WNBA Free Agency began on Monday, February 10th and the news started pouring in from media outlets around the league. Five-time All-Star and former #1 overall pick, Angel McCoughtry, is taking her talents to the Las Vegas strip as she signed a multi-year deal with the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces now have four number one overall picks on their roster with Angel McCoughtry (2009), Kelsey Plum (2017), A’Ja Wilson (2018), and Jackie Young (2019); they will certainly be one of the favorites to reach the WNBA Finals.
Kristi Toliver, fresh off her championship with the Washington Mystics, is returning back to the Los Angeles Sparks; whom she left to join the Mystics three years ago after winning a championship with LA.
All-Star and 2019 MVP candidate, Jonquel Jones, re-signed with the Connecticut Sun. Jones signed a max contract that will keep her with the Sun for the next few years. Likewise, MVP Elena Delle Donne also re-signed with the Washington Mystics on Tuesday.
Somewhat to my surprise, the Seattle Storm also made a splash in Free Agency. I wasn’t certain if Seattle would make any major moves due to the number of roster spots available. The team officially announced that they had acquired Morgan Tuck (3rd overall pick in 2016). It initially appeared as if the Storm had just signed the restricted free agent away from Connecticut. But it was later announced that the teams were involved in a sign and trade deal that sent the Storm’s 2020 first-round pick (7th overall) to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for the rights to sign Morgan Tuck to a new contract and the Sun’s first-round pick (11th overall).
What are the Storm getting in Morgan Tuck?
Tuck is a 6′ 2″ Power Forward who can also play the three; she is best known for being one of the top players on the UConn dynasty that made history winning four consecutive NCAA Women’s National titles alongside Breanna Stewart. Tuck finished her senior season at UConn averaging roughly 14 points and six rebounds per game. She was drafted third overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft to the Connecticut Sun, just behind her two Husky teammates Breanna Stewart (#1 overall) and Moriah Jefferson (#2).
Tuck had a reasonably successful rookie season with the Sun, averaging seven points and three rebounds per game.
One of the standout games of her rookie season came against Seattle where she scored 20 points in a Connecticut Sun victory. You can watch those highlights here.
Unfortunately, her numbers continued to decline each of the past three seasons with limited minutes off the bench. Tuck finished her four years with the Sun averaging 5.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
It’s possible that Tuck may have been the victim of an extremely deep Connecticut Sun team that featured All-Star post-players, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas; and for two of her four seasons, she also played behind All-Star Chiney Ogqumike. It very well could have been one of those wrong place at the wrong time situations.
I reached out to Jim Clark, a Staff Writer at http://womenshoopsworld.com, to get some additional analysis on Tuck. Clark has watched and covered Tuck in Connecticut during both her time at UConn and with the Connecticut Sun.
I asked Clark how Tuck would fit in with the Storm and how her game could complement the team.
“Tuck is a tweener. She most likely will be seen as a 3 for the Storm. Her numbers are similar to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, but she is a much better defender. She works well from the high post, and you could run an offense through her, particularly against a zone. She’s a 33-35% three-point shooter. She has a close connection to Breanna Stewart (as college teammates),” Clark said.
I then asked what he felt Tuck’s best strengths and attributes were.
“Tuck is a very (high IQ) basketball player, a great passer, and an adequate defender. She rarely makes mistakes and is a better than average ball-handler for her size (6’2”). She is a great teammate, with a very even disposition and (displays) confidence on the floor that can calm things down in tense moments. Her chemistry with Stewart should be an asset. She is also an excellent free-throw shooter. She is a good help defender and can guard smaller fours, and slower threes. Her continuing knee problems have slowed her from her college days, “Jim Clark on Morgan Tuck’s best strengths
Lastly, I inquired as to why things just didn’t work out for the former 3rd overall pick in Connecticut.
“With the Sun, the most obvious change in her four years was reduced playing time. With Alyssa Thomas playing the four for 30 plus minutes, there wasn’t a lot of four time for Tuck. With the much quicker Bria Holmes becoming the principal sub for Stricklen at the three, there really wasn’t a place for Tuck, except when she was the best player for a particular matchup. She just wasn’t treated as a central part of the team. If she were to play 20 or more minutes in Seattle, her ability to run an offense and to contribute to it, might come back.” Clark added
What does the addition of Tuck mean for the Storm?
From a roster perspective, Seattle now has 10 players under contract and that does not include Sue Bird who is expected to re-sign with Seattle at some point this off-season. With Bird added to the mix, that leaves just one more roster spot remaining for any additional free agents, their 2019 first-round pick Ezi Magbegor, and the team’s three picks from the 2020 draft.
Unless one of the current players is traded away for a future WNBA Draft pick, Seattle will not be able to have both Ezi Magbegor and the 2020 first-round pick make the final roster. The most likely scenario would be to stash Ezi for another season in Australia; especially, because its an Olympic year, and then bring her over in 2021. Where another roster spot or two could open up due to expiring contracts or possibly retirements.
This also means that it’s almost a certainty at this point that the Storm’s other remaining Unrestricted Free Agents, Courtney Paris, Shavonte Zellous, and Blake Dietrick will not be returning to Seattle for the 2020 season.
Did the Storm value the 7th overall pick?
The 2020 WNBA Draft talent pool does not appear to be nearly as deep as last year’s draft. The Storm’s front office must not have been in love with any of the players that were likely to fall to them with the 7th overall pick. Or at the very least, they felt that the addition of Morgan Tuck was greater than anything they could draft at that spot.
The team must believe that Tuck still has a lot of untapped potential, similar to how Natasha Howard has greatly blossomed in a new environment playing in Seattle.
They may also be factoring in the added bonus of chemistry between UConn alums Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Kaleen Mosqueda-Lewis. With Bird added to the mix, the Storm will now have four former Connecticut Huskies playing on the same team.
Risks versus reward
Morgan has had chronic knee problems throughout her basketball career; which has caused her to miss a number of games both in college and in the pros. She only played in eight games during her sophomore season at UConn due to knee surgery. Tuck also missed 20 games over her first two seasons in the WNBA after having left-knee surgery towards the end of her rookie season. Fortunately, recent history has shown she has been healthy, playing in 67 of her last 68 regular-season games.
Tuck clearly has talent. It was on full display during her final six games at UConn in the NCAA Tournament where she averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. She was extremely effective shooting nearly 57% from the floor and almost 42% from beyond the arc.
Tuck has the ability to score inside and out. She can beat slower post-players off the dribble, post-up smaller forwards on the low block, and knock down shots from long-distance.
Seattle will hope that Tuck is able to recreate some of that UConn magic once given a new opportunity with a new team.