WNBA free agency doesn’t start until after the New Year but front offices are already thinking about how to navigate a loaded 2023 free agent class. Here are the top free agents to look out for before free agency starts in two months.
2022 stats: 21.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 51.8 2P%, 37.9 3P%
If it wasn’t for A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces season for the ages, Stewart could have ended up with the 2022 MVP. She is an all-time talent at the age of 28 and Seattle will do everything it can to retain her. However, she will have suitors.
Last offseason, NBA Insider Chris Haynes reported Stewart took a meeting with New York Liberty owners Joe and Clara Tsai in Los Angeles. She eventually re-signed with the Storm but whispers of the two-time WNBA champion heading back to the state where she grew up became louder. The Liberty made the playoffs for the first time since 2017 while combo guard Sabrina Ionescu showed she can anchor an offense. New York is going to challenge the Storm for Stewart’s services and how she handles the free agency process will be the biggest storyline heading into January.
Seattle won’t be able to use the core designation on Stewart this offseason after using it on Jewell Loyd last year. The franchise is in the process of building a new state of the art facility and could possibly pair Stewart with one of her former overseas teammates (more on that later). They should be the leading candidate to re-sign the veteran.
Prediction: Stewart remains with the Storm
2022 stats: 11.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 52.5 2P%, 36.7 3P%
Vandersloot’s traditional stats don’t tell the whole story of her impact. After rewriting the history books from 2017-2021, the three-time all-star had her lowest assist output since 2016. That was due to the Chicago Sky’s loaded roster and head coach/general manager James Wade’s “team-first” philosophy. She is the third all-time leading assist leader in WNBA history and averaged the second-most APG in 2022 despite ranking 40th in usage rate.
There are plenty of teams who could use a point guard of Vandersloot’s caliber but the two teams to watch for are the Storm and the Minnesota Lynx. When she was a free agent last offseason, those were the only teams the Sky’s longest tenured player took when evaluating her options. Vandersloot said during exit interviews with the media there was a point where she thought she had played her final game with Chicago. She eventually re-signed at a slight discount and tried to help the Sky win back-to-back titles.
Minnesota and Seattle would make interesting destinations for Vandersloot depending on how the offseason shakes out. The Lynx don’t have an obvious replacement for Sylvia Fowles unless it is able to get the top pick in the 2023 WNBA draft, who many anticipate being South Carolina center Aliyah Boston. The Lynx are less appealing if they don’t select Boston or sign a free agent like reigning Sixth Woman of the Year Brionna Jones. Seattle would also most likely lose the Vandersloot sweepstakes if they are unable to retain Stewart.
If Wade is able to bring the band back together, Vandersloot could end up back with the Sky. She has been loyal to the franchise that drafted her and the organization continues to add resources.
Prediction: Vandersloot joins Stewart in Seattle
2022 stats: 13.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 BPG, 55.2 2P%, 31.1 3P%
Parker said before the 2022 season her mindset was she planned on retiring at the end of the year. However, she has left the door open to her returning for her 16th season. If she decides she still wants to suit up for another year in the WNBA, Parker provides elite defense and offensive production despite her age.
The question of which team she would sign back with remains unanswered. Parker left the Los Angeles Sparks, the team that drafted her with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, for the Sky so she could contend for another title. Two years and a championship later, Chicago has multiple unrestricted free agents and questions around whether they can run back the same group. The Sparks, meanwhile, only have two guaranteed contracts and could mold a roster around maximizing Parker’s final years in the league.
One thing that will factor into Parker’s decision is the emotional ties she has with both teams. The two-time champion has developed a friendship with Sky star Kahleah Copper and has been the perfect complement to Wade’s coaching style. She grew up in Naperville, IL and has family who can easily come watch her play. Parker’s impact on Chicago’s franchise remains deep despite her only playing for the team for two years. The former MVP’s daughter also lives in Los Angeles and being near her could be one of Parker’s priorities in free agency.
Prediction: Parker signs one-year deal to return to Chicago
Other top free agents
Nneka Ogwumike: She enjoyed one of her best seasons in 2022 but it looks like she wants to stay with the Sparks. If she changes her mind, Ogwumike could fill any team’s need in the front court.
Emma Meesseman: The 2019 Finals MVP quietly put together
Brionna Jones: Coming off an all-star selection, Jones should command a contract north of the $120,000 mark she made last year. Minnesota could be a player for her services.
Azurá Stevens: Stevens was essentially the sixth starter for Chicago last season and improved as a spot up shooter. A big who can stretch the floor is one of the most sought after commodities in basketball. Stevens fits that description.
Tina Charles: The WNBA veteran went hunting for a ring last season and came up empty. However, she provides offense in the post and has shown a willingness to take a pay cut if it means she can go after a championship.