WNBA

Dream Overhaul a Step in Right Direction

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Each week over the first three months of the offseason, we will look at what each team has in store for free agency. We will look at pending free agents and then consider who may be a logical target for them to bring in. This series will start in standings order for the teams that missed the postseason and then go in order of elimination when it comes to playoff teams. Last week we looked at the Indiana Fever. Today we look at the newly revitalized Atlanta Dream.

For much of the season, the Dream were the butt of the joke. They faced controversy after controversy. Before the Olympic break, Nicki Collen left the team just before the start of the season and was replaced on an interim basis by Mike Petersen. Chennedy Carter, the ostensible face of the franchise, was sent home indefinitely after a halftime incident just ten games into the season. Petersen stepped down in the middle of the season to be replaced by Darius Taylor. Now Taylor is the Assistant General Manager, Tanisha Wright is the new head coach and Daniel Padover is the General Manager. With so much change, even more is undoubtedly on the way for the Dream.

Pending Free Agents

Simply put, no team is more in flux with regards to free agency than the Dream. Cheyenne Parker is the only player on the team with a guaranteed contract, and she is currently pregnant. Blake Dietrick, Candice Dupree, Tiffany Hayes, Odyssey Sims, Shekinna Stricklen, Courtney Williams and Elizabeth Williams are all unrestricted free agents. Monique Billings is a restricted free agent. Jaylyn Agnew and Crystal Bradford are on the reserved list.

It was reported last month and then all but confirmed during the introductory press conference with the new brain trust that Courtney Williams and Bradford will not be brought back. There is a change of culture on the way and following that incident at the food truck, the team is ready to move on. Williams was the best player for the team this season and made her first All-Star appearance. Replacing her production on the floor will be no small task.

Beyond that, there was plenty of production from the remaining free agents. Hayes was the second-leading scorer on the team (14.7 points per game on 40.5 percent from distance). Billings and Elizabeth Williams rounded out the top three rebounders on the team behind Courtney Williams. Sims was relied on as a ballhandler with Carter away from the team. Figuring out where to go from here is anyone’s guess.

The Plan Forward

The Dream can almost entirely reshape their roster given the lack of guaranteed contracts. There is a real likelihood that none of the veterans from last season’s roster are brought back in an attempt to reshape the culture of the team. At a guess, the only players likely to be on the opening day roster in 2022 that closed out the 2021 season would be Aari McDonald alongside a (hopefully) re-signed Billings and Dietrick.

The new front office indicated that the main areas of interest are shooting and potentially another big. Especially with starting center Elizabeth Williams on the way out, replacing her will be a priority. Luckily, Padover has connections to two of the transcendent bigs on the market and has plenty of money to spend.

Cambage and Charles Connections

Liz Cambage in Las Vegas and Tina Charles in New York have mentioned Padover directly in terms of putting them in a place to succeed. If one of them were willing to take a chance on this team as a blank slate the front office could build around them completely. The fact that both of them can also shoot from distance (Cambage shot 35.7 percent last season, and Charles shot 36.5 percent) fills both needs. Pairing either of them with both McDonald and a returning Chennedy Carter could push the Dream into the playoff conversation in earnest.

Beyond the starry names, there is plenty of shooting available that could help shape the culture. Riquna Williams hit 41.7 percent of her 4.7 attempts per game last season. Dietrick coming back fits that role as well. Diamond DeShields has been tied to the team plenty. While she is not a distance shooter, her transition game would be a welcome addition.

Parting Thoughts

Now that the team has finally put a front office and coach in place, the priority for the Dream has to be addressing the Chennedy Carter situation. She was drafted fourth overall in 2020 as the presumed face of the franchise. She has played just 27 games over two seasons and has averaged 16.1 points, 3.4 assists and 1.9 rebounds. In her first season, she shot 47.3 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from distance.

Her on-court fit with McDonald feels like the kind of young back-court franchises dream of building around, especially with so many wings and forward on the market. Despite the change in leadership, the ownership group and Darius Taylor should be fully aware of all the details of the situation. If the situation is amendable, making her feel supported is key. If they want to start anew, assessing her trade market is a fascinating task.

Above everything else, the Atlanta Dream deserve some amount of congratulations. After a year of the community calling for them to finally name a General Manager, they may have named the best person for the job in the reigning two-time Executive of the Year. Daniel Padover has shown the ability to build a championship contender and has two top-four picks (in addition to wherever they end up in the draft lottery this year) to entice more stars to come to Atlanta. Things are finally starting to turn around.

About Corey Rausch

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