February 1, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Feb. 1, 2022: MANIC MONDAY — WNBA free agency explodes

Indiana struggles with Holmes-lessness

It’s Tuesday, the barest day of the week. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, daily Watch List, and Yesterday’s Recap! Day 84 of college basketball is here, following a day that saw Michigan take a commanding lead on the Big Ten standings, Caitlin Clark get 43 points, Tennessee claw back from what could’ve been another Arkansas upset-romp, and our third-straight day with a triple-double — the last time that happened was Dec. 2018 (it’s more common than I expected!), per Her Hoop Stats. Oh yeah, and the entire free agency market and their mother seemed to sign yesterday. That was a lot.

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But first: introducing the Offseason Matrices! Adapted from the annual MLB tradition of my good friend and FanGraphs assistant Jon Becker, the Offseason Matrices are your one-stop shop for a tidy collection of offseason moves and information, attribution and spending, agency-tracking and hirings and firings, and more!

W Roundup

Free agency

  • Crystal Bradford: Signing a one-year minimum deal with Chicago, per Rachel Galligan, which at her WNBA experience puts her at $60,471. The wing hit shots both off the dribble and the catch while operating extremely well within the flow of Atlanta’s offense and reportedly being on the court for defensive plays too.
  • Tina Charles: Garnering interest from Phoenix, per Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV, and not re-signing with Washington, per Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post. The latter was a given, with the Mystics’ tight cap sheet, but it’s nice to have confirmation. The former, on the other hand, is extremely surprising for two reasons: One, until today the Mercury barely even had cap room to field a legal roster, let alone a competitive one; and two, Phoenix currently employs MVP-runner-up Britteny Griner. Let me be perfectly clear: this would be an absolutely horrendous addition from a basketball perspective. Charles is not a “floor-spacer” in the way that Stefanie Dolson is, and she’s an inconsistent defender. Griner is also not a floor-spacer, and is mediocre-at-best defending in space. This would also push big Brianna Turner, the league’s best defensive four and best help defender, up to the three, where she’d have less opportunity to provide paint help while being tasked with facing-up against athletes more fleet of foot than herself. I wish the Mercury and their recently-at-high-school head coach luck in figuring out how to make that work.
  • Layshia Clarendon: Re-signing with Minnesota, per Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune. The point guard played some of the best ball of his career there last year prior to a late-season stress reaction that arguably cost the Lynx a competitive playoffs. Assuming Aerial Powers gets back to shooting well from outside, Clarendon’s slashing pick-and-roll style should continue to mesh perfectly with the rest of Minnesota’s starting lineup while acting as a good foil to backup Crystal Dangerfield.
  • Kahleah Copper: Re-signing with Chicago on a two-year deal, per Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times, after Galligan had multi-year deal first.
  • Sophie Cunningham: Re-signing with Phoenix, per Galligan. The return is admittedly not all that interesting on its face — the team needs cheap shooting, she provides relatively cheap shooting — what her AAV comes out to is the key in how this shapes up with the Mercury’s forthcoming moves to finish out the roster.
  • Jewell Loyd: Likely to re-sign with Seattle, per Williams. There was no other relevant news that pertains to where she’s going to play next year, I can fully assure you.
  • Emma Meesseman: Signing with Chicago, per Costabile. This is almost certainly going to be the biggest inter-team move of the offseason, and the Sky now have three former Finals MVPs, something only otherwise accomplished in the later years of the Lynx dynasty. Between this and Copper, the Sky have upgraded from Diamond DeShields and at worst made a lateral move to a different position from Stefanie Dolson — and they were the damn reigning champions already. And they can now play their five best players at the same time. Our Chicago reporter, James Kay, has more on the Sky’s day.
  • Breanna Stewart: Re-signing with Seattle on a one-year supermax, per Yahoo! Sports’ Chris B Hayes. While better for the Storm than her not re-signing at all, as far as omens go, this one’s on the darker side.
  • Kiah Stokes: Re-signing with Las Vegas, per Williams, after Winsidr’s Aryeh said to disregard his prior report about her signing in Atlanta. Assuming Park Ji-Su is retained and A’ja Wilson gets her max and Riquna Williams doesn’t sign for $30,000 below our prediction, the Aces no longer have room to add another max contract. What this means is: Tina Charles (probably) isn’t getting a max contract. So remember when I said Phoenix’s cap sheet seemed too tight to sign her? Well…
  • Shatori Walker-Kimbrough: Re-signing with Washington, per Copeland. Easy fit: she can shoot, she will not make a lot of money, and the Mystics need both of those things.
  • Elizabeth Williams: Signing with Washington, per our Howard Megdal. Playing next to Myisha Hines-Allen (and Elena Delle Donne, to whatever extent she wants to play defense) should accentuate her strengths while providing enough physicality in help to help mitigate her lack of size. The vacant LaToya Sanders role from 2019 ought to fit like a glove.

