April 28, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: 2023 WNBA training camp preview

Jackie and Maggie Hendricks discuss the most competitive and trickiest camps.

WNBA Training Camps open this week and Maggie Hendricks of Bally Sports joined Jackie Powell on the latest Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to discuss. They cover the most competitive training camps where there’s too much talent for too few roster spots (Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks), the most tricky to predict camps where there are a lot of young talents who have never played pro (Dallas Wings, Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky) and the changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that go into effect this year and how they impact this year’s training camp.

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Maggie started the show by talking about the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and what to expect from their Training Camp.

“I don’t think you can talk about a camp that has A’ja Wilson and Candace Parker in the same camp and not say that that’s going to be crazy competitive because we know how both of those women are, you know, and when you throw Kelsey Plum in it then you throw a Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. I mean, the work that’ll be happening in those camps is going to be impressive,” Maggie said. “The aces have so many big contracts, even with some players taking a discount. It’s still they have huge contracts. And so I think that means that they’re definitely probably only going to carry 11.”

Then, they turned their attention to New York where the Liberty has built a formidable roster in the offseason with high-profile free agents from across the country. Who will join them after Training Camp?

“What’s really interesting here is you have pretty much four players fighting for one spot, and that’s why it is so so so competitive. The people who I think are for sure making the roster obviously the uber-talented starting five are projected starting five of Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney, Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu,” Jackie, Liberty beat reporter for The Next said. She also mentioned Kayla Thornton, Stefanie Dolson, Han Xu and Marine Johannes who are protected or projected to retain their roster spots.

Maggie added, “There’s still a lot of moving parts in keeping a super team together. And so I think the expectation for the Liberty is that they need to win right now. So that means there’s not going to be a ton of time for development.”


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Written by The Next

5 Comments

  1. Tim Daniels on April 29, 2023 at 7:03 am

    Jackie, I’m not sure that the Lynx roster is quite so up in the air or inscrutable as you suggest. Personally, I think that both Rachel Banham and Lindsay Allen make the team. They are the only players on the roster with any real experience running an offense, and what other player does Reeve have that it would make sense to try to develop into a point guard? In addition to Banham and Allen, McBride and Mitchell are both mortal locks to make the team at the shooting guard position. You can also pencil in Miller, Powers, and Carleton at the 3.

    That makes seven players who are pretty much guaranteed spots on the roster, and you can add to those both Napheesa Collier and Jess Shephard. That leaves at most three possible roster spots. (Actually, the Lynx don’t have the cap space to carry 12 players, but Achonwa’s pregnancy allows them to go over the cap to sign a “replacement” player using the special “hardship” exception for players on pregnancy leave.). I’d be surprised if Nikolina Milic doesn’t get one of those three spots. She is, of course, already 29 years old, but she had a very nice rookie season last year, and the team gave her a hefty raise to $90,000 in order to secure her services this season. Dantas also seems to be a likely choice for another spot in the post. While she has battled injury problems and also had a down year shooting from outside last season, Reeve is pretty loyal to her players, and there is definitely a level of trust with Damiris. Personally, I think that Dorka is going to have to clearly outplay either Dantas or Milic in order to make the roster instead of them, and that’s definitely not something I’d care to bet on. My guess is that Dorka, Brea Beal, and Taylor Soule are all competing for a single roster spot, which the team gets only because, and for as long as, Achonwa is out on pregnancy leave.

    • Tim Daniels on April 29, 2023 at 12:19 pm

      If my expected scenario transpires, and if one of Juhasz, Beal, or Soule earns a spot on the team, what will happen is that the Lynx will cut Banham, Allen, or Dantas in order to create the cap space for this additional rookie signing. That will put the team within a few thousand dollars of the cap. The team will then re-sign Banham, Allen, or Dantas, whichever player was cut in order to create the necessary cap space, using the special pregnancy “hardship” exception to the salary cap. The reason that Banham, Allen, or Dantas has to be the player who is cut and then re-signed is because they are all currently playing for the veteran’s minimum and won’t be impacted financially by this maneuver. (A player re-signed using the pregnancy “hardship” exception to the cap can be re-signed only at a pro-rated veteran’s minimum salary for as long as Achonwa’s pregnancy leave continues.)

