Elizabeth Williams signs contract extension with Atlanta Dream

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 26: Elizabeth Williams
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 26: Elizabeth Williams /

The Atlanta Dream have inked 2017 WNBA All-Star center Elizabeth Williams to a multi-year extension. The Dream announced the move Tuesday in a team release.

“I am really thankful for the Atlanta Dream organization,” Williams said. “They took a chance on me after my rookie year and I’ve had the chance to grow on and off the court ever since. I am really looking forward to building a great culture with this team and in doing so, help bring a championship to Atlanta.”

The Connecticut Sun drafted Williams out of Duke with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft. She averaged 11.7 minutes in 21 games as a rookie with the Sun.

The Dream acquired Williams at the start of the 2016 offseason in exchange for the fourth overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft. The Sun used that pick to select Minnesota guard Rachel Banham, who is still with the franchise.

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“We are so thrilled to sign Elizabeth Williams to a multi-year contract extension,” Dream head coach Nicki Collen said. “Elizabeth’s game has grown each year in this league and her ability to play at both ends of the floor effectively is a key to success here in Atlanta.”

Williams was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player following her performance in the 2016 season. After coming off the bench all season with the Sun in 2015, she started all 34 regular season games in her second pro season, averaging 11.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in nearly 35 minutes per game.

The Dream advanced to the second round of the 2016 playoffs. Williams had nine points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in 38 minutes in the team’s first round single elimination victory over the Seattle Storm. Atlanta fell to Chicago in round two, where Williams went for 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 39 minutes.

“Elizabeth is an excellent shot blocker and rebounder at the defensive end of the floor which allows us to get into transition more quickly,” Collen added. “Offensively she runs the floor so well and is a consistent threat on the offensive boards.  This season we will utilize her in a lot more screening actions because her separation skills are so good.”

ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 11: Elizabeth Williams
ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 11: Elizabeth Williams /

Much remains to be seen for this iteration of the Dream. Collen is a first year head coach, arriving in the offseason after serving as an assistant with the Connecticut Sun last season. Perennial All-WNBA performer Angel McCoughtry will return in 2018 after taking the 2017 WNBA season off to rest.

Williams, Layshia Clarendon and Tiffany Hayes did emerge as All-Stars in 2017 as they were required to carry more of the offense in McCoughtry’s absence. Rookie guard Brittney Sykes emerged late in the regular season as an immediate two-way contributor.

The Dream made two of the biggest splashes in free agency, signing unrestricted free agents Renee Montgomery and Jessica Breland. Breland projects to open up the offense for Atlanta with her jump shooting, and will complement Williams as a steady, versatile defensive presence inside.

Williams has impressed in her two seasons in Atlanta with the large minutes load she’s been able to handle. She’ll have more help at the center position behind her in Imani McGee-Stafford, who was acquired last season from the Chicago Sky. Depth will be even more important to WNBA teams this season as they navigate a compressed regular season schedule.

One would be hard-pressed to critique Atlanta’s offseason. The only negative: They do not have a first round pick. Chicago holds Atlanta’s 2018 first rounder as a result of the trade that sent McGee-Stafford and veteran wing Tamera Young to Atlanta. (Note: that trade was executed by the previous regime. Chris Sienko was named general manager of the Dream back in November.)

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Barring a trade, Atlanta won’t be heard from on draft day until the second round, where our own Howard Megdal projects them to select Marie Gulich in his latest WNBA Draft Big Board.