Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Who is the best WNBA player available in free agency this season?

As the 2023 schedule begins, it’s time to start thinking about WNBA free agency. Later this month, players and teams can start negotiating contracts, which can be officially signed from February 1.

While this year’s free agent class isn’t as top-heavy as last year’s, including the two most recent MVPs (Jonkel Jones and Eja Wilson), it is a star-studded group with six members of the WNBA25 roster. player in league history.

Notably, forward Breanna Stewart stands as a former MVP in his prime and likely to be an unrestricted free agent for the second year in a row. With teammate Sue Bird retiring, could Stewart leave the Seattle Storm this time around?

Unsurprisingly, Stewart tops my 2023 projections in wins above replacement player (WARP), my metric of a player’s value based on a player’s performance over the past three seasons and at age.

Who else completes the Top 15 WNBA players available in free agency this offseason? let’s take a look.

(Note: Players are unrestricted free agents unless otherwise noted. Free agent rankings courtesy of HerHoopStats.com.)


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1. Breanna Stewart

seattle storm
Healthy
Age as on 1st February:
28
Projected Warp: 5.7

After reuniting with the New York Liberty last offseason before returning to the Storm on a one-year deal, Breanna Stewart is back in free agency. Because the Storm used the center designation on teammate Jewell Loyd and re-signed him to a two-year contract last season, they do not have Stewart available to use while Loyd remains on the roster. So Stewart is likely to go undrafted after a season in which she led the WNBA in scoring for the first time with 21.8 PPG and finished second in MVP voting for the second time in three years.


3058895

2. Breonna Jones

Connecticut Sun
Center
Age as on 1st February:
27
Projected Warp: 3.5

As a two-time All-Star, Breonna Jones still doesn’t have the resume of some of the more experienced free agents in this class. However, at 27, she is in the midst of her prime and could play a big role after winning her sixth Player of the Year award coming off the bench behind Connecticut stars Jonkel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. According to Richard Cohen’s analysis for HerHoopStats, pending a trade, the Suns currently can’t even afford to pay Jones the regular max salary that other teams can offer.


812

3. Candace Parker

chicago sky
wing / center
Age as on 1st February:
36
Projected Warp: 3.1

Candace Parker’s two seasons in Chicago resulted in a league-best 2022 regular season record combined with the franchise’s first title in 2021 and an appearance in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals. So even as Parker prepares for her 16th WNBA season, she remains a winning force. Parker’s versatile skill set has translated well into a smaller role where she is no longer the go-to scorer on offense, but a playing center within a balanced offense.


981

4. Courtney Vandersloot

chicago sky
shooting guard
Age as on 1st February:
33
Projected Warp: 3.0

Due to Parker’s presence and a lighter minutes load, Courtney Vanderloot saw her streak of five assists per game in the WNBA come to an end. However, on a per-minute basis, Vandersloot was still the best in the league, averaging 8.0 assists per game in the four games left by Parker. Remarkably, Vanderloot embraced the highest scoring at age 33, racking up a career-high 15.9 points per 36 minutes.


2490553

5. Brittany Griner

Phoenix Mercury
Center
Age as on 1st February:
32
Projected Warp: 3.0

There’s no precedent for predicting how Brittany Griner might play after spending nearly 10 months in custody in Russia. This is also a secondary concern compared to the fact that Griner is free and has indicated that he plans to return to the Mercury in 2023 as an unrestricted free agent.


3913903

6. Taylor McCowan

dallas wings
Center
Age as on 1st February:
26
forbidden
Projected Warp:
2.9

Through three seasons with the Indiana Fever and her first half season with the Wings, Terra McCowan had shown flashes of dominance in the paint that never translated into consistent elite play. It came in the second half of 2022, when McCowan averaged 17.7 PPG on 61% shooting and 10.5 RPG after the All-Star break, when Dallas went 7–4 despite playing without Eric Ogunbowale for an extended stretch. It will be interesting to see if McCowan gets an offer sheet from another team as a restricted free agent in a crowded market.


3027368

7. Emma Meesman

chicago sky
Healthy
Age as on 1st February:
29
Projected Warp: 2.8

After sitting out the 2021 campaign due to the Tokyo Olympics, Emma Meisman returned as the same all-around contributor she was with the Washington Mystics, making a second All-Star appearance and shooting 57%, the best of her career. was the highest. Field. Since Meesman won’t turn 30 until a week before opening night, he should have several high-profile performances left in the season.


918

8. Tina Charles

seattle storm
Center forward
Age as on 1st February:
34
Projected Warp: 2.2

Due to Tina Charles’ elite play in 2021, when she led the WNBA in scoring with 23.4 points per game for the Mystics and earned second-team All-WNBA honors, she is slated to return after sitting out the middle of the 2022 campaign. planned. Mercury season. Charles accepted a minor role with the Storm, initially coming off the bench for the first time in his career, helping Seattle fill in for injured center Mercedes Russell.


1068

9. Nneka Ogwumike

los angeles sparks
Healthy
Age as on 1st February:
32
Projected Warp: 2.2

Nneka Ogwumike’s modest performance is one of the most surprising in this year’s group. She has posted at least 2.5 WARP in each of the last three seasons, including 4.3 last season, when she earned Second Team All-WNBA honors for the first time since 2019. With Ogwumike now over 30, some decline is expected, but perhaps more slowly than this projection would suggest.


4420318

10. Good Magbegor

seattle storm
Center forward
Age as on 1st February:
23
safe
Projected Warp:
2.1

As a full-time starter for the first time starting in 2022, Izzy Magbegor averaged 11.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, leading the league in that role before the All-Star break, finishing 22nd Seemed like a star to reach. Magbegor was not as effective in the reserve role behind Charles after the break, as his shooting percentage dropped from 56% to 51% and productivity per minute dropped. This is likely just a bump in the way, as Magbegor has a bright future. Because Magbegor did not make it to the WNBA immediately after being drafted in 2019, she could only be traded to the Storm as a reserve free agent.


4337216

11. Han Tzu

new york liberty
Center
Age as on 1st February:
23
safe
Projected Warp:
1.9

The tallest player in the WNBA at 6-foot-10, Han Xu turned that size into huge productivity at age 22 in her second WNBA season. During 36 minutes, Han averaged 18.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Like Magbegor, Han does not have the required four years of service to become a restricted free agent (he has only played two) and would only be able to be traded to Liberty.


3904576

12. Marina Mabrey

dallas wings
shooting guard
Age as on 1st February:
26
forbidden
Projected Warp:
1.9

With a career-high 32 starts last season, Marina Mabrey has established herself as a quality contributor in that role. His 13.6 points and 3.7 assists per game were career highs in 2022. At 26, Mabrey is at his peak. Given the dearth of ball handlers in free agency, the market for Mabry could be tight, as we saw in HerHoopStats’ offseason drill.


3142010

13. Azura Stevens

chicago sky
wing / center
Age as on 1st February:
27
Projected Warp: 1.8

As part of a deep front for Chicago, Azura Stevens has averaged more than 22 minutes per game only once in her career as a full-time starter in 2020 before Parker joined the Sky. Stevens averaged a career-high 17.4 points per 36 minutes last season, suggesting he could thrive in a bigger role in the prime of his career.


585

14. Diana Taurasi

Phoenix Mercury
shooting guard
Age as on 1st February:
40
Projected Warp: 1.7

Diana Taurasi told a local television station in November that she plans to return for the 19th WNBA season, during which she will turn 41. Taurasi has not been as consistent on the court in the later stages of his career, and his defensive impact has diminished, but he remains one of the league’s leading scorers.


924

15. Alisha Clarke

washington mystic
Healthy
Age as on 1st February:
35
Projected Warp: 1.6

Returning from an injury that sidelined Lisfranc for her 2021 WNBA campaign, Alysha Clark dropped to 30% from the arc after shooting 38% in nine seasons in Seattle, but made up for it by shooting 63% of the ball. Your 2 point effort. An accomplished role player, Clark was a factor in the Mystics leading the league in defensive rating.

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