2021 WNBA Free Agency Winners

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 06: Chelsea Gray #12 of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles up court during the second half against the Chicago Sky at Feld Entertainment Center on September 06, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

In one of the most exciting times of the year for a women’s basketball fan, WNBA free agency is winding down as we have seen plenty of movement across the league.

With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the WNBA has seen an uptick in movement over the last two years. Players have more control over their decision-making as free agents and are now making more money than the league has ever seen. 

The Connecticut Sun made sure to return their core of Jonquel Jones, Jasmine Thomas, and Alyssa Thomas for the coming years, while the Atlanta Dream added a key piece in Cheyenne Parker, who will add depth inside and has become one of the most dominant post players in the league. The Minnesota Lynx are also making big moves this season with the addition of Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, and Natalie Achonwa.

With the majority of the movement complete, let’s take a look at the top three WNBA teams who made the right decisions to win free agency this year.

New York Liberty 

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - AUGUST 14: Betnijah Laney #44 of the Atlanta Dream of the Atlanta Dream dribbles during the second half of a game against the Phoenix Mercury at Feld Entertainment Center on August 14, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are the winners of free agency, in my mind, with the additions of Natasha Howard, Betnijah Laney, and Sami Whitcomb. When you combine these three with the young and promising roster of Sabrina Ionescu, Marine Johannes, and Asia Durr, the Liberty jump from a bottom-tier team to a middle-of-the-pack team and now have a solid core to continue to build on.

Howard is a three-time WNBA champion, all-star, and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. That same year, she solidified her position as a superstar in the league by leading the Seattle Storm to a championship averaging 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Laney was one of the most sought-after free agents after a breakout 2020 season with the Atlanta Dream, where she averaged 17.2 points, 4.1 assists, and shot the ball 48-percent from the field. The six-foot wing emerged as one of the most dynamic scoring options in the league.

Whitcomb will bring her sharp-shooting expertise to New York following a four-year stint with the Seattle Storm. Whitcomb and her fellow teammate, Howard, will add proven championship experience to the rebuilding Liberty franchise.

Chicago Sky

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - AUGUST 19: Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles during the first half of a game against the Phoenix Mercury at Feld Entertainment Center on August 19, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The Chicago Sky added former MVP Candace Parker to their already impressive roster during the free agency period. The move makes them immediate championship contenders as the Sky have trended in the right direction the last two seasons under head coach James Wade’s leadership and veteran core returners of Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, and Diamond DeShields.

Candace Parker makes her return to her hometown Chicago, IL, after the last thirteen seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, and her career has been nothing short of astounding. With a WNBA championship, Finals MVP, two-time league MVP, five-time all-star, and a Defensive Player of the Year under her belt, she’s sure to bring some expertise to the Sky.

Chicago also extended the contract of six-foot-six forward Azurá Stevens through 2022. Despite battling a foot and knee injury the last two seasons, Stevens showed promise with her limited time with the Sky in 2020. Her versatility on both ends of the floor makes her a matchup nightmare for opponents, and she has all of the offensive skills to emerge as the next superstar in the league.

Las Vegas Aces

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 06: Chelsea Gray #12 of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles up court during the second half against the Chicago Sky at Feld Entertainment Center on September 06, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Aces lost a key piece to their success in Kayla McBride, who signed with the Minnesota Lynx, but they added an impressive backcourt of Chelsea Gray and Riquana Williams this season. Of course, Las Vegas remains at the top of the list of championship contenders entering this season with their dominant inside duo of Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson.

Gray is a three-time WNBA all-star, champion, and one of the best point guards in the league. She has averaged 11.7 points, 4.2 assists and shot the ball 44 percent from the field in her six seasons. Las Vegas’ depth goes unmatched with the addition of Gray and the anticipated return of Kelsey Plum, who missed last season with an Achilles injury.

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Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at BetMGM, HERO Sports, and Winsidr, focusing on college hoops and the WNBA. She’s a former D1 standout at Eastern Illinois University, a three-time Hall of Famer, professional basketball player, and collegiate coach. Rachel also has served as a color analyst for ESPN, OVC Sports Network, and Mountain West Network.

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