A landmark collective bargaining agreement before last season raised top-tier WNBA salaries from around $ 117,500 to $ 215,000. Although the new pay scale was in effect in Florida prior to the 2020 season, some of the league’s biggest stars are not fully free agents and able to make money until this year.
Free agents were officially able to sign new contracts on Monday, and many did. Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest free agency efforts to date:
Candace Parker to the Chicago Sky
Parker, who won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year with the Los Angeles Sparks last season, is moving closer to her roots. The Naperville, Illinois native signed with Chicago Sky on Monday.
“This was a very difficult decision for Candace as Los Angeles is now her home,” said Boris Lelchitski, Parker’s agent, in an email on Monday.
Although Parker and her 11-year-old daughter Lailaa brought Los Angeles home, Parker started out in Illinois. “It was just a decision based on where she had the most fun writing the final chapters of her amazing career,” said Lelchitski.
Parker had been with the Sparks since she was drafted number 1 across Tennessee in 2008.
This is a huge achievement for James Wade, the head coach and general manager of Sky, who made two postseason appearances in two seasons with Chicago.
“It’s an incredible story of a homecoming between a team striving to become a championship organization and one of the best players in basketball,” Wade said in a statement announcing the signing.
Chicago immediately becomes a competitor to Parker, a two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner, along with young athletic players like Guard Diamond DeShields and striker Gabby Williams. The addition of Parker as an option for Courtney Vandersloot’s assist machine could pose problems for post-defenders.
Alysha Clark to the Washington Mystics
Clark was a key factor in the Seattle Storm in their 2018 and 2020 runs to a WNBA championship. As a nine-year veteran, she shot 55.8 percent off the field on the way to a career high of 10 points per game last season.
Mike Thibault, Washington’s head coach and general manager, had previously found Clark through a free agency and traded with Seattle. “We once offered them a deal,” Thibault told reporters during a video conference Monday. “You were smart and didn’t.”
With the Mystics, Clark looks forward to being challenged to become a more complete gamer before calling it a career. “It’s not that I have to feel like doing anything I do,” Clark told reporters on Monday. “I just want to be so round and develop my full potential before I decide to hang it up.”
Clark’s greatest asset is her ability to protect any position. It was a staple of their game that caught the attention of their peers.
“She is strong. It is physical. It’s like having a little bodyguard everywhere, ”Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi said of Clark last season.
Diana Taurasi returns to the Phoenix Mercury
Taurasi, who has missed a lot of time over the past three seasons with an ongoing back injury, has signed with Phoenix again.
“Diana has dedicated her entire career to our organization and community, and we do not take her unparalleled influence on basketball for granted,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a statement Monday. He added that the team is confident they “have more All-WNBA days to go”.
Taurasi has been with the Mercury since they were named top picks in 2004.
Taurasi’s return, which she holds alongside her free agent acquisition of Skylar Diggins-Smith in 2020, bodes well for Mercury’s future. Diggins-Smith electrified fans last season with a game-winning summer beater against the Connecticut Sun after Phoenix pulled out a double-digit lead.
“When they play well, we play well, and that’s what you need from your best players,” said Mercury manager Sandy Brondello during a post-game media session in September of their Taurasi-Diggins-Smith duo.
But the chemistry is still building up, as evidenced in the 2020 playoffs when Phoenix lost to the Minnesota Lynx (80-79) despite having possession in the waning seconds of the game.
Chelsea Gray to the Las Vegas Aces
Gray’s move from the Sparks to Las Vegas began last off-season. As a restricted free agent, Gray wanted to test the water. As a native of California, she knew that being close to family was one of her priorities. So if she didn’t want to stay in Los Angeles long-term, Las Vegas was the next best option. The media company Uninterrupted released a video on Monday documenting Gray’s trip to Vegas in the last off-season. The 25-minute video showed Gray and the Sparks drafting a one-year contract for the 2020 season so that she would be eligible for the maximum contract in 2021 under the new collective agreement.
The video ended with the announcement that this time Gray had signed a deal with the Las Vegas Aces. Despite intensive playoff runs in 2019 and 2020, the aces lacked experience in the guard position. Gray has shown himself to be more than capable as a floor general for a team with front-court talent.
In place of Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, who were the Sparks’ central players, Gray will now facilitate an offensive with A’ja Wilson, the reigning MVP, and Liz Cambage, who is expected to be back this season, having recently received a medical dispute has year because of the pandemic.