January 15 marked the official start of WNBA free agency. The WNBA released an official list today of core players, reserved players, unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents.
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There are 25 reserved players in the 2018 free agency class. A reserved player is a veteran with three or fewer years of service in the WNBA. In viewing the list, you will see names of players that did not play in the WNBA last season.
The original team has exclusive rights to sign its reserved players. In some ways, the process works similarly to that of restricted free agency. A team has the right to make a reserved qualifying offer prior to February 1.
If the player does not accept that offer, the player remains a reserved player, so long as the team makes a reserved qualifying offer the next year. If a team chooses not to put forth an offer, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Players that (for whatever reason) do not wish to sign a reserved qualifying offer put forth, can in a sense, be trapped in their situation as a reserved player, assuming they wish to play in the WNBA at some point. As long as the team with reserved rights submits an offer each offseason, they will retain their rights on that player.
Let’s transition to some practical examples from this year’s class of players. Rebecca Allen of the New York Liberty was a reserved player last year. Her one year contract has expired. Because she has three or fewer years of service, she is designated as a reserved player once again. The 2018 season will be her fourth WNBA season, so she will not be a reserved player in 2019.
Lindsay Allen of the Liberty is also a reserved player this offseason. She was drafted last year by the Liberty and signed to a one year contract. She then becomes a reserved player as well. The Liberty hold the exclusive right to extend an offer to one or both players.
Cecilia Zandalasini of the Minnesota Lynx and Sami Whitcomb of the Seattle Storm were rookies last season. One would expect both teams will be eager to retain these young promising players.
The Phoenix Mercury hold exclusive rights on six reserved players this offseason. Four of those players were on their roster last season, most notably Yvonne Turner, who earned a starting role late in the season and was a big part of their playoff run. Cayla George, Emma Cannon and Angel Robinson also logged minutes for the Mercury last season.
Kayla Thornton is a reserved player for the Dallas Wings, as is Erica Wheeler for the Indiana Fever. Both were among the top bench players in the WNBA last season. Thornton brought great energy and versatility on the defensive end for the Wings. Wheeler proved to be an explosive scorer, often carrying the Fever offense in the second half of the season as the starting point guard after three season-ending injuries struck the Indiana backcourt.
Other 2018 reserved players that logged time for their WNBA club last season: Adut Bulgak (CHI), Cierra Burdick (LVS), Damiris Dantas (ATL), Bashaara Graves (CHI), Jennifer Hamson (IND), Sequoia Holmes (LVS), Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (NYL) and Asia Taylor (WAS).
Perhaps the most interesting exercise to go through with a list of reserved players is this: Are there any players on this list that you’d love to see hit the unrestricted market? Which player holds the most promise to potentially blossom given a change of scenery?
More WNBA free agency coverage: