June 30, 2023
Sources: Seattle Storm to re-sign Gabby Williams
Williams’ addition could not come at a better time for Seattle
At long last, the saga is over: Gabby Williams is back in green and gold.
Multiple league sources with knowledge of the situation have told The Next that the Seattle Storm plan to re-sign Gabby Williams within the coming days.
The 26-year-old wing first joined the Storm in the 2022 offseason, after being traded from Los Angeles for Katie Lou Samuelson and a first-round pick, and started every game for them that year. She averaged 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals, and earned Second-Team All-Defense honors as the team’s primary point-of-attack defender. A spot for her re-signing was opened by the team waiving Arella Guirantes Thursday night.
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Williams’ addition could not come at a better time for Seattle. The franchise has lost four of its last five games, including its last two to the formerly second-to-last-place Lynx. The Storm allowed a combined 203 points to Minnesota across those two games (including one overtime period), but Williams helps address multiple deficiencies that have doomed them. For starters, Williams is solidly a top-three defender in WNBA notwithstanding positional value, and ranked in the 96th percentile in steal rate last year, per Her Hoop Stats.
In addition, Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn specifically noted after Thursday’s loss that the team’s “deficiency, for the past few games, is just our rebounding and our activity [on the boards]”; Williams is a plus rebounder for a wing who crashes the boards like someone 2-3 inches taller than she is. She also adds to the Storm’s cadre of players who can defend multiple positions, initiate offense and attack tilted defenses.
Most importantly, Williams was having the best stretch of her career at the end of 2022. She averaged 8.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals on 60.4% true-shooting over the final 14 games last year. With the exception of the boards, all of those rank as one of the few best such spans of her career. Her assists also ranked second on the team over that period.
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Williams is only able to sign with Seattle because she negotiated a suspension of her EuroLeague contract with French club ASVEL right before the WNBA’s opening-night prioritization deadline of May 19; had she fulfilled her contract to completion, she would have played through May 22, missing the deadline by which to finish other basketball obligations and thereby becoming ineligible to play in the W in 2023. Williams had suffered a concussion the week prior, which had presented the possibility that she wouldn’t be able to return to the court by the end of the Villeurbanne team’s season. But she did not present symptoms and was cleared to return to play, recording 23 minutes in ASVEL’s May 17 Coupe de France series-opener, which at the time made it seem like she would miss the deadline.
Immediately following that game, Quinn personally tabled the idea of Williams rejoining Seattle this year, but regained optimism after the contract suspension. A couple of days later, Williams’ agent told ESPN that the WNBA was “an option for Gabby, but not a certainty,” and that she was focused on her health. Quinn reiterated the health factor as well, introducing the possibility that Williams needed medical clearance from her concussion by the Storm. The Seattle Times’ Percy Allen then reported that the franchise hoped she would be joining by early June.
Radio silence followed until Williams posted an Instagram story on June 18 showing she was in New York City. Quinn told Allen the following day that health was still a big factor regarding if and when Williams would be re-signed. Williams was seen the next night with Liberty players Marine Johannès and Stefanie Dolson at Yankee Stadium, and traveled to Uncasville, Conn. to watch them play the Sun this past Tuesday.
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Now for the salary and collective bargaining nitty-gritty.
The Storm have enough cap space to sign Williams for a prorated salary up to her personal maximum of $202,154. Despite prior reports to the contrary, Williams will not be automatically fined under the prioritization rules laid out in the league’s collective bargaining agreement, since she was not under contract with a WNBA team at any point during training camp. But it is possible that the league finds a way to fine her for violating the spirit of the CBA. In that case, her fine would be equal to 1% of her salary for every day that the league office says that she missed; if she is treated as if as if she signed right at the end of training camp (Article XIV, Section 9(a)(i)), that would mean a 19% fine. (The prioritization rules do not outline any fines for regular season days missed, but if the league office was to go beyond the scope of the CBA, the fine could involve Williams having missed 62 days since the start of camp should she sign today.) Such fines would apply to her semi-monthly paychecks, which is to say that her overall fine would be equal to a given percent of the salary at which she signs, as opposed to her prorated salary.
Of note, the league can fine players up to 2.5% of their salary per regular season game missed “due to basketball-related commitments with another league or entity” (Article XIV, Section 7). Williams technically did not miss any WNBA games for that reason, since she was not under any contract by the start of Seattle’s regular season, but this number may come into play. Neither these 2.5% fines nor the aforementioned 1% fines provide exceptions to players who finished non-W basketball commitments prior to the season-opener but could not join their team because of injury sustained during those commitments.
The league can also require Williams to make up to three additional “unpaid team promotional appearances,” under Article XIV, Section 8.
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Howard Megdal, Jacob Mox, Jackie Powell and Rowan Schaberg contributed reporting to this story.