Layshia Clarendon’s Waiving Demonstrates Need For WNBA Expansion


The New York Liberty released Layshia Clarendon earlier this week to create a roster spot for Natasha Howard. This move is the latest example of the pressing need for expansion in the WNBA. Clarendon is good enough to be in the league. Unfortunately, given the immense roster crunch, finding a new landing spot is challenging.

Clarendon, the nine-year veteran, is a former All-Star and a respected veteran presence.

Clarendon has been an agent of change as the first open transgender athlete in a major American sport. Last season in the bubble, Layshia attempted a career-high 2.3 3-point shots per game and hit a respectable 34.1 percent. The fit was not there in the new up-tempo Liberty system built around Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney, so the Liberty made the difficult decision to move on.

But there is still a place in the league for Clarendon, no?

144 Not Enough

Finding that spot is increasingly challenging by no fault of Layshia’s own. The number 144 has become common knowledge due to the widely-viewed ESPN documentary and the tag featured on this year’s jerseys. At its core, that number is the total jobs available in the WNBA. Going through the salary cap sheets provided by HerHoopsStats confirms the issue is even more alarming.

The Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings, Las Vegas Aces, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm, and Washington Mystics have neither the cap room nor roster slot to sign anyone. Only the Indiana Fever have the cap space readily available to sign a veteran minimum contract. However, they have a full roster. Every team would have to cut to bring in a new player. In most situations, that would have to be someone earning a considerable amount.

The roster crunch is real in the WNBA. Rosters are limited to 12 players, but due to a punitive salary cap structure, most teams are only financially able to roster 11 players, leading to tough decisions. Some clubs even kept this year’s kept first-round picks from active rosters. Emma Meeseman will potentially return after the Olympics and will need a roster spot as well. Days are numbered for several Wings as they await the return of Awak Kuier and Satou Sabally.

Tip of the Tongue

Expansion has been on the tips of fans’ tongues since the league’s popularity exploded in recent seasons. There is enough talent to field more teams. Giving players like Clarendon more opportunities to live their dreams will always make the league look noble. In 2001 the WNBA experienced its most recent expansion. The W jumped too quickly up from eight teams to 16 before settling at 12. Going two at a time to make sure that the move is feasible is a solid plan is, and Cathy Engelbert already hinted at the possibility.

Before the season started, Engelbert suggested that if this campaign, like the last, turned into another of immense growth, expansion could undoubtedly occur. Ratings across the board rose, essential to note considering the general drop in sports ratings over the last few years. Specifically, in Canada, the WNBA is flourishing. Rumors posit Toronto as one of the potential expansion targets, and the interest is there. There is no shortage of other possibilities, with St. Louis, Miami, South Carolina, and Houston a few that come to mind. Clarendon is the latest player to shine the light on the WNBA talent overflow, and the too-talented veteran is unlikely to be the last.

About Corey Rausch

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