  2. Josh Wenck on April 30, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    I wondered last season if Banham could get left off the team. It would’ve been interesting to see what happened had Clarendon made the team. Banham is a Minnesota legend and Reeve talks about the effect that her humor and positivity have on the team on and off the court. However, her on the court performance as a ball handle and distributor are meaningful vulnerabilities as the offense evolves behind Fowles retirement. They’re going to push pace in transition with Miller, Powers and Collier rim running and the half court offense is going to to look like what we saw in the bubble with high pick and roll, pick and pop with the 5. Both Dantas and Juhasz have the skill set to roll or pop to the three point line. Reeve has expressed frustration with Dantas’ fitness coming into camp in the past so I think she could be very vulnerable if she’s not in shape. I also wonder if Juhasz can deal with the physicality of the W. I think Milić is a lock and will get time at the 5. She has been really impressive on both ends of the court and hopefully she’ll adjust to how the WNBA is officiated to limit her foul trouble. I also wonder if they’ll go super small with either Shepherd or Collier at the 5. The new offensive approach doesn’t necessarily require a traditional point guard to initiate which makes a backup role for Banham less essential. Either Mitchell or Powers could initiate. Does this spell the end of the Rachel Banham era with the Lynx? There’s a case to be made that her roster spot is in real jeopardy. I would love to see Beal make the team. She can be an elite defender from day one and her length and strength make her super versatile on switches. If she can develop her offensive game she could slot into Powers’ role next season. Sure, there are two super teams but the rest of the league is wide open. It’s gonna be fun to see what the Lynx can do as they enter a new phase and a more dynamic style of play.

  3. Tim Daniels on May 6, 2023 at 11:29 pm

    In the first preseason game, I think that Dorka made a case for why she should be included on the final roster. Perhaps they will carry five bigs this year, with Collier, Shephard, Milic, Dantas and Juhasz all able to spend some time in the post.

    I noticed that Mitchell was given an opportunity to act as a facilitator, and that she did have six assists, so perhaps she can fulfill some of the duties of a traditional point guard. Still, she has played exclusively at shooting guard in the WNBA and in college, and Reeve has said that even when she is running this five-out offense, she still wants to be able to run some plays. In my opinion, that gives Banham an inside track for making the team as a back-up to, and as insurance against any injury to, Lindsay Allen. It is also significant that, with this five-out offense, the team needs, not just drivers like Mitchell and Miller, but players who can shoot the three and who can serve as targets for kick outs when the defense collapses on the driver. In that regard, Rachel had the second highest three-point field goal percentage on the team last year, behind only Moriah Jefferson, who led the league in that statistic. I think that’s another reason for keeping her on the team.

    If Beal has any chance of making the final roster, she is going to have to do a little more offensively. Zero field goals, zero free throws, zero rebounds, and zero assists is not going to get her a spot on the team, not when she is given nearly seventeen minutes of court time, no matter how good her defense is. Right now, I’d have to say that Taylor Soule has the better argument for she should be on the roster, though I still expect that only two rookies to do so.

  4. Tim Daniels on May 21, 2023 at 3:12 am

    It looks like I called the final roster exactly prior to the start of training camp. As I suggested, Lindsay Allen, Rachel Banham, Tiffany Mitchell, and McBride have all made the roster at the guard spots, and Diamond Miller, Aerial Powers, and Bridget Carleton are all available to spend minutes at the 3. Furthermore, Napheesa Collier, Jess Shephard, and Nikolina Milic have all earned spots in the post, and Damiris Dantas was spotted at the season opener—meaning, I think, that she is about to be re-signed using the special “hardship” exception that we will get based on Achonwa’s pregnancy. Finally, I said that one of Dorka Juhasz, Brea Beal, or Taylor Soule would make the team as a second rookie, after Lindsay, Rachel, or Damiris was initially cut to create the necessary cap space and then re-signed. That is all about to happen.

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