With the calendar flipping to 2024, that also signifies offseason activities intensifying in the WNBA ahead of the 2024 campaign tipping off in May.
The first, and perhaps the biggest, thing that will take place to begin 2024 is WNBA Free Agency, which officially begins Jan. 11. From Jan. 11-20, teams can begin to offer qualifying contracts to free agents before all 12 teams can begin negotiating contracts with any free agents on the open market on Jan. 21. Players can then begin putting pen to paper and signing free agent contract starting Feb. 1.
Entering free agency, the Lynx have six players under contract: Napheesa Collier, Kayla McBride, Tiffany Mitchell, Jessica Shepard, Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász. Those six players account for $821,258 of the overall $1,463,200 salary cap limit, according to Her Hoop Stats.
That means the Lynx have nearly $642,000 in salary remaining to get creative with and utilize this offseason, either in re-signing players who stepped foot on the court in 2023, in free agency or via the WNBA Draft. They will have space to bring in a player on a maximum or supermax contract if they are able to recruit one to sign during free agency.
Before free agency begins, our Mitchell Hansen and Jack Borman look at some re-sign candidates for the Lynx and some players who the team could target on the open market.
Staying or Leaving?
Aerial Powers (UFA)
Jack Borman: Leaving. The writing was on the wall all season, as Powers fell out of favor with the Lynx coaching staff after being relied upon heavily offensively when healthy in 2021 and 2022, especially. Powers wasn’t shy about voicing her displeasure and made her intentions clear about her pending free agency in August.
Thank you so much. I look forward to them coming to see me play next year with another organization https://t.co/ofIbzxwVDC— LIQUID | Aerial Powers (@aerial_powers23) August 20, 2023
Mitchell Hansen: Leaving. After an ... umm .. interesting year for Powers in Minnesota in 2023, I think it’s safe to say she will find a new home in 2024. Someone will take a chance on Powers and she could be a key player both as a starter or coming off the bench, but that won’t be in Minnesota moving forward.
Natalie Achonwa (UFA)
JB: It depends. Given her fit as an underrated playmaking hub in a spaced out, inverted Lynx offense that brings the bigs up to passing and dribble hand-off positions at the elbows and above the break, I could see Achonwa returning on a minimum deal if Maïa Hirsch remains overseas in 2024. But if Hirsch joins the team — and/or the Lynx take a big in the draft at No. 7 overall — the odds of the Achonwa returning are probably pretty slim. But Achonwa certainly holds value as an experienced veteran, and she spoke glowingly of Napheesa Collier and former Notre Dame teammate Kayla McBride after the 2022 season.
MH: Staying. If Achonwa decides to return to the WNBA in 2024, Minnesota could be a familiar and comfortable spot for her to return to. If Hirsch doesn’t come over to the WNBA in 2024, the Lynx could also use a depth piece and a veteran voice like Achonwa to stand behind Dorka Juhász and Jessica Shepard in the paint, especially considering Shepard’s injury history. Achonwa could be re-signed on a cheap contract, and I think both sides could work something out for her to return.
Bridget Carleton (UFA)
JB: Staying. The Lynx desperately need shooting, and while Carleton had a down year holding 33.7% mark from deep in 2023, she was one of the three best shooters on the roster. She has shown signs of more offensive capability against good competition with Team Canada, but needs to translate it more frequently to WNBA to play a bigger role. She is both beloved by her teammates and a player trusted by Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, and — like fellow unrestricted free agent Rachel Banham — was a bridesmaid in Collier’s wedding. Barring something unforeseen, she should be back in Minnesota.
MH: Staying. To me, this one is easy. Carleton will return to the Lynx for at least the 2024 season. Carleton is one of the most well-liked players on Minnesota’s roster and still has the ability to provide a spark coming off the bench for the Lynx this summer. Unless something unexpected happens, Carleton will be back in a Lynx uniform.
Nina Milić (Reserved)
JB: Leaving. While Milić had some fun moments as an incredibly strong, physical interior scorer that brought toughness and fight to a Lynx team that needed it, her defensive struggles became more frequent than her offensive successes.Juhász quickly passed Milić on the depth chart as a result, and I could see Milić seeking an opportunity that would afford her more playing time than she’d receive in Minnesota.
MH: Leaving. Personally, I like Milić’s game and think she is a WNBA-caliber talent. When she first appeared with the Lynx in 2022, I thought her skillset fit well into a Reeve-led team and was a fan of her re-signing last offseason. But her 2023 campaign wasn’t as impressive as hoped, so I think Minnesota will try and look elsewhere to fill her spot this offseason.
Lindsay Allen (UFA)
JB: Leaving. Allen should be commended for her abilities to organize the offense in the half-court and take care of the basketball, as well as the role she played in helping to usher in an MVP-caliber version of Collier. But the Lynx may opt for a point guard that offers them either more consistent scoring around Collier and McBride, better point-of-attack defense or both.
