The 2018 Seattle Storm surprised expert analysts and fans alike as they dominated the regular season on their way to winning their third WNBA championship in franchise history. Seattle is built to win now and for the foreseeable future with a young core that includes league MVP Breanna Stewart, Most Improved Player of the Year Natasha Howard, All-Star guard Jewell Loyd, and last year’s 5th overall draft pick Jordin Canada. Legendary point guard Sue Bird will return for her 17th season. The Storm are expected to bring back their entire starting lineup from their championship season with defensive ace Alysha Clark rounding things out.
As we enter WNBA Free Agency, the Storm have three players that are not currently signed to contracts in 2019. Crystal Langhorne, the veteran power forward, has been cored the past couple of seasons. Coring players in the WNBA is similar to the NFL’s franchise tag, where a player can only sign and play for their current team. However, Seattle has opted not to core Langhorne in 2019 after Natasha Howard took her starting spot and the majority of her minutes in 2018. Langhorne has become an Unrestricted Free Agent and there is a high chance she will sign with another team.
Second round draft pick Mercedes Russell only signed a one year deal with the Storm and is not guaranteed a roster spot in 2019. However, Russell has the height Seattle needs standing at 6’7″ and has shown promise on the offensive end of the court. Russell is classified as a Reserved Player. WNBA.com defines a Reserved Player as “Players with three or fewer years of service are considered to be Reserved Players. The player’s prior team has exclusive negotiating rights.”
The team needs to develop a good backup Center and Mercedes Russell has the potential to fill that role, especially with Courtney Paris only signed through the 2019 season.
Lastly, Noelle Quinn is also an Unrestricted Free Agent and may not be back with the team. Quinn dealt with injuries during the season and played the least amount of minutes than anyone else on the team. They can opt to bring her back for point guard depth, but the team may be better off using this roster spot on a new free agent or draft pick.
I also fully expect that the Storm will announce that MVP Breanna Stewart has been signed to a contract extension. Stewie will be entering the last year of her rookie deal in 2019. Last season, the Storm announced that they had signed both Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (drafted in 2015) to contract extensions prior to them entering their final year of their rookie contracts.
The nine players currently under contract with the Storm are:
- Sue Bird
- Jordin Canada
- Alysha Clark
- Natasha Howard
- Jewell Loyd
- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
- Courtney Paris
- Breanna Stewart
- Sami Whitcomb
At this point in time, the Storm’s biggest need seems to be in the low post, especially if Crystal Langhorne moves on to a new team. It would then make sense for the team to add a low post player either via Free Agency or the WNBA Draft. Some potential Unrestricted Free Agent post players that the Storm could take a look at:
- LaToya Sanders
- Krystal Thomas
- Kia Vaughn
- Sancho Lyttle
- Erlana Larkins
- Rebekkah Brunson
You can view the full WNBA Free Agent list here.
WNBA League News
While the Storm did not core any of their free agent players, half of the teams in the league did use their core tag this off-season. The most notable players that were cored: Maya Moore (Minnesota), DeWanna Bonner (Phoenix), and Tina Charles (New York). Other players include Kent, Washington’s own Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago), Jasmine Thomas (Connecticut), and Glory Johnson (Dallas).
The Minnesota Lynx will have an interesting off-season after finishing as the 7th seed and being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after reaching the WNBA Finals in three consecutive seasons. Legendary point guard Lindsay Whalen officially retired as she moves on to coaching full time at the University of Minnesota. There have been talks that All-Stars Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson could also decide to retire before the 2019 season. As of right now, both players are Unrestricted Free Agents and can sign with any WNBA team if they don’t decide to retire. Because of all of this, it was simply a no-brainer for Minnesota to core Maya Moore and keep her in Minnesota for one last championship run.
The Phoenix Mercury were a few minutes away from heading to their 5th WNBA Finals appearance before Sue Bird went unconscious and unloaded a barrage of 3-pointers to send Seattle to the championship round, so it comes as no surprise that the Mercury locked up All-Star forward DeWanna Bonner for the 2019 season. Bonner was instrumental in the Mercury’s success in 2018 averaging over 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists per game. The Mercury will be one of the favorites to win it all with their All-Star trio of Bonner, Griner, and Taurasi all returning in 2019.
The New York Liberty had a very disappointing season finishing second to last with a 7-27 record. A stark contrast from the previous three years (2015-2017) where they finished in the top three in the standings. Tina Charles is their best player averaging 19.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG last season and will play for the Liberty again after receiving the core designation. The Liberty will look to rebound in 2019 with the second overall pick in the WNBA Draft and continue to improve under second-year Head Coach Katie Smith.
Free Agency officially starts February 1st so make sure to check back as we’ll have all the latest info about the Storm as we gear up for the 2019 WNBA season.