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WNBA free agency 2023: Biggest winners and losers

The Liberty added Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Jonquel Jones to a roster that includes Sabrina Ionescu. (Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

Now that the dust has settled on WNBA free agency, it’s time to dig into how teams did before the draft takes place in April and the regular season tips off a month later.

The 2023 free-agency period brought fireworks, with some of the league’s biggest stars transferring markets and creating WNBA superteams in the process. Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot joined Jonquel Jones in New York, and Candace Parker made the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces even more dangerous (though the Aces organization is under investigation both for its treatment of Dearica Hamby and reportedly for circumventing the salary cap). Other teams retooled through trades and signings, trying to keep up with the two frontrunners.

Which teams won and lost free agency? Our team of WNBA experts — Rachel Galligan, Lyndsey D’Arcangelo and Eden Laase — debate and hand out final grades below.

Biggest winners

Rachel Galligan: New York Liberty

The Liberty won free agency, and it’s not even close. Owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai laid out a vision for the franchise when they acquired it in 2019, and that plan kicked into high gear this offseason. New York secured top free agents Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot to add to their arsenal of talent, which includes newly acquired MVP forward Jonquel Jones.

There was also the four-team trade involving Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix and New York, which ended up being a low-key victory for the Liberty. New York acquired the rights to Leonie Fiebich and a 2025 first-round pick swap from Phoenix. With the Mercury’s post-Diana Taurasi future in question, that pick could end up as a lottery selection.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo: New York Liberty

The Liberty set the bar this offseason, no question. They not only acquired the top players on their wish list in Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot, but they also handled themselves professionally and transparently throughout the entire process. New York has clearly demonstrated its position as a player-first organization that is investing in both the franchise and the league’s future.

Eden Laase: New York Liberty

The player that put the Liberty’s offseason over the top for me was Vandersloot. Once they acquired Jones and signed Stewart, the team’s only potential weakness was the lack of a true point guard, since Sabrina Ionescu plays better off the ball. They solved that problem with perhaps the best pass-first point guard in the league.

In 2022, the Lynx had their worst season under Cheryl Reeve since 2010. (Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Biggest disappointment

Galligan: Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm

The Lynx were unable to sign any top free agents despite reports that they were in the mix. Minnesota’s last three free agencies have been below average, and now they have a number of heavy contracts limiting their cap space. Essentially, Minnesota appears to be trying to run it back with the same core roster but without Sylvia Fowles, who retired after last season. Tiffany Mitchell and Lindsay Allen were the Lynx’s biggest pick-ups alongside Damiris Dantas and Nikolina Milić re-signing. With the way the roster is currently constructed, I don’t see the needle moving much in Minnesota.

Seattle added Kia Nurse, retained Ezi Magbegor and lost one of the best players in the world to New York in free agency. The Storm got nothing in return for Brenna Stewart because of their decision not to core her last year. They have no point guard after the retirement of Sue Bird (for which there had been plenty of time to prepare), and unless they make some late additions, this team could be in trouble of falling out of contention.

Silver lining for both? If there is a year to wind up in the draft lottery, 2024 is the time to do it.

D’Arcangelo: Chicago Sky, Seattle Storm

Both the Sky and the Storm knew their big stars might not stay and didn’t seem to have good back-up plans in place. The Sky’s roster has been completely dismantled and yet, in their recent trade for Marina Mabrey, they gave away a handful of future (and much-needed) draft picks. The Storm have no true point guard on the roster, even when they knew Sue Bird wasn’t coming back. They essentially threw all of their eggs in the Courtney Vandersloot basket and came up empty.

Laase: Chicago Sky

Losing Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and rising star Azurá Stevens in free agency was a big blow to the 2021 WNBA champions. They have a franchise player to build around in Kahleah Copper, but none of their signings or acquisitions thus far have put this team over the edge. It seems like the organization is signing whichever players it can instead of building a team.

Los Angeles has quietly had a strong free agency, signing Azurá Stevens and trading for Dearica Hamby. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Biggest surprise

Galligan: Dallas Wings

The Wings’ overall roster movement this offseason was unexpected. I anticipated Marina Mabrey to return and did not expect Diamond DeShields to be on the move, let alone end up in Dallas. The Wings are clearly making a long-term investment in fifth-year center Teaira McCowan, which is understandable given her production, but there are no guarantees for how this team gels together on the floor under new head coach Latricia Trammell. Dallas continues to hoard draft picks, including three first-round selections in this year’s draft.

D’Arcangelo: Los Angeles Sparks

In his introductory press conference, new Sparks head coach Curt Miller talked about his excitement and anticipation for free agency. After leaving Connecticut for Los Angeles in October, he was ready to make some moves. Acquiring Jasmine Thomas and Dearica Hamby showed he meant it. But luring Azurá Stevens out of Chicago and away from other teams was downright impressive.

Laase: Los Angeles Sparks

All eyes have been on the Liberty and the Aces, but Miller is quietly putting together a solid team in Los Angeles. Picking up Hamby, Thomas and Stevens, and then re-signing both Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, are all wins for the new coach. The Sparks are heading in the right direction after two straight losing seasons.

Best signing or acquisition

Galligan: Azurá Stevens (Chicago Sky)

New York’s Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot signings are the easy choice, but I’m going to go with Azurá Stevens to Los Angeles. Given the free-agency market this year, Stevens was highly sought after, with half of the teams in the league making a play to recruit her. It’s a positive sign that Los Angeles was able to attract a free agent of Stevens’ caliber this early on in their rebuild under new general manager Karen Bryant and coach Curt Miller. Stevens gives the Sparks a unique weapon and a great complement to Nneka Ogwumike.

D’Arcangelo: Candace Parker (Las Vegas Aces), Allisha Gray (Atlanta Dream)

Candace Parker is a huge get for the Aces, who are the favorites to repeat as WNBA champions outside of New York. Aside from Stewart and Vandersloot, Parker was the biggest signing in free agency and makes Las Vegas even more talented than they already were. But I have to give Atlanta credit as well. Allisha Gray, whom the Dream acquired in a trade with Dallas last month, is an undervalued player with a huge upside. Don’t sleep on a Gray/Rhyne Howard backcourt.

Laase: Jonquel Jones (New York Liberty)

This signing was especially critical because it sent all the other offseason moves in motion. Jones made New York an even more desirable location for Stewart and Vandersloot and likely played a part in Parker signing with the Aces, who give her the best shot at a title this season when competing against New York. The Liberty set off an era of superteams in the WNBA when they traded for Jones.

James Wade has chosen to forgo a rebuild despite losing multiple stars in free agency. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Most perplexing move

Galligan: Chicago Sky’s three first round picks and five total picks for Marina Mabrey

The Sky gave up their 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2025 first-round swap rights, 2024 third-round pick and 2025 second-round pick for Marina Mabrey at a time when a host of elite college talent will be coming up through the draft. While there is reason to commend coach James Wade’s desire to win, this trade fleecing is hard to look past. He plans on winning now and retooling his roster through free agency for years to come, a vision that will largely depend on the franchise’s ownership changes and added investment.

We knew Chicago’s championship era would come to an end — with Candace Parker, Allie Quigley, Azurá Stevens and Courtney Vandersloot all walking away this offseason — but the decision to give up future assets in the midst of a complete overhaul is baffling. A move of this magnitude will be scrutinized for years to come.

D’Arcangelo: Chicago Sky, Minnesota Lynx

I’m a big Mabrey fan, but the Sky giving away the farm for a player who has yet to make an All-Star team is mind-boggling. As for the Lynx, it’s the lack of moves for me. They most likely tried to make plays for some big names but were unable to seal the deal, and now they’re left to compete in the league’s new superteam era with just two All-Stars on their roster (Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride).

Laase: Chicago refusing to accept the idea of a rebuild

There is no shame in rebuilding. It’s part of the game, particularly when you lose three starters at the same time, as James Wade and Chicago did. While Wade’s desire to be competitive with the team he has is understandable, his refusal to admit that his squad will need time to develop is puzzling.

Team grades

Atlanta Dream

B — Galligan
B+ — D’Arcangelo
B — Laase

Dallas Wings

A- — Galligan
B+ — D’Arcangelo
A — Laase

Los Angeles Sparks

A — Galligan
A — D’Arcangelo
A — Laase

Phoenix Mercury

B — Galligan
B- — D’Arcangelo
B — Laase

Chicago Sky

C- — Galligan
D — D’Arcangelo
D — Laase

Indiana Fever

B- — Galligan
B- — D’Arcangelo
B — Laase

Minnesota Lynx

F — Galligan
D — D’Arcangelo
D — Laase

Seattle Storm

D — Galligan
D — D’Arcangelo
D — Laase

Connecticut Sun

B+ — Galligan
B — D’Arcangelo
C — Laase

Las Vegas Aces

A — Galligan
A- — D’Arcangelo
A — Laase

New York Liberty

A+ — Galligan
A+ — D’Arcangelo
A+ — Laase

Washington Mystics

B — Galligan
B — D’Arcangelo
B — Laase

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering the WNBA and college basketball. She also contributes to The Athletic and is the co-author of “Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League.” Follow Lyndsey on Twitter @darcangel21.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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