MH: Leaving. Allen is a player I go back-and-forth on when it comes to her re-signing in Minnesota or leaving this offseason. The reason is, I believe it will come down to what the Lynx are able to do in free agency and if they are able to sign a guard on the open market. If that happens, I believe Allen will find a new home in 2024. If Minnesota strikes out on free agents, Allen could find her way back to the Lynx.
Rachel Banham (UFA)
JB: Staying. Put it in sharpie. The Lakeville native led the team in 3-point percentage at 40.2% last season and on multiple occasions either kept the Lynx in games or swung them with her long-range shooting. Not to mention that if you asked every player on the Lynx who their favorite teammate was, Rachel Banham would likely be the answer. She is the most important player in the locker room beyond Collier, and does an incredible job of keeping things light and fun throughout the year — a crucial role over the course of the ups-and-downs of a 40-game season.
MH: Staying. Banham will be a Lynx in 2024. Not only is Banham a great locker room presence and everyone’s favorite personality on the team, but she plays a position of need for Minnesota and is one of the top 3-point threats on this team currently. Banham will come off the bench again like we saw in 2023, but I think she has a spot on this team as long as she wants to be in Minnesota.
Players We’re Watching in Free Agency
Natasha Cloud (UFA)
JB: Natasha Cloud is 1.01 on my Lynx free agency big board. Cloud is lead guard that plays with as much fire and passion as anyone in the league, something that every team in this league needs. She was fifth in the league in assists (229) and assists per game (6.2), has maintained an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4 or higher in all eight of her seasons, has ranked in the top-nine in assists in each of the last five seasons, and has increased her scoring in each of the last three seasons, culminating in a career-high 12.7 PPG effort in 2023. She isn’t the most efficient scorer, but opposing defenses respect her as a scoring threat, and you could argue she’d be more efficient as the No. 4 option behind Collier, McBride and Diamond Miller.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old Cloud is a respected veteran, WNBA Champion and multiple-time WNBA All-Defensive Team selection who would bring an infectiously competitive spirit that would fuel the Lynx on both ends, strong perimeter defense, and an ability to break down defenses off the dribble that could further unlock the team’s offense. The Lynx could offer her a bigger role and more money than what she’s had in Washington over the past few seasons, too. With Collier, McBride, Miller, Juhász and Hirsch as the only players firmly entrenched in Minnesota’s plans beyond 2024, Minnesota has the financial and roster flexibility to bring on another core player on a multiple-year contract without unnecessarily speeding up their timeline or hindering their future flexibility for a short-term gain that would deplete their depth.
MH: Cloud could be the top target for the Lynx during free agency, checking the boxes of many areas of need on the team out of a point guard position that is of need. Cloud is one of the best free agent guards available this offseason and her two-way play would fit perfectly in Minnesota. The veteran guard is coming off her best scoring outing of her career in 2023 and has shown the ability to distribute while being one of the best defending guards in the league. If Cloud ultimately decides to move on from Washington — which could be an even greater possibility if Elena Delle Donne leaves as well (more on that below) — the Lynx have plenty of money to throw her way to try and get her to come take over the starting point guard spot.
Courtney Williams (UFA)
JB: Williams is a veteran combo guard that played point guard as much as she ever has last season in Chicago, and did it at a high level. Her 251 assists and 6.3 dimes per game both ranked fourth in the WNBA. The former Atlanta Dream and Connecticut Sun star played for her third team in three years in 2023, but maximized her efficiency in a reduced scoring role behind Kahleah Copper and Marina Mabrey. As a result, Williams shot 44.3% from 3 (second-best mark of her career) and 43.7% from the field, her most efficient shooting season since 2018 (45.6%). Beyond her shooting, Williams is lightning quick off the dribble, has a great handle, and can score effectively in isolation. She provides more spacing and scoring at the point than Cloud, so if the Lynx chose offense over defense, Williams could be the option they pursue more aggressively, and she could end up signing for less than Cloud, too. Like Cloud, Williams is durable and has proven to be able to stay healthy — something the Lynx need from any potential signing.
MH: Outside of Cloud, Williams might be at the top of my wishlist for the Lynx to try and sign this offseason. Williams is a fiery veteran guard who would fit well into a Cheryl Reeve-led team and is a player who can also play both ends of the floor. Williams doesn’t need to score to have a big impact on the game, but she has the ability to take things over if needed. She can distribute, shoot well from both the field and from three and can also rebound well for a point guard. If Minnesota strikes out on Cloud, Williams should be next on their list.
Rebecca Allen (UFA)
JB: You can never have enough shooting in the WNBA, especially if your two cornerstones are players like Collier and Miller, who want to live as drivers who can post in the paint just as well. Allen is one of the better shooters in the league in catch-and-shoot situations, who is also capable of playing off the catch and making simple passing reads or rim attacks if the defense closes out too hard on her. Even when her shot isn’t falling, she is a long, rangy perimeter defender who is an excellent off-ball defender, especially when guarding shooters. She made life difficult for McBride in the playoffs last season, and can check ball-handlers as well if that’s what the team needs. As far as “3-and-D” players go, Allen is up near the top in terms of those available in the 2024 WNBA free agent pool.
MH: When it comes to two-way talent available this offseason, Allen is someone who should be near the top of that list of players who can do it on both ends of the court. Allen saw an expanded role in her first year in Connecticut in 2023 after being traded last offseason, making perhaps her strongest impact defensively which Minnesota got a first-hand look at during the first-round matchup against Connecticut in the 2023 postseason. Allen can provide a spark from three, an area where the Lynx need some help, and she’s a talent that makes a big impact even when she isn’t putting up eye-grabbing statistics. If some of the top-tier free agents available start to sign elsewhere, Minnesota should look to Allen to try and add to the roster.
Alanna Smith (UFA)
JB: In terms of players the Lynx could realistically sign, Smith is one of the more intriguing fits, especially if Minnesota’s front office has plans to take a guard in the draft. Reeve loves efficient players and that’s exactly what the Aussie is. At 6-foot-3, she shot a ridiculous 72.6% at the rim as a result of running well in transition, finishing plays nicely as a roller in pick-and-roll, and serving as an excellent cutter in the half-court. She can post-up as well, but is more of a face-up player that prefers to put the ball on the deck, especially going left. Juhász is actually a great comparison for how Smith likes to play. The former Stanford forward a willing passer, too, and would operate well in space in the Lynx offense alongside other playmakers.
MH: Smith broke onto the scene in 2023, emerging as a key contributor in her first season in Chicago while showcasing her ability to impact all aspects of the game. Smith set career highs in nearly every category a year ago and is a player who can shoot the ball well, has the ability to stretch the floor, can rebound and defend well. Smith is also young, just 27 years old, and could look for an even larger role on a contending or up-and-coming team this offseason. The Lynx don’t have a huge need at Smith’s position, but she is a player that could make a difference in Minnesota in 2024 and beyond.
Elena Delle Donne (UFA)
JB: Delle Donne is a super interesting free agent case, and how aggressively the Lynx approach her in discussions will say a lot about their plans in 2024 and beyond. The 34-year-old made it very clear in September what she is prioritizing in free agency.
“I just want to win. That’s truly what I care about most,” Delle Donne said in September. “It’s been my whole career, but especially coming back from all the back stuff and feeling like I’m really the strongest I’ve ever been. I’m in great shape. I feel like I have a lot more basketball to play, and I want to win.”
The Lynx, who have the fourth-most cap space in the league, could make it work if the two-time MVP is interested in coming to Minnesota. With Connecticut Sun (No. 1 in cap space) aiming to retain top free agents Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner, Nneka Ogwumike and Jordin Canada seemingly locks to return to the Los Angeles Sparks (No. 2 in cap space) and the New York Liberty (No. 3 in cap space) likely to retain both Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones on max deals, none of those teams would figure to be a real player in the sweepstakes unless EDD took a big pay cut. Atlanta, who can sign a max player, would be another interesting destination if Delle Donne wanted to play alongside two other great scorers in Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray. But would the Dream (who went 19-21 last year) give her a better chance to win than Washington or Minnesota (who also went 19-21)? It’s tough to say.
Some of Delle Donne’s career has been derailed by well-documented back issues, but she clearly feels like that is behind her. On the floor, she’s still one of the best offensive players in the league. Her 16.7 points per game ranked 17th, but immediately become more valuable when you consider she played the third-fewest minutes among the top-20 scorers and her 48.5/39.3/93.8 FG/3PT/FT shooting percentage splits. EDD would fit wonderfully alongside the Lynx’s existing players, and open up the offense as a three-level scorer, playmaker and floor spacer. But she is 34, would potentially command a max contract, and doesn’t fit Minnesota’s timeline as cleanly as Cloud might — especially considering the Lynx don’t really have a huge need for another 3/4 compared to a point guard. Minnesota theoretically could sign both, but both would have to take slightly less than the max. And if Hirsch came over, the Lynx would have to trade (or draft and not sign) their 2024 first-round pick for future draft assets, or could execute a sign-and-trade to send out a player(s) and draft compensation to the Mystics for either of the two players.
MH: There are many questions surrounding Delle Donne entering free agency. Not only is it a question of whether or not she will ultimately decide to leave Washington or not, but her health has been and will continue to be an area of concern. If Delle Donne does want a fresh start elsewhere, which reportedly is becoming the case, there should be multiple teams interested in signing the former MVP. If the 34-year-old has an interest in the Lynx, they would have to at least entertain the idea and see what it would cost to bring her aboard.