January 9, 2024 

2024 WNBA free agency preview: Atlanta Dream

Dan Padover: 'We’re not where our end goal is yet, which’s to be contending for a WNBA championship'

The Atlanta Dream enter the 2024 calendar year with a ton of momentum and heightened expectations following their first playoff appearance since 2018. Though the Dream aren’t expected to make an offseason splash on par with their trade for two-way guard Allisha Gray a year ago, the organization has many decisions and improvements to make when the free agency period officially opens on Jan. 21.

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Who’s returning?

Atlanta’s All-Star trio of Rhyne Howard, Cheyenne Parker and Gray are all under contract with the team through the 2024 season as the Dream look to continue building a supporting cast around them. Howard, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, became the youngest player to score 30 or more points in a playoff game in Atlanta’s first-round series loss to the Dallas Wings. The 24-year-old Kentