On the ways Dallas got better, and moved on
No, there’s no guarantee that Moriah Jefferson will play in 2019, Dallas Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb told High Post Hoops in a phone interview following the busiest day of his offseason. That doesn’t mean he’s unhappy by the return he got in the long-awaited deal of Liz Cambage on Thursday.
“We’re thrilled with the deal that we were able to do,” Bibb said. “Moriah and Isabelle were the two players we identified when we started this process back in January.”
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Bibb and the Aces had engaged in talks, but Las Vegas pulled out once Cambage told the Wings she was only willing to go to the Los Angeles Sparks, a circumstance Bibb said held until last weekend.
Once that changed, though, the framework of the deal the two sides had back in January — Jefferson, Harrison and the number one overall pick — had shifted. So it was about finding a workable equivalent, and ultimately, four assets for a player who had indicated she no longer wanted to play in Dallas was acceptable to Bibb.
Bibb said that Jefferson, the second overall pick in 2016, has “an all star ceiling”, while cautioning those who have forgotten about Harrison’s stellar 2017 season to see the way she fits in as an athletic big in Brian Agler’s defensive scheme.
“Our league is full of unbelievably talented players,” Bibb said. “Because of that, if someone doesn’t play for a short amount of time, it’s very easy to forget about them, and I think that’s the case with Isabelle. She didn’t play last summer, but prior to last summer she was an extremely effective player. She fits with what we’re trying to build here. She is an athletic post who is primary position, I would say, is the four but can give you minutes at the five.”
Another player who can give Dallas minutes at the five is McGee-Stafford, a longtime target of Bibb’s who provides upside as well.
“Imani is a five with size, a rim protector who is athletic and I think fits nicely with what Coach Agler is trying to build, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Bibb said.
It’s worth noting that all three are on their rookie deals still. McGee-Stafford and Jefferson are in the fourth option year of that deal, and Dallas will have the right to retain them by matching any restricted free agency offers that come their way next summer. Jefferson, if she didn’t play in 2019, would not be a free agent yet, having only accumulated three years of service. Harrison, because she’s only played two seasons in the league, would be a reserved player next summer, and wouldn’t be eligible for free agency until 2021. (Of course, this is all predicated on the last collective bargaining agreement.)
Still, in all three cases, the Wings added players eager to play in Dallas, who should be entering their primes, along with two draft picks. Jefferson and Bibb have had multiple conversations, Bibb said, and it is Bibb’s expectation that Jefferson’s decision to sit out in 2019 or not will be made by next Thursday, May 23, the roster deadline for WNBA teams to get down to 12 players.
“She’s excited to be part of the Dallas Wings organization,” Bibb said. “And we are equally excited to have her in a Wings uniform, whether that be this year or next.”
Meanwhile, McGee-Stafford and Harrison are busy making arrangements to get to Dallas. Bibb said he expects to have them both in uniform on Sunday, when the Wings face Indiana in a preseason game.
After all the twists and turns, I asked Bibb, did he have any regrets? Anything he’d have done differently, or wished others had? He gave a long sigh.
“I think it’s better to focus on the now and then go forward rather than the past,” Bibb said. “The process was the process. It played out the way it played out at the end of the day. We ended up with two players that we had targeted this year at the beginning of this sequence of events and they’re now part of the Dallas Wings’ organization. And for that I’m very excited.”
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