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WNBA free agency tracker: ESPN's Chiney Ogwumike signs multi-year deal with Sparks

Yahoo Sports Staff
·24 min read
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It’s been a mostly quiet WNBA offseason since the Seattle Storm won the franchise’s fourth championship from the “wubble” at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

But now with free agency open things will quicken back up daily, especially if last year is any indication. Notable unrestricted free agents in 2021 include veteran superstars Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles and 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman.

We’ll keep you up to date with the rumors, signings and trades of WNBA free agency. Check back daily.

Sparks sign Chiney Ogwumike to multi-year deal

Chiney Ogwumike announced she has signed a multi-year contract with the Los Angeles Sparks, where she played the 2019 season. 

Ogwumike shared the news in a blog post opening up about the past year and how it's impacted her family. The former No. 1 draft pick was traded to the Sparks from the Connecticut Sun ahead of the 2019 season to continue both basketball and a career at ESPN. She joined her sister, fellow No. 1 pick Nneka Ogwumike. 

Chiney Ogwumike opted out of the 2020 season, but said in her post "we are full steam ahead getting ready for training camp" and is excited to pair up with Amanda Zahui B. 

 She will remain with ESPN, where she hosts a radio show with Mike Golic Jr. Ogwumike became the first Black woman to co-host her own daily, national show on ESPN when it debuted in August. She is also working as an executive producer on an ESPN films documentary about the 2020 bubble season in Bradenton, Florida. 

Lynx sign Aerial Powers

The Minnesota Lynx think they found the perfect piece to push them to another championship. The team announced it signed Aerial Powers to a deal Monday.

In a press release, Lynx general manager Cheryl Reeve called Powers "an exciting young player with endless potential." Powers, 27, averaged a career high 16.3 points and 4.8 rebounds with the Washington Mystics last season. She has plenty of playoff experience, winning a championship with the Mystics in 2019.

Powers said she was looking forward to bringing another championship to Minnesota.

“I am beyond excited to be joining the Minnesota Lynx this season,” said Powers. “They have a long-standing tradition of excellence and hard work that I know is the best fit for me. I am excited to get to work as we look to bring another championship back to Minnesota and the fans.”

The Lynx last won the WNBA championship in 2017. The team has made it to the postseason every year since 2011. The Lynx have won four championships during that period.

Liberty add Natasha Howard in trade of No. 1 pick

The New York Liberty acquired Natasha Howard from the Seattle Storm in a trade that includes their No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft this May. The Liberty entered the free agency chat with a flurry of moves on Wednesday afternoon that ended with the No. 1 pick in the claws of the Dallas Wings.

Howard, 29, is a three-time champion and the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. She won back-to-back titles by lifting the trophy with the Lynx in 2017 and with the Storm in 2018. The Storm won the 2020 season played in Bradenton, Florida, where she averaged 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

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The 6-foot-2 forward will pair with 2020 No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu, who is on pace to return after a grade 3 ankle sprain her rookie season. The Storm will also get the first- and second-round draft picks in 2022 from the Liberty.

The first-round pick originally belonged to the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury acquired Kia Nurse and Megan Walker from the Liberty for that pick and a first-round pick in 2022.

In a separate trade, the Liberty acquired Storm shooter Sami Whitcomb in exchange for the rights to Stephanie Talbot. Whitcomb, 32, averaged a WNBA career-best 8.1 points on 44.3 percent shooting coming off the bench last season. She made more than half of her two-point attempts and was 38.1 percent from behind the arc. Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins wants to be a high-volume 3-point team.

Storm acquire ‘Mad Kiki’, Katie Lou Samuelson

The Storm engaged in four total transactions on Wednesday that the franchise thankfully detailed in full via a graphic on Twitter.

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In addition to moves with the Liberty, the Storm acquired Katie Lou Samuelson from the Dallas Wings for the No. 1 overall pick acquired from New York. Dallas will now pick first in the May draft. The Wings hold the No. 2 pick from the draft lottery.

The Storm also added second-year forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who gained the nickname “Mad Kiki” for the next level she would take it to in close games while with South Carolina. That netted the Minnesota Lynx the Mercury’s first-round pick in the 2022 draft.

Samuelson, a former UConn Huskies star, shot 41.7 percent from the field in the 2020 season. Herbert Harrigan put up a strong rookie campaign for Minnesota. In an average of 11.1 minutes per game she shot 42.4 percent from 3-point range.

Storm sign veteran Candice Dupree

Candice Dupree, a 15-year veteran ranking in the WNBA’s top-10 for all-time points and rebounds, signed with the Seattle Storm, the reigning champions announced Monday.

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Dupree spent the last four seasons with the Indiana Fever after reaching six postseasons in seven tries with the Phoenix Mercury. The 2006 first-round draft pick by the Chicago Sky was a part of the 2014 title-winning squad in Phoenix.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to have to have an opportunity to play for the Seattle Storm,” Dupree said in a statement. “To be 15 years in and have an opportunity to play for a contender and compete for a back to back championship is awesome. I look forward to playing alongside some of the best in the game and bringing another championship back to the great city of Seattle.”

Dupree, 36, ranks fifth on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list (6,728 points) and sixth on the all-time rebounding list (3,071). Dupree, Tamika Catchings and Tina Thompson are the only players in WNBA history to average double-figure scoring in 14 or more consecutive seasons.

The seven-time All-Star selection averaged 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game over her career. She’s started every playoff game she’s been a part of and averaged 14.8 points in them.

At the same time Crystal Langhorne, a two-time All-Star and member of the two title teams announced her retirement after a 13-year career. Langhorne will join the front office in a newly formed position as the director of community engagement for the Force4Change initiative. The social justice platform was created to combat racism and support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Mystics bring back Tina Charles

There was a chance, albeit slim, that seven-time All-Star and 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles would never play for the Washington Mystics after being traded from the Liberty last offseason.

Charles opted out of the 2020 bubble season with a medical exemption and on Friday re-signed with the Mystics.

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Charles was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft and is still chasing a league title. She was part of a draft-altering trade days before last year’s event that also involved the Dallas Wings.

“When we traded for Tina last year, it was a big moment for our organization. It was disappointing for her and for us when she had to miss the 2020 season,” general manager and head coach Mike Thibault said in a statement. “Tina’s high-level preparation this off season and her hunger to win a championship will be a huge catalyst for us to continue as one of the elite teams in the WNBA. We can’t wait to get started.”

Charles, a 6-foot-4 center, became the fastest player in league history to reach 400, 500, 600 and 700 career rebounds. She is the first player with three 20-point, 20-rebound games.

In her 10 seasons she’s averaged 18.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The Mystics are in a good position to add to their title haul.

Sun keep Jasmine Thomas

The Connecticut Sun’s core four is intact with the re-signing of point guard Jasmine Thomas to a deal in free agency, they announced Thursday.

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Thomas is a three-time WNBA all-defensive first teamer and cited unfinished business in returning.

“I’m happy to continue my career with the Sun,” she said. “I value the relationships I’ve built over the years with my teammates, coaches, front office and the Tribe. Connecticut feels like home for me and I’m determined to help bring that first championship to the organization. We’ve been too close; I couldn’t stop now.”

The Sun have had three consecutive 20-plus win seasons starting in 2017 and were minutes away from the 2019 title. In 2020 they came back from a 0-5 start to reach the semifinals. She averaged 10.2 points per game, 4.0 assist and 1.3 steals in the bubble.

The squad also re-signed Brionna Jones on Friday.

Fever, Danielle Robinson agree to deal

Danielle Robinson, the 5-foot-9 veteran guard who played for the Aces last season, agreed to a deal with the Indiana Fever, the team announced.

She averaged 7.4 points, 3.3 assists, 2.4 rebounds while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor in 2020. The three-time All-Star spent the first five seasons of her career with the franchise when they were in San Antonio.

Sun re-sign Alyssa Thomas despite injury

Alyssa Thomas, known as the Connecticut Sun’s engine, will be back with the team after signing a multiyear contract on Tuesday. She has spent all eight seasons with the team, many of which she’s played through two torn labrums, and recently had surgery for an Achilles tendon injury suffered with her overseas club.

“Despite the recent injury, it was important to show our loyalty for all that Alyssa Thomas has done for our franchise,” General Manager and Head Coach Curt Miller said in a statement. “AT has established herself as one of the premier players in the world. AT, known as our engine, is a fierce competitor and a defensive stopper. Offensively, she is a versatile facilitator who helps establish our attacking tempo. We know she will return from this set back better than ever.”