Phoenix: Traded big Kia Vaughn to Atlanta for a third-round pick — functionally equivalent to cash considerations — per our Dream reporter, Spencer Nusbaum. The Mercury are either opening up space for a bigger move (:eyeball emoji:), or are attempting to field a better bench in possibly Diana Taurasi and/or Brittney Griner’s last year there. Given Phoenix’s general modus operandi, I’m not holding my breath on the latter.

(All times in Eastern)

Watch List, Tuesday, Feb. 1

Must-watch

#3 N.C. State @ #20 Notre Dame, & p.m., ACC Network Extra

Good games

None

Also watchable

None

Sickos games

None

Monday, Jan. 31 recap

#5 Indiana, #6 Michigan: The Wolverines beat the Hoosiers 65-50 in Indiana’s first big game without star center Mackenzie Holmes. The game was tied in the early second quarter, but a 16-6 helped Michigan pull away. The Wolverines out-shot the Hoosiers by 14.0%; the teams combined for 16.0% from three; Michigan was a +32(!) in rebounding margin, but committed 25 turnovers on 14 Indiana steals; the Hoosiers committed 18 fouls.

Big Naz Hillmon led the Wolverines with 21 points on 8-for-14 from the field and 5-for-7 from the line, five rebounds, and four turnovers; center Emily Kiser grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, plus four points on 2-for-5 FG (0-1 3pt.) and two steals against four turnovers; wing Leigha Brown was limited to 19 minutes with four fouls, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting (1-1 3pt.), four rebounds, and three assists against four turnovers; wing Laila Phelia had 11 points on 5-for-10 from the field, four rebounds, and three turnovers off the bench. Indiana combo guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary notched a team-high 16 points on 6-for-15 from the field and 3-for-7 from three, five rebounds, two assists, and a career-high eight steals against two turnovers; point guard Grace Berger had 13 points on 6-for-15 shooting, six rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two turnovers; combo guard Ali Patberg tallied 10 points on 4-for-13 FG (0-2 3pt.) against two turnovers.

#7 Tennessee: 86-83 overtime win over Arkansas. Trailed by as much as 13 in the mid-third quarter. The teams combined to shoot 38.6% from the field and 30.2% from three; the Vols had 20 more rebounds, including 21 offensive boards; Had 21 more second-chance points than the Razorbacks; teams combined for 41 fouls. Point wing Jordan Horston led with 24 points on 11-for-27 from the field and 0-for-6 from three, 11 rebounds, and six assists against four turnovers in 40 minutes; wing Rae Burrell had a season-high 21 points on 7-for-19 from the field and 3-for-6 from three, eight rebounds (three offensive), and three turnovers; center Tamari Key tallied 14 points on 3-for-8 FG (8-9 FT), nine rebounds (four offensive), and four blocks against two turnovers; bench combo forward Sara Puckett notched a double-double with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting (2-4 3pt.) and 10 rebounds, plus two assists and two blocks against four fouls in 34 minutes. Arkansas combo guard Amber Ramirez scored a game-high 29 points on 9-for-17 from the field and 5-for-9 from three (6-7 FT), with eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 44 minutes; point guard Makayla Daniels left with a severe-looking knee/leg injury in the second quarter when Puckett landed on it during a fight for a loose ball.

#21 Iowa, #23 Ohio State: The Buckeyes beat the Hawkeyes 92-88, in a game featuring 16 lead changes. The teams combined to shoot 58.1% from the field and 47.7% from three; Ohio State committed only seven turnovers but had 20 fouls. Buckeye wing Taylor Mikesell led with 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting (2-3 3pt.), five rebounds, and two assists against two turnovers; combo guard Jacy Sheldon had 20 points on 8-for-15 from the field (2-5 3pt.), four assists, and two steals without sitting; big Rebeka Mikulášiková notched 17 points on 5-for-6 from three (1-3 from two) in 21 minutes; combo guard Braxtin Miller tallied 10 points on 4-for-10 FG (2-5 3pt.), five rebounds, four assists, and three turnovers. Iowa point guard Caitlin Clark led all scorers Monday with 43 points on 16-for-28 from the field, 7-for-14 from three, and 4-for-6 from the line, plus four rebounds and seven assists against seven turnovers; center Monika Czinano had 23 points on 11-for-13 FG and nine rebounds.

Pacific: 74-69 win over Santa Clara. Freshman point guard Anaya James recorded the program’s third triple-double, per Her Hoop Stats, with 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting (1-2 3pt.), 13 rebounds, and 10 assists, plus two steals.

Cancellations

  • New Hampshire vs. UMass-Lowell

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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