According to the current WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams in the league are allowed to sign players to “7-Day Contracts” once the midpoint of the season passes. This year, that time falls on this Sunday, July 14th at 5pm EST. Players on non-guaranteed contracts who aren’t cut by their respective teams by this time will remain on a roster for the rest of the regular season as well as postseason.
Teams are prohibited from issuing a player more than three 7-Day Contracts in a season, making the concept an audition-of-sorts for not only players struggling to secure a year-long roster spot, but for teams as well. This is an optimal opportunity for clubs to scout out exactly what they need from their 12th woman during the home stretch of the season.
Several teams might not even feel the need to engage in these sorts of transactions; several have already dealt with roster turmoil because of players leaving for and recently returning from the overseas Eurobasket tournament. Nonetheless, the seven-day clause in the CBA allows for an intriguing influx of player signings once teams have had a more prolonged chance to establish their identities and evaluate their needs.
For every team in the WNBA, I identify players currently on each roster that may be at risk of having their non-guaranteed contract terminated before Sunday’s deadline, and those who might serve as ideal replacements if waived players aren’t entered into the seven-day cycle.
The Dream have played to a disappointing first half — Angel McCoughtry hasn’t seen one minute of action this season and Atlanta has stumbled to a 4-10 record going into Friday’s game against Minnesota.
Haley Peters is likely the woman on the chopping block for Coach Nicki Collen’s team. While McCoughtry is technically the player on the roster with the least playing time, she’s the cornerstone of a franchise that’s committed to her — “We’re supportive of Angel, regardless of whether she can return to play this year or she can’t,” Collen has said. Peters, who has spent time with the then-San Antonio Stars (now Las Vegas Aces), Washington Mystics, and now the Dream, is averaging just 6.6 minutes and scoring less than one point per game.
Atlanta, who is unlikely to be much of an aggressive pursuer of superior talent during the coming months, might elect to resign Peters to a 7-Day Contract. If the Dream don’t get McCoughtry back for the rest of the year and they continue to underperform, Peters could see valuable minutes to develop her confidence and perhaps audition for a stable roster spot somewhere next year.
The Sky’s 7-8 first half can be characterized as inconsistent, both individually and collectively. Diamond DeShields, for example, is shooting just 36% from the field this year after a solid rookie campaign (43% FG) last summer. Chicago won four straight games in June, only to drop four in a row later that month and into the beginning of July. The Sky only have two double-figure scorers on the year; Coach James Wade is struggling to find reliable production from multiple scorers.
That being said, Chloe Jackson, the rookie from National Champion Baylor, is the most likely player to have her non-guaranteed contract terminated before Sunday. Katie Lou Samuelson, a fellow rookie, has been injured for a majority of the year, Jamierra Faulkner is still rehabbing her torn ACL from last July, and Astou Ndour was off at Eurobasket winning the tournament MVP award. While Jackson also spent time with an ankle injury last month, she’s hasn’t seen action since June 30th.
If Chicago begins to string wins together and remain among the top half of the standings, it might opt to sign a player such as Tiffany Bias to a 7-Day Contract. Bias was cut by the New York Liberty on July 8th due to Eurobasket returnees, but she brings championship experience — she won a title with Phoenix in 2014 — to a roster severely lacking it. Although, it’s reasonable that the Sky would want to retain Jackson as a piece to develop for the future when she’s fully healthy.
Perhaps no WNBA team had experienced more of a Jekyll and Hyde first half than the Sun — a 9-1 start and an eruption out of the gate by Jonquel Jones made Connecticut early title contenders. They’ve since lost five straight, punctuated by a 43-point thrashing in Washington, DC, and Jones has shot just 4-22 in her past two games.
Natisha Hiedeman made her case to stick around the Sun’s roster with her performance during Wednesday’s loss to the Dream, scoring 10 points of 4-5 shooting in 19 minutes. If her contract that she signed on July 3rd, after second-round draft pick Bridget Carlton was waived, isn’t guaranteed after Sunday, Connecticut might opt to see what they’ve got in the rookie from Marquette through one or more 7-Day Contracts.
The Wings, as I wrote in an earlier piece, are in the midst of a season dedicated to transition and developing Arike Ogunbowale, who has started eight of 13 games played and led the team in scoring while Skylar Diggins-Smith inches back to action after her pregnancy. If wins come along the way as well, Coach Brian Agler wouldn’t be upset.