Thomas is one of the largest reasons the Sun were minutes from the 2019 WNBA championship and righted a 0-5 start in the 2020 bubble season to reach Game 5 of the semifinals.

Sparks, 2019 All-Star Game MVP Erica Wheeler agree to deal

Erica Wheeler, the 2019 WNBA All-Star game MVP, is joining the Los Angeles Sparks as the next chapter in an inspirational league story, the team announced.

Wheeler, 29, went undrafted out of Rutgers in 2015 and played a combined 20 games for the Dream and Liberty. In 2016 she earned a training camp contract with the Indiana Fever and turned it into four seasons as a starter.

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The guard was the breakout star of the 2019 WNBA All-Star game and became the first undrafted player to earn the MVP. In 2019 she averaged 10.1 points, 5.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals. She shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range and 87.2 percent from the free throw line.

Mystics retain LaToya Sanders, working on re-signing free agents

LaToya Sanders will return to the District, the Washington Mystics announced.

Sanders averaged 6.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the 2019 championship run. She opted out of the 2020 season. Her 48 blocks in the 2015 season is the second-most in franchise history and in 89 total games with the franchise she’s averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

The Mystics are building a defensive-minded powerhouse to hopefully return to the Finals with former MVP Elena Delle Donne. Head coach Mike Thibault said last week the team is working on re-signing some of its key players who became free agents or who’s contracts expired.

One that likely won’t happen right away, he said, is 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman. If she wants to return, the team will wait to put her salary on the books until after her commitments to the Belgian national team are over to help with cap room.

Candace Parker to Sky becomes official

Candace Parker is officially a member of the Chicago Sky, the team announced late Monday. The signing was reported last week in a splashy opening to the free agency period.

Parker is coming back to Chicago where she grew up and played high school ball 35 miles from the city. The city is so excited to have her that Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be part of the official introduction on Tuesday, via Madeline Kenney at the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Chicago is where my family raised me; where I first learned the game of basketball; and where I first fell in love with this orange ball,” Parker said in a statement. “I am excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began. To my new teammates, my new organization, and my new fans: I’m home.”

Parker, 34, spent her entire 13-year career in Los Angeles and won a list of accolades, including an MVP and a WNBA championship. She’s notably signing with Chicago for reportedly less than the max salary. Per Kenney, she’ll be making $190,550. The max is around $220,000.

It’s a sign she’s in it to win another title while staying close to family, a personal decision she’s able to make with higher salaries around the board thanks to the 2020 collective bargaining agreement.

Notably for the Sky, head coach James Wade told Kenney interest in the team from free agents has tripled. It puts the Sky in a great position to get over the hump for a title alongside assists machine Courtney Vandersloot.

Aces sign Dearica Hamby to contract extension

Two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby will be with the Las Vegas Aces for a while longer. And the teams’ chances of a title, or maybe a few, in the coming years is looking even better.

Hamby wasn’t set to become a free agent until 2022, but has signed a contract extension already, per Rachel Galligan at Winsidr.

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Hamby, 27, signed a three-year deal ahead of the 2019 season that pays her approximately $119,000 for the upcoming 2021 campaign. She was the franchise’s sixth overall pick in the 2015 when they were based out of San Antonio.

She had career bests on offense averaging 13.0 points per game on 53.9 percent shooting, including 47.4 percent from the 3-point line. Her 2.7 assists per game were a career high.

The Sixth Woman of the Year is a catalyst for the Aces off the bench, but one of their best performers alongside 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. The Aces made it to the WNBA Finals in the wubble season, but Hamby was unable to play with a knee injury. Her “Hamby Heave” in the 2019 playoffs will forever be part of franchise lore.

Mercury keeps Diana Taurasi on multi-year deal

WNBA veteran and superstar Diana Taurasi will reportedly stay in Phoenix on a multi-year deal, Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported. The team announced it Monday morning.

General manger Jim Pitman reiterated that as long as Taurasi wants to play in the league, the Mercury want to keep her in town.

“She is the heart of our franchise, the first face on our Mount Rushmore, the best winner and competitor in the women’s game,” Pitman said. “The trajectory of our organization changed the day we drafted her 17 years ago, and we are excited she will be here into the future.”

Taurasi has spent her entire 16-year career in the city and won three championships. She got roster help last free agency with the addition of Skylar Diggins-Smith to create a new big three with center Brittney Griner. There are questions about Griner’s future with the Mercury.

Taurasi is a two-time Finals MVP, the 2004 Rookie of the Year and the 2009 league MVP. She averages 19.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists over her career.

Wings re-sign 2017 ROY Allisha Gray

The Dallas Wings accomplished their “top priority” this offseason by signing 2017 Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray to a multi-year deal.

“Having drafted Allisha in 2017, witnessed her win the WNBA Rookie of the Year award that year and develop into an outstanding player in our League, re-signing her was our top priority this offseason,” team president and CEO Greg Bibb said in a statement.

The Wings didn’t have much to do this free agency period in terms of re-signing talent. Most of their roster was signed to contracts for 2021, with many on entry-level deals.

Gray had a career season averaging 13.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the wubble. She shot a career-best 46.4 percent. She’s also dependable. Gray is one of six players since 2017 to play in at least 122 of the 124 regular season games.

The Wings were the youngest roster in the league last season and are looking to break through with first-year coach Vickie Johnson. Along with Gray the team has former ROY candidates Arike Ogunbowale (2019) and Satou Sabally (2020). Ogunbowale led the league in scoring with 22.8 points per game in 2020.

Mystics sign defensive star Alysha Clark

Another free agency period, another big get for the Washington Mystics. The franchise that’s one year removed from its first WNBA title is adding 2020 defensive player of the year candidate Alysha Clark in free agency.

Clark won two WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm, including in 2020 during which was unanimously voted to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team.

“Alysha Clark is the ultimate competitor and winner,” Mystics general manager and head coach Mike Thibault said in a statement. She is able to impact the game at both ends of the court as well as provide incredible leadership in the locker room. There aren’t many players as well-respected around the league as she is. She contributes to every phase of the game – an All-Defensive Team player, a league leader in three-point shooting, a terrific passer and post-up threat. She perfectly fits our style of play. Her new teammates and staff are excited to get on the court with her soon!”

The forward is a nine-year veteran of the league and averaged a career-best 10.0 points, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Her 4.2 rebounds are on par with her career average.

For a second consecutive season she led the league in 3-point shooting at a career-best 58.8 percent.

Dream sign Cheyenne Parker

The Atlanta Dream added six-year veteran forward Cheyenne Parker to an exciting young group that will make some noise next season.

“We targeted Cheyenne for two reasons: one, her ability to finish at the rim, and two, her ability to knock down the three,” head coach Nicki Collen said in a statement. “Cheyenne has shown growth in her game year after year and we believe will only continue to get better. Her toughness, desire to compete, and her joyful attitude will only strengthen our roster. I’m thrilled she chose Atlanta. “

Parker spent all six years with the Chicago Sky, but the team reportedly added Candace Parker in free agency. Parker had a career season in 2020, averaging 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. She shot 55.4 percent, ranking fifth in the league.

Lynx signing Aerial Powers

The Lynx are already reportedly signing All-Star Kayla McBride, and they’re adding another top free agent to their roster.

Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes is reporting that Washington Mystics star Aerial Powers is signing with Minnesota. Powers was limited to just six games in 2020, but the five-year veteran posted career highs in points and rebounds, and had several teams vying for her services.

Aces adding Chelsea Gray

A strong Las Vegas Aces roster is growing even stronger, as guard Chelsea Gray is reportedly being acquired by the Aces from the Los Angeles Sparks after five seasons with L.A. She won a title with the Sparks in 2016.

The Aces should look scary-good next season, with reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Angel McCoughtry.

Sparks: Parker heads to Chicago

The Los Angeles Sparks have reportedly kept one MVP, but lost another.

The franchise came to a multi-year agreement with 2016 MVP Nneka Ogwumike, per a report by Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan. Two-time MVP Candace Parker is leaving the franchise after 13 seasons to return home to Chicago and play for the Sky.

Lynx to sign Aces All-Star Kayla McBride

Three time All-Star guard Kayla McBride has agreed to a multi-year deal with the Minnesota Lynx, Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan reports. Details of the terms were not reported. A seven-year WNBA veteran, McBride played the last three seasons with the Las Vegas Aces, earning All-Star honors in 2018 and 2019. The 28-year-old averaged 12.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists

Unrestricted free agents for 2021

The WNBA released its list of free agents overnight on Jan. 14 after teams’ qualifying offers were due. The teams with the most big decisions to make are the 2019 champion Washington Mystics, 2019 runner-up Connecticut Sun, the 2020 runner-up Aces and the desperately title-seeking Sparks.

Three players were given the core designation by their team to secure exclusive negotiating rights: Liz Cambage (Las Vegas Aces), Natasha Howard (Storm), Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks). A player can get it only three times in their career and it drops to two beginning in 2022.

Players and teams could start negotiating contracts Jan. 15 and they can be signed beginning Feb. 1. Under the new CBA signed in January of 2020, the 2021 maximum salary is $221,450 and the team salary cap is $1.339 million. Contract and salary cap information is from Spotrac and Her Hoop Stats.

Sparks have a salary problem in LA

Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike walk off the court.
Candace Parker is an unrestricted free agent and Nneka Ogwumike was given the core designation to deal exclusively with the Sparks. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

The Sparks, who renewed coach Derek Fisher and made him general manager, have the most fluid roster heading into the free agency period of any team.

Veteran point guard Kristi Toliver, who opted out of the 2020 season, is signed to a guaranteed contract. The team cored Nneka Ogwumike and re-signed rookie Te’a Cooper.

Ogwumike, Parker and point guard Chelsea Gray could all ask for a supermax. That would be $664,350 in salary for those three, a total that’s about half of the salary cap.

Seimone Augustus and Riquna Williams are unrestricted. Reshanda Gray and Brittney Sykes are restricted and Chiney Ogwumike can only negotiate with the Sparks on a new deal.

The Sparks are the team to keep an eye on in free agency as they figure out how to balance stars and salary under the new CBA structure.

Mystics in a salary cap bind with max players

Coach and general manager Mike Thibault told the Washington Post that Tina Charles, whom they traded for ahead of the 2020 WNBA draft, intends to return. The veteran is still seeking a WNBA title she never got while with her home team Liberty, and the Mystics are without a 2021 draft pick as part of the deal. Keeping her comes with the cost of a supermax or near it.

Emma Meesseman, the Finals MVP and Belgian national team star, could also draw maximum money numbers. There is a possibility she sits out for the Women’s EuroBasket and Olympic games schedule.

Alaina Coates, Tianna Hawkins and Aerial Powers are also unrestricted free agents. LaToya Sanders and Natasha Cloud’s contracts have also expired.

Sun keep coach, face decisions on roster

Connecticut agreed to a four-year extension with coach Curt Miller this week. They were minutes from winning the franchise’s first title in 2019 and had an impressive run to the semifinals in 2020 after an awful 0-5 start.

Now they have decisions to make on the roster side. Point guard Jasmine Thomas and forward Alyssa Thomas are both unrestricted free agents. Alyssa Thomas, known as the team’s engine and one who continues star through significant injury, will likely get a max deal alongside DeWanna Bonner, one of four with contracts for 2021.

Aces core Cambage, leave McBride as UFA

The Aces, who were purchased by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis pending board approval, gave the core designation to center Liz Cambage. There is also the chance, as with Meesseman, the Australian will skip another WNBA season to be with her national team in an Olympic year. She had a medical exemption to opt out of the bubble season.

That leaves McBride, whose time with the franchise dates back to San Antonio, as an unrestricted free agent. Because Las Vegas is a young team, the Aces have more players (six) under smaller contracts (veteran McCoughtry is the high at $190,550).

Storm want to keep champions together

The big name on the list is veteran and four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird. Bird, 40, seems likely to keep playing since the Tokyo Olympics were delayed a year to July 2021. She will get a supermax deal, leaving approximately $320,000 in salary for the Storm to work with assuming they keep everyone currently under contract. (Morgan Tuck and Crystal Langhorne were not key players in the champion runs and could be waived, as Her Hoop Stats first suggested.)

Alysha Clark, a unanimous vote for the WNBA’s all-defensive team, is a UFA. The Storm gave the core designation to Natasha Howard, the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. Epiphanny Prince is also a UFA and Sami Whitcomb is a restricted free agent.

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