A play in five acts
Two days ago at 1:21 pm Rachel Galligan of Winsidr reported that one-time All-Star Kia Nurse was being traded from the New York Liberty along with second-year player Megan Walker for the 6th overall pick and a 2022 first rounder.
In the 45 minutes that followed, absolute anarchy ensued.
Don’t get me wrong, an established veteran like Nurse being traded for a top pick is almost enough capital to be considered a blockbuster in it’s own right. But no one was expecting it to be left in the dust by the trades that followed.
The Seattle Storm were part of the next four transactions that left WNBA fans spinning as they tried to keep track of what players and picks went were, but luckily the Storm social media pages broke down their side of the story for us.
It started with Seattle sending 2019 All-Star Natasha Howard to the Liberty for the first overall pick in this year’s draft, the sixth overall pick that they had just gotten from Phoenix, and a 2022 second-rounder. Wow.
In Breanna Stewart’s absence in 2019, Howard proved she could lead a team as a number one option. While her volume statistics took a hit last season, her efficiency from both inside the paint and behind the arc continued to increase. By making the trade, the Liberty are putting a lot of pressure on Howard to be the future of the team alongside Sabrina Ionescu, while subsequently suggesting they do not value this year’s draft class as much as previous ones, a common theme we will come back to.
The Storm were just getting started, and immediately sent the sixth pick to the Lynx for second-year player Mikiah Herbert Harrigan. For those counting, that is now four different teams that have held this draft pick on one hour, one third of the league. It is also the same number with which Harrigan was drafted last season. She only saw 11 minutes of court time per game in a crowded Minnesota frontcourt, but still has a promising future in Seattle where she will look to partly fill the role that Howard left.
For a few minutes it looked like the reigning champs would have the #1 pick in the draft, a rare feat in any major sport. Right on cue, the Storm made another trade, sending the pick to the Dallas Wings for Katie Lou Samuelson and a second rounder next year.
At first glance, this appears to be a steal for Dallas, as Samuelson’s production is nowhere near the value of the average number one overall pick. However, there are a few extra factors in play. One, is that Katie Lou has been balling out in Europe, averaging over 20 points on the current season. Could this be indicative of poor usage from a coaching stand point thus far in her career? If there is anywhere she could breakout, it would be Seattle, where she reunites with other UConn alumna.
But what about this number one pick? Sure, the top of this class is not as star-studded as normal, with two top players in Rhyne Howard and Charli Collier not even guaranteed to enter as they are just juniors. Even so, is there a chance that WNBA front offices are getting word of other draft prospects deciding to use the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA is offering them?
The final piece of the deal was the Storm trading Sami Whitcomb to the New York Liberty for Stephanie Talbot. Both players are coming off of their best seasons yet in the WNBA, and this trade seemed to be more salary cap related while also improving the structure of each team.
So who won the trade(s)? As I am sure you have already forgotten, the Phoenix Mercury got an all-star caliber player for a mid-first round draft pick in a year that draft capital is clearly being viewed as a less valuable commodity. Pairing Kia Nurse with the three-headed monster already in Phoenix and they should me more competitive than in 2020.
Both the Storm and Liberty are taking risks, putting their hopes in players that will need to do more on their new team in order for the trades to be worthwhile.
Flying under the radar is the fact that Dallas now has the top two picks in this year’s draft, as well as picks 5 and 7. It is hard to imagine that they will make all of these selections for themselves, so more trades could be on the way. Whatever ends up happening in April, it is set to be one of the most uncertain drafts in WNBA history.