One major storyline of the Wings’ season has been the cutting and subsequent resigning of rookie Megan Gustafson, the decorated rookie out of Iowa who led the NCAA in scoring during the 2018-2019 season. Though Gustafson has performed admirably and efficiently when called upon, having made 10 of 17 shots on the year, she logged just two minutes in a loss to Chicago on Sunday and didn’t play at all against L.A. on Tuesday.
This is Dallas’ player to track as 5pm EST on Sunday approaches. With Glory Johnson having returned from EuroBasket and already making an impact — she played 27 minutes against LA and scored 14 points — the Wings will likely consider cutting Gustafson and keeping her on the roster on a 7-Day basis.
While the Fever are just 6-10, they’ve already matched their win total from last year’s disastrous 6-28 record. They also sit just two games out of the sixth spot in the standings, so they undoubtedly have much to be playing for approaching the second half of the season.
Erica Wheeler has had an outstanding year — she’s averaging 12.1 points, shooting 39% from three-point range and is currently tied for second in the league, dishing 5.9 assists per game. With Tiffany Mitchell backing Wheeler up off the bench, the Fever have discovered a solid 1-2 point guard punch. That being said, Paris Kea, the 5-9 guard and third-round pick out of North Carolina, appears to be the most disposable player on the roster.
A player that comes to mind that might be able to provide wing depth for the Fever would be Anriel Howard, the rookie from Mississippi State. The 5-11 forward can step out and shoot three-point shots, and her scoring and overall efficiency was impressive during her senior year at MSU (16.4 points per game on 51% shooting). Howard was cut by Seattle on June 5, but she could claim at least one 7-Day Contract somewhere around the league, if not with Indiana.
Las Vegas Aces
After a rocky first 11 games, the Aces are starting to live up to the championship expectations placed upon them after they acquired Liz Cambage in the offseason, having won four in a row highlighted by a 32-point throttling of New York on Sunday. For the moment, they’ve obtained control of first place in the standings at 10-5.
The Aces aren’t likely to cut anybody before Sunday’s deadline — they’ve spent the entire regular season with an 11-woman roster. The Aces’ recent stretch of success reflects that they’re content with the current state of their team, but if there was one player who Laimbeer and the front office might consider lending the final roster spot, it’s Avery Warley-Talbert. Warley-Talbert was signed and cut by the Liberty through the hardship exception while Amanda Zahui B. was playing at EuroBasket. She’s familiar with Laimbeer, having spent time with his Liberty teams from 2014-2016, and would likely compete for JiSu Park‘s already-limited minutes on the outskirts of the rotation.
Los Angeles Sparks
Before Tuesday’s setback in Dallas that included an injury to Candace Parker — she is now day-to-day — the Sparks had won three straight following four consecutive losses. They check in at 7-7 and apart of the cluster between #3 Sun and the #9 Liberty, who are separated by just two games in the standings.
The Sparks are working through a couple of lingering injuries at the moment: Alexis Jones has a knee sprain, and Maria Vadeeva injured her knee as well during the EuroBasket tournament. Neither of the two are expected to be waived before Sunday’s deadline, as Vadeeva was the Sparks’ first-round pick in 2018 and scored 24 points in a head-turning performance on opening night in Las Vegas (the only WNBA game she’s played this year), while the team traded away Odyssey Sims to obtain Jones this past offseason. Even Marina Mabrey, this year’s second-round pick from Notre Dame, has seen plenty of court action in her rookie season (14.4 minutes per game) and should be retained at least for the remainder of this season. Don’t expect any significant roster moves out of Los Angeles this weekend.
The 9-6 Lynx have been impressive of late, pulling off three straight wins including two narrow victories in challenging road environments in Connecticut and Chicago. Odyssey Sims has averaged her highest minute and point per game totals since her rookie year with the Tulsa Shock.
The Lynx recently signed Asia Taylor and Kenisha Bell after injuries to both Karima Christmas-Kelly and Damiris Dantas. While both of these players are at risk for having their contracts terminated before Sunday’s deadline, Taylor is more likely to stick around. She already played 22 games for Minnesota in 2014 before making stops with various other teams throughout the next few years. She had a strong game against the Sky on Wednesday, posting 13 points in the win over the Sky on Wednesday. Bell, conversely, was the Lynx’ third-round pick this year and has played one total minute in the WNBA.
