August 20, 2021
The Next writers weigh in on Seattle Storm WNBA trade deadline options, potential deals
A closer look at what the Storm could consider doing, and suggested return
On August 18, the Seattle Storm were the one-seed before they began resting stars, still own Massey Ratings’ top schedule-adjusted rating, and are led by a Coach of the Year candidate and the MVP frontrunner and another downballot MVP candidate, and also Sue Bird. (For the record, that is an attempt at “comic irony.”)
The Storm are also flawed. There are holes in the roster — specifically the lack of a tertiary facilitator (behind Bird and Jewell Loyd), a wing capable of drawing defensive attention in the fourth quarter, and
someone to get Kennedy Burke out of the rotation a combo forward capable of defending big wings and providing the weakside rim protection needed for Breanna Stewart to play the 5. And injecting more talent into a roster that’s now fallen out of a playoff double-bye can’t hurt either.
Seattle’s cap situation makes it a bit tricky to arrange some trades, and there’s really no decent facilitators who might move, but there’s certainly still qualified candidates out there:
All salary information courtesy of Her Hoop Stats.
Nia Coffey, Sparks power forward
The Storm currently lack a backup four capable of playing real minutes in a playoff series, and if that’s all they need from Nia Coffey, she’s well-overqualified. The fifth-year player is a natural power forward and defends especially well as a weakside rim protector, but can slide up to the three if paired with mobile bigs. She’d slot in off the bench, spelling Stewart and providing a seamless fit as the four next to Ezi Magbegor, as well as providing a late-game spacing option that wing Katie Lou Samuelson currently does not.
From David Yapkowitz, The Next’s Los Angeles reporter:
“Nia Coffey has emerged as a bright spot in what has been a tough season for the Los Angeles Sparks. She’s become one of their most dependable three-point shooters at 39.2 percent in about four attempts per game. A great spot-up from the corners. She has a little difficulty in getting her own shot, but provided she has capable ball-handlers and creators who can find her in her spots, she’ll do well. She’s also become one of the Sparks’ best defensive players on a team that has been consistently near the top of the league defensively. She’s a capable on-ball defender but her value lies in her shot-blocking.
“Now that the Sparks are healthy, they still believe they can make a late season push for the playoffs. Coffey has been a valuable contributor and the Sparks view her as an integral piece of the team. The Sparks don’t have their draft pick so it doesn’t benefit them to tank at all. Coffey has become a sixth woman of sorts for them so they’ll probably hold on to her at the deadline.”
Contract: $70,040 in 2021, restricted free agent in 2022
Possible trade: Kennedy Burke, Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick, and New York’s 2022 second-round pick
Crystal Bradford, Dream small forward
Crystal Bradford might be the most volatile player Seattle could consider. On the one hand, she’s established herself this year as a true creator at the three, an archetype that has become one of the most valuable in the MNBA but has yet to hit the W. On the other, she doubled her career minutes total months ago. Her fit on the team is inarguable — she’s The Hypothetical Storm’s best offensive big wing and adds the ability to play in a lineup with creators at every position — but the difference between her showing this season and the sample size may mean Seattle and Atlanta have very disparate ideas of her value.
From Spencer Nusbaum, The Next’s Atlanta reporter:
“Bradford provides upside as a tertiary shot-creator who is primed to lead bench units in short stretches. This isn’t to say she’s the most consistent player on Atlanta’s roster, but there are few players who look better at their peak than Bradford does. The Dream don’t necessarily lack for scoring, which means she isn’t entirely untradeable. But she is a safe player on a team with a murky future, especially if Atlanta decides to part ways with Chennedy Carter.
“Bradford is far from a perfect defensive player, but her size has allowed Atlanta to switch on almost any defensive action that she is involved in. While her aggressive off-ball defense can cost the team at times, her love for high-risk plays catapulted her toward the top of the league in steal rate (fourth among qualified players). Under the right coach, that’s a positive asset, and Atlanta may be hesitant to part with one of its few true switchable defenders.
“… I don’t believe there is a player on the team who is more beloved by her teammates. Bradford cherishes her role in Atlanta and her time in the WNBA after six years away from the league. At 27 years old, Bradford is a cost-controlled veteran who uplifts her teammates on a team that has notoriously struggled with chemistry. Her value in Atlanta extends off of the court.”
Contract: $58,710 in 2021, reserved in 2022, restricted free agent in 2023
Possible trades: Kennedy Burke, Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick, and at least one second-round pick
Kayla Thornton, Wings power forward
When we talk about valuable contracts — essentially, the most underpaid players — we talk about star rookies, superstars on max contracts, and Kayla Thornton. The forward is making less than $20,000 over the minimum this year and is set for an average around $108,000 over 2022-23, less than Damiras Dantas, Elizabeth Williams, and Kia Vaughn. Which is a big part of why she’s the least likely of anyone in this article to be traded, but here at The Next we are fortunately bound by neither the laws of logic nor the roster construction of teams I don’t cover.
Despite the extent to which Dallas has been playing Thornton at the three this year (due to their glut of playable bigs), she’s really a do-everything power forward who can slide up against teams running three-big lineups like Minnesota and often Las Vegas. Her foot speed just isn’t enough to defend the relatively smaller, quicker threes of the WNBA, and while she can occasionally lead a change-of-pace PnR, her skills there aren’t at the level to consistently run it.
Due to her lacking great secondary rim protection skills, Thornton would optimally slot into the Storm rotation exclusively alongside Mercedes Russell. She’d not only provide a valuable spell to Stewart, but play the three to neutralize the size and strength advantage of the aforementioned three-big lineups, with Seattle almost guaranteed to run into at least one of those teams in October. The Storm’s SOS defensive scheme would help soften her issues with defending many of the league’s smaller wings, allowing her to still pick up minutes alongside Stewart.
From Arie Graham, The Next’s Dallas reporter:
“Kayla Thornton has been a cornerstone of the Dallas Wings defense since joining the team in 2017. It has been her defensive tenacity that has kept her in the WNBA. Now in her fifth season, she is the oldest player on the youngest team, and she is first in offensive rebounding, which has been key to the Wings’ success this season.
If Dallas were to part from her for any reason, it would be because of offense. While she has the abilities, she has only averaged double-digits in one of her five seasons, and the Wings could fare better with another option that can create their own shot consistently.”
Contract: $89,200 in 2021, $107,040 in 2022, $109,716 in 2023
Possible trades: Kennedy Burke Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick, and at least one second-round pick
Brittney Sykes, Los Angeles wing
As Yapkowitz mentioned, the Sparks being without their first-round pick (now a provisional lottery pick, traded to Dallas before the 2021 draft for the pick that became Jasmine Walker and a ‘22 second-rounder), means there’s little incentive for them to tank this year. But with a roster that is more than a couple healthy Ogwumikes and a Toliver away from title aspirations, a smart general manager would be open to offers on players whose contracts expire before the team is set to contend. Sykes fits that bill.
As a defensive wing, Sykes can’t be added directly into the rotation for redundancy with Jordin Canada, so she doesn’t raise the team’s floor the same way that the aforementioned forwards do. Sykes would need to directly replace Canada in a trade, sacrificing passing from the Seattle bench, and there’s not much room to upgrade on Canada’s on-ball and help-side defense. But Sykes’ weakside defense is by far the best of any backcourt player, and she almost never gets caught out of position anywhere.
From David Yapkowitz:
“Brittney Sykes has become an invaluable member of the Los Angeles Sparks. When the team traded for her before the 2020 season, they knew they were getting a wing with the ability to slash to the rim, but they’ve gotten much more than that. She’s become one of the elite defensive players in the league and what she brings on that end of the court is enough to offset her career 28.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Ideally, you’d like her to improve on that mark, but she’s a dynamic player nonetheless.
“This season in particular, she’s displayed a consistent all-around game, crashing the glass if needed and being an additional ball-handler and playmaker. She’s certainly in the Sparks plans for the future and it would probably take a pretty hefty offer to get them to part with her at this point.”
Contract: $110,000 in 2021, $113,300 in 2022
Possible trades: Jordin Canada and Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick