January 17, 2021
The biggest offseason priorities for the Atlanta Dream
An Atlanta Dream free agency primer
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Enjoy our team-by-team free agency previews!
Heading into the offseason last year, the Atlanta Dream knew their roster needed a shakeup. After finishing the year with a league-worst 8-26 record and one of the weakest offenses in the WNBA, general manager Chris Sienko and coach Nicki Collen went into free agency looking to bolster the offense.
The Dream made a lot of moves and played the 2020 season with only two players — Elizabeth Williams and Monique Billings — who had been on the team in 2019. Though Atlanta had a 10-game losing streak through the middle of the season, it finished winning four of its last six games to take some momentum into 2021.
As with any team that finishes out of the playoffs, there are questions to answer and things to solve before the upcoming season, but the good thing for the Dream is the questions are much less overarching than they were before. Among other things, they’ve swapped “How do we score points?” for “Can we get more offensive production in the post?” which is a undoubtedly a welcome change.
With free agency looming — negotiations can begin on Jan. 15 and signings start Feb. 1 — here are the biggest priorities for the Dream this offseason:
Resign Betnijah Laney at whatever salary she’d like
Find a stretch ‘4’
It’s not a long list. There are certainly other issues to solve, like the backup point guard situation and whether or not Renee Montgomery will wear a Dream uniform again (hint: those two issues are linked), but the main priorities are resigning Laney and acquiring a post player with some perimeter shooting ability.
Priority One: Resign Laney
Laney, the reigning most improved player in the WNBA, was a highlight for the Dream throughout the 2020 campaign. She was signed because of her reputation for playing strong defense after being cut by the Indiana Fever — and after Tiffany Hayes opted out — and then she just kept making shots. Both Laney and Collen said multiple times throughout the season that they kept waiting for Laney’s hot streak to cool off, but it never really did.
Laney finished the year leading the Dream in minutes per game (33.3) and just barely finished second to Chennedy Carter in points per game (17.4 for Carter and 17.2 for Laney). 5.6 points per game was Laney’s previous career high, set in the 2019 season with the Fever. She appeared comfortable with the way Collen wanted to play from her first minutes in an Atlanta uniform, and bringing her back should be (and will be) a key facet of the Dream’s offseason.
Both Collen and Laney have expressed their desire for Laney to return to the Dream. On Laney’s side, she’s willing to give extra attention and priority to the team that gave her a real chance to break out, and on Collen’s side, bringing back a player who was so key to what success Atlanta did have in 2020 is a no-brainer.
Laney is eligible for the maximum salary ($190,550 in 2021) and the Dream have the cap space to give it to her. Both the player and the team have stated they’d like to reunite. It should be a done deal.
Priority Two: Find a stretch ‘4’
After resigning Laney, finding a post who can shoot the three with some regularity will be key for Atlanta. Glory Johnson was supposed to play that role in 2020 but never looked like herself after contracting COVID-19 before the season started, so the Dream are still on the hunt for the right player for that position.
“For the most part we need depth in the post, I think, as much as anything,” Collen said after the draft lottery in December. “I don’t think it’s any surprise when you look at the success of Seattle, of LA, of Connecticut at times, it’s that versatile — we like to use the term hand-skilled — four player. That player that can really handle the ball, pass it, shoot it, take it off the rim and get us into offense.
“There aren’t a lot of Breanna Stewarts but, you know, someone who can really affect the game in kind of a point/forward position. You certainly have players that do that in different ways and are better at some things than others. But I think that is something that for sure, statistically, we just didn’t shoot the basketball very well outside the paint in the post. Really being able to stretch the defense with our posts (is important).”
The Dream currently have Monique Billings, Brittany Brewer, Kalani Brown and Elizabeth Williams under contract for the 2021 season to make up their post rotation — none of which are known for their ability to shoot from the perimeter. For Atlanta, the answer for a stretch post player will have to come from somewhere else and will be one of the biggest questions they face this offseason.