Taylor, at 6’1″ can compensate for Dantas’ missing 6’3″ frame slightly better than Bell can, at 5’10”. Bell, however, was a prolific scorer at Minnesota — 19 points per game in her senior season— and might pleasantly surprise many with her offensive capabilities if given sufficient chances. I expect one or both to be offered 7-Day Contract(s) if they’re cut in the coming days.
New York Liberty
An 0-4 start for a team that finished 2018 with 13 consecutive losses wasn’t encouraging, but the Liberty have navigated early troubles to a 7-8 record and a tie for the final playoff spot entering Friday’s game in Chicago.
New York has seen plenty of roster movement during the first half of the season — four players were temporarily absent from the team to compete in EuroBasket — but has seemed to finally round out its 12-woman team it will use to propel a second-half playoff push. Katie Smith will have the services of returnees Amanda Zahui B., Bria Hartley, as well as newcomer Marine Johannès at her disposal. Though Han Xu hasn’t played extensively, Katie Smith has reiterated her commitment to the Chinese rookie’s development — “…Every day Han gets better and she just continues to grow,” Smith has said. Johannes needs time to be evaluated in a talent pool accompanied by the world’s best — she is also a long-term project.
After many have already departed and returned throughout the first couple months of the season, I don’t see any midpoint deadline action coming from the Liberty.
Diana Taurasi has returned and should provide a refreshingly consistent offensive presence to a team that ranks ninth in the league in scoring. Without Taurasi, Phoenix has managed a 7-6 record through 13 games also defined by unpredictability — a 15-point loss to Dallas preceded a 10-point win over LA, for example.
Without Taurasi, Phoenix has heavily leaned on their former MVP and 6’8″ anchor in the paint, Brittney Griner. With Griner averaging a career-high 35 minutes per game this year, there hasn’t been much of a window for the 6’3″ Brianna Turner, the rookie from Notre Dame, to get meaningful playing time for Coach Sandy Brondello. Turner has averaged just 2.9 points in nine appearances, and seems destined to have her contract terminated before it turns guaranteed on Sunday.
If they so choose, the Mercury could bring back Turner with one or more 7-Day Contracts. With Taurasi, I expect Phoenix to commit itself towards distinguishing itself among the top of the standings; they’re unlikely to lend much game time to young player development, so Turner might not see much time on the court this year.
Although Sue Bird remains on the roster (Breanna Stewart was removed for the year after tearing her achilles overseas), she’s expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2019 season. Seattle has simply been unfortunate this year — not simply with injuries, but who’s getting injured. Jewell Loyd, the team’s second-leading scorer, suffered a bone bruise (among other setbacks) in late June, but is expected to return to the court in the near future.
It’d be reasonable to assume that despite the Storm lacking depth at the guard position, they will waive the 5’10” Blake Dietrick, who has scored one total point on the season in seven games played. While they could opt to retain Dietrick part-time the Storm should consider signing Saniya Chong, the UConn product who was cut by Dallas after five games last season, and by the Aces this May.
Chong played multiple seasons in college with Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, both of which currently with Seattle. Chong averaged 11 minutes per game during her rookie season, scoring 2.7 points per game, but could compensate in an area where the Storm are severely lacking — three-point shooting. Seattle ranks 11th in the league, converting long-range attempts at a 30.1% clip; Chong sported a 40% three-point percentage during her senior season at Connecticut. A Chong-for-Dietrick swap is a chance the Seattle should take, especially with a 7-Day Contract.
The Mystics were 9-3 before an in-game injury to Elena Delle Donne‘s nose caused her to miss the remainder of Sunday’s loss to the Sparks. Delle Donne-less Washington followed up their 17-point defensive letdown in Los Angeles (allowing 98 points) with a 23-point loss to the Mercury, and all of a sudden appears vulnerable to teams trailing in the standings.
Rookie Kiara Leslie has yet to play in a game after, as HPH reported in May, she underwent surgery for a meniscus injury in her right knee. She’s still on the roster, and appears to be most suited to head for the 7-Day cycle. Her recovery timetable places her at a mid-August professional debut, at a point in the season when all teams are determined to secure optimal playoff positioning. Being a first-round pick, along with the Mystics’ commitment to her remaining on the roster despite her injury, means that Washington will almost certainly offer her these temporary contracts and stable possession of the 12th roster spot should she be cut by Sunday afternoon.
*all team records and standings as of 7/12/2019
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