all we need to know.

Also, the Dream had no GM. With Sue Bird uncertain about her return, Jewell Loyd an unrestricted free agent and Jordin Canada entering 2022 as a restricted free agent, the Storm are going to need help in their backcourt, assuming not all three mentioned return to Seattle.

       

Indiana Fever: Ship off Kelsey Mitchell for Another First-Round Pick

Stew Milne/Associated Press

Last week I mentioned the Fever have not always been clear about their vision for the franchise. General manager Tamika Catchings wants the team to escape the draft lottery next season, but right now that appears improbable.

Above, I mentioned the Dream's desire to rebuild their franchise the right way, meaning not rushing and being selective about personnel. The Fever need to commit to an official roster reset as well and try to acquire as many first-round picks as possible. This upcoming draft will have a lot of talent, including Naismith Player of the Year hopefuls. How do the Fever acquire more first-rounders?

It begins with trading star guard Kelsey Mitchell, who has viable suitors. The Sun are desperate for more offensive firepower in their backcourt, and the Storm will be as well if they lose Loyd to free agency. The Fever ought to stop using shortcuts to try to get out of the draft lottery and instead reload, and both Connecticut and Seattle have first-round picks that could be available. 

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