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WNBA free agency primer: Who is going where in what will be a wild offseason

The W season will be here shortly. Here’s who’s coming and going in free agency.

Assistant Coach Becky Hammon for the San Antonio Spurs speaks during a break in play against the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on January 4, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

After perhaps the most successful season in league history both, the WNBA’s 26th season is just 111 days away. But thanks to a confluence of circumstances, we may never see more player movement ahead of a season than we will in 2022.

Prepare for a free agency like has never been seen in any professional American sport. If you want a superstar, and you have the dollars for a maximum salary, all you’ll have to do is convince that your team is the right fit.

We go over the biggest potential free agents below.

WNBA Free Agency Rules

Free agency in the W is on a sliding scale based on seniority. If you have less than three years experience, you’re restricted to negotiating with the team you played with last season. But keep in mind the best WNBA players often make significantly more money abroad, so they do still have some leverage with their American teams.

Players with four years experience are restricted free agents, and the same offer sheet/club-right-to-match rules apply here.

If you’ve got five WNBA seasons under your belt you can sign with any team without any restrictions, unless you’re designated as a core player. Much like an NFL franchise tag, that means you can’t negotiate with any other teams or leave. But it does force your current team to offer you a supermax contract for that season, and you can have only one core player on your roster.

The “tampering period” as it would be called in the older brother domestic pro basketball league begins January 15th, but you can’t actually put pen to paper until February 1st.

Core Players

Chicago Sky - Kahleah Copper

Key Unrestricted Free Agents

Keep in mind the starting “supermax” salary in 2022 is $228,094, which is the most any player in the league can make per season from their team. All players listed below have more than five years experience in the league, or have yet to receive a qualifying offer from their previous team.

Atlanta Dream: Blake Dietrick, Tiffany Hayes, Odyssey Sims, Shekinna Stricklen, Courtney Williams, Elizabeth Williams

The team has already said they won’t bring back leading scorer Courtney Williams thanks to an off-court altercation, and that means signing Tiffany Hayes is very much a priority.

Chicago Sky: Stefanie Dolson, Astou Ndour-Fall, Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot

The reigning champs are going to have to pony up to keep it together around Candace Parker. Will the off-court and on-court couple of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot want to stay together in free agency as well?

Connecticut Sun: Briann January, Jonquel Jones

Last year’s surprise team has two terrific veterans they’d like to lock down, but they will be exploring their options in the free agency window.

Las Vegas Aces: Liz Cambage, Angel McCoughtry, Kiah Stokes, Riquna Williams

The question of what to do with Liz Cambage is very interesting, as there’s probably not a more talented player in women’s basketball. But she’s also had health issues on and off the floor. Will the Aces give her the supermax?

They absolutely will for Angel McCoughtry. And spending appears not to be an issue for Mark Davis, who just overpaid to bring franchise legend Becky Hammon home as the new head coach.

Los Angeles Sparks: Nia Coffey

Coffey averaged 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last season.

Minnesota Lynx: Rachel Banham, Layshia Clarendon, Sylvia Fowles

It’s hard to imagine Sylvia Fowles playing anywhere else for her Age 37 season, and with 16.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season, she’s still a superstar.

New York Liberty: Rebecca Allen, Reshanda Gray

Allen played almost 25 minutes a night in Brooklyn last season, averaging 9.2 points per game. Gray posted 5.9 ppg in her fifth season in the league in 2021.

Phoenix Mercury: Sophie Cunningham, Alanna Smith

Both players were non-tendered by PHX, and played in limited roles last season.

Seattle Storm: Sue Bird, Cierra Burdick, Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart

Getting two of the most popular humans in the Pacific Northwest in Suey and Stewie won’t be a problem, but there’s plenty of other talent that might want to explore their options. Jewell Loyd is a player that could be a superstar on many teams. Will she return to Seattle?

Washington Mystics: Tina Charles, Leilani Mitchell, Theresa Plaisance, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Shavonte Zellous

To keep a franchise together around Elena Delle Donne, you’re going to need to spend some cash. We’ll see how many vets the Mystics bring back to make another run at the ring.