January 15, 2021 

Seattle Storm designate Natasha Howard a core player

What does this move mean for Howard and the Storm?

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Natasha Howard #6 of the Seattle Storm grabs the rebound against the Washington Mystics on September 2, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Seattle Storm’s offseason of significant decisions kicked off on Thursday night. Natasha Howard was designated a core player by the Storm, league sources tell The Next. With the core player tag, the Storm now have exclusive negotiating rights with Howard. The move also comes with a raise from $117,000 last season to $221,000 per season.

Howard, a seven-year veteran, is coming off 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game season. With Howard on the floor, the Storm allowed just 89 points per 100 possessions. Her defense takes the pressure off Breanna Stewart to guard opposing centers.

Since joining the Storm in free agency from the Lynx in 2018, Howard has become an integral piece of the team. In Seattle, she has grown into an all-star and Defensive Player of the Year. There’s no question Howard is deserving of her raise.

Choices, choices, choices

Choosing Howard is a fine choice but could impact their ability to retain any combination of Sue Bird, Alysha Clark, Jordin Canada, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart this offseason and next. Seattle can likely retain a few of these players but seems difficult.

The Storm were working with about $550,000 in cap room this offseason. Bird, Clark, and Howard are each worth max money this winter but the Storm cannot afford that. They can’t afford this because of the cap but also because Canada, Stewart, and Loyd are in-line for new deals next offseason.

Keeping Howard, even at her previous salary, makes keeping their core intact difficult. Doing so with $100,000 less is more challenging.

There is no right or wrong way to go

Of course, designating Howard a core player doesn’t stop the Storm from trading her. New York did this last offseason with Tina Charles before flipping her to Washington. By securing Howard’s negotiating rights, they can avoid having her walk away for nothing if they choose.

Keeping Howard would also be a good decision. The Storm just have to decide which path they want to take for their future. There are few easy decisions for this franchise this winter. When it comes to deciding to keep or move Howard, there is no wrong direction to go, but no move involving the Storm’s free agents is inconsequential.

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Written by Derek James

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