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Who Won The 2024 WNBA Offseason?

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With free agency well underway and the WNBA Draft approaching, teams from around the league are looking to make moves to set themselves up for future success. Some, like Seattle and Phoenix, are making significant changes to their rosters in hopes of moving into title contention for the upcoming season. Others, like Los Angeles and Chicago, are tearing down and rebuilding their roster.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas and New York return their core pieces and remain well ahead of the pack.

While the draft is exciting, especially with this year’s pool, free agency and offseason trades have been more impactful in the WNBA’s recent history. Which teams have improved so far this offseason?

1. Seattle Storm

Seattle finished with the second-worst record (11-29) in the WNBA last season. It was the franchise’s worst winning percentage (0.275) since the inaugural 2000 season. A heavy upgrade was needed, especially offensively where the Storm were dead last with an offensive rating of 98.7.

Out are Kia Nurse, who shot a dismal 34.3% from the field on 233 attempts, and Ivana Dojkić, who started 15 games for the Storm last season. The front office replaced them with efficient veteran scorers Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Ogwumike, a six-time All-WNBA selection and 2016 WNBA MVP, has been in the top ten in the league in field-goal percentage in 11 of her 12 seasons. She will also improve Seattle’s defense which ranked 9th in the league in defensive rating (105.8). A six-time member of the WNBA’s All-Defensive Team, Ogwumike uses her athleticism and length to create chaos for opposing offenses. She has finished in the top ten in steals in seven of her 12 seasons, including the past two seasons.

Like Ogwumike, Diggins-Smith has been selected to the All-WNBA team six times in her career. Although she sat out the 2023 season after giving birth to her second child, she is excited about the future with the Storm.

“Joining the Seattle Storm is the ideal next step in my basketball journey. The organization’s dedication to its players and the progression of the league is commendable,” she said in a statement.

Throughout her nine-year career, Diggins-Smith has consistently ranked in the top ten in both points and assists. Her career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.87 will bolster the Storm’s league-low 1.22 from last season. She will be a great compliment to the reigning WNBA scoring champion Jewell Loyd, a college teammate of Diggins-Smith at Notre Dame.

2. Atlanta Dream

After a seven-game winning streak, the Atlanta Dream finished the season losing 15 of the final 22 games, including both playoff games against the Dallas Wings. The Dream shot a paltry 47.3% eFG% (tied for 10th) which included a league-low 19.4 three-point attempts per game. With a below-average offense, some reinforcements were needed.

In her second year in Los Angeles, Jordin Canada attempted 123 threes last season, connecting on 41 of them (33.3%). This was a vast improvement from her previous seasons in the WNBA where she shot 29-173 (16.8%) from three in her previous five seasons combined.

But it’s on the defensive end where Canada shines. She is a two-time All-Defensive Team member and led the league in steals last season (2.3/game). She will bring much needed quickness to the Dream’s stout lineup, one in which was the worst defense in the league in opponent’s free-throw rate (0.310).

Aerial Powers comes to Atlanta after the past three seasons playing for the Minnesota Lynx. Her most productive season came in 2022, when she averaged 14.4 points per game and finished fifth in the league in free throws made and free throws attempted.

The wild card is going to be Tina Charles who last played in 2022 for Phoenix and Seattle. A future Hall of Famer, Charles has won an MVP, was selected to the All-WNBA team nine times, and was a member of the All-Defensive Team four times. The 35-year-old center brings much needed experience to a young, promising roster.

“Tina’s ability to score and rebound the basketball at an elite level immediately helps this basketball team,” Dream general manager and Executive Vice President Dan Padover stated.

3. Phoenix Mercury

Last season, Phoenix fired coach Vanessa Nygaard after a disastrous 2-10 start. Assistant Nikki Blue came in and made some essential changes schematically and with rotations, but the depleted Mercury lost their last 11 games and finished with a league-worst record of 9-31. South Dakota native Nate Tibbetts takes over as head coach after stints as an NBA assistant coach in Orlando, Portland and Cleveland.

He will be coaching a new team that needed a fresh shakeup of its roster. Though Phoenix finished 11th in offensive rating last season at 99.1, it was their defense that needed the biggest upgrade. The Mercury finished with the worst defensive rating in the league at 109.8.

Former Washington Mystic guard Natasha Cloud brings the energy on both ends. In her eight-year career, Cloud has been selected to the All-Defensive Team twice. She plays with an intensity and edge that will spark the Mercury’s poor defense. The former WNBA champion also lead the league in assists in 2022 with 7.0 assists per game.

Sharpshooting 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper made a career-high 69 threes last season shooting a scorching-hot 40.4%, good for 9th in the WNBA. A 6’1” multi-dimensional guard-forward, Copper had her best statistical defensive season last year.

Rebecca Allen is a prototypical “three and D” player. Listed as a 6’2” guard, Allen has 174 blocks in her eight-year career. Last season with the Connecticut Sun, Allen finished 9th in blocks per game with 1.3. She also hit 34.8% of her 115 three-point attempts.

One area that still needs to be addressed is rebounding. Already the worst defensive rebounding team in the WNBA, the Mercury lost their top rebounder in Brianna Turner and their third-best rebounder in Michaela Onyenwere. Brittney Griner, who finished second on the team in rebounding last season, remains unsigned.

About Kenyon Wingenbach

High school girls' basketball head coach and educator at West Fargo Public Schools (North Dakota).

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