It was the decision we’d all been waiting for … what would this superstar do next?
No, not that superstar. This one. After countless cryptic tweets filled with emojis that some are still trying to decipher, Breanna Stewart sent out just one Wednesday: 🗽. Paired with a picture of the Empire State Building with “Stewie” written in lights, the biggest name in this year’s free-agency cycle—and one of the biggest names in the league, period—made her decision to join the Liberty.
But New York’s splashy day wasn’t the only big thing to happen Wednesday (and we don’t even mean Beyoncé’s tour announcement!). As the ink dries on all the latest moves around the league, here are the winners and losers from the start of WNBA free agency.
STEW YORK CITY, BAYBEE
Barclays Center is going to be rocking this summer. The Nets might squander their potential (again) and the Knicks are … well, they’re the Knicks, but at least one basketball team in the Big Apple (sorry) could go the distance, behind strong play from reserve center Han Xu and perhaps some other semi-notable names. —Julie Kliegman
After a couple of years of turmoil, Los Angeles enters a new regime under Curt Miller, who has what it takes to reignite the spark (ha!) in the franchise. Though he lost Brittney Sykes and longtime veteran Kristi Tolliver, Miller has ushered in a new wave of talent that includes All-Star Jasmine Thomas—who played under Miller in Connecticut—as well as two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby. With the addition of the No. 10 pick in the 2023 WNBA draft, a ’24 first-round draft pick, and the re-signing of Lexie Brown to pair with Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, the Sparks could make some noise this season. —Wilton Jackson
Unicode must’ve had a field day with Breanna Stewart’s cryptic tweets. A thumbtack? Sure. An alien? Why not. A teddy bear? Might as well throw that in, too. The deep cuts really had their time to shine as Stewie made us sweat in the week or so leading up to free-agency signings. But, like, all jokes aside, she’s going to look great in seafoam. Everyone does. —J.K.
Mike Thibault will no longer be on the sidelines coaching the Mystics. But his presence will still be felt in a franchise seeking to get back to its elite WNBA Finals status in 2019. Acquiring Brittney Sykes helps that cause, a player who can score, push the ball in transition and defend along the perimeter for the league’s best defensive-rated team in the ’22 campaign. In the last two seasons, Sykes had led the league in steals. With defense a major priority in Washington, Sykes is a very intriguing addition. —W.J.
2023 is shaping up to be the year of the superteam. Don’t believe me? Just ask Breanna Stewart, who told SportsCenter on Wednesday, “Superteams are the new thing.” With Stewart joining the Liberty’s stacked roster—which includes new signee 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and star guard Sabrina Ionescu—and Candace Parker linking up with an A’ja Wilson–led Aces squad, New York and Las Vegas have created dueling basketball giants. The W is no stranger to dynasties, but superteams are somewhat of a new occurrence—and we can thank the 2020 CBA and expanded free agency for that. Circle June 29 or your calendars, the first meeting between these lauded sides. —Clare Brennan
The Dream are building something exciting, and AD (along with other signee Nia Coffey) will get to keep being a part of it. The promising young guard spent the bulk of last season in Atlanta after getting traded by the Liberty. Before that, they missed two years in their recovery from long COVID. The fact that AD is thriving (40.4% three-point shooting in 25 games between both teams last year) is heartening. —J.K.
Leave it to Tom Brady to try to make it all about him on the first day of WNBA free agency AGAIN. But alas, not even Brady’s second retirement could dampen the news of Stewart’s decision to take the Liberty from a fringe playoff team to a title contender, which had many around the basketball world pumped. That said, someone should probably check in on Kelsey Plum, who not only lost her beloved QB to retirement but also now has some major competition in the world of WNBA superteams. —Kristen Nelson
Minnesota has been very quiet so far this year. Cheryl Reeve, who recently signed a five-year contract extension, will be seeking to restore a Minnesota team that missed both the playoffs and posted its first losing season in 2022 for the first time since ’10, Reeve’s first with the franchise. In fact, the Lynx have posted a 36–32 mark in the last two seasons, which includes a second round playoff departure in ’21. Luckily, Minnesota has the No. 2 and No. 12 picks in the upcoming draft. But I can’t imagine this year’s draft picks will be the only moves or additions made for a longstanding franchise accustomed to success. —W.J.
The Sky said goodbye to two legends less than a week apart in a particularly brutal offseason for Chicago. First, two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker announced she was leaving her hometown after a two-year run to join the reigning WNBA champions Aces. Then, long-time Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot revealed she would not be returning to Chicago after a 12-year tenure with the franchise. Both stars helped the team to its first-ever WNBA title in 2021, leaving a massive hole in the Sky’s roster. However, all hope isn’t lost, with 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper’s presence on Chicago’s lineup cushioning the blow for Sky fans during a very emotional week.—C.B.
The Storm (tentatively)
Courtney Vandersloot, you’re such a tease. Well, someone in your camp probably is, anyway. It was briefly reported Wednesday that the All-Star point guard was headed west, before her agent spread the word that she had not, in fact, decided. The Storm’s roster, at the moment, looks a bit … empty (no shade to Jewell Loyd and Mercedes Russell, who could probably take down a few teams two-on-five). Sloot signing with Seattle would keep them in solid playoff standing, but is it enough to win a ring? Eh. —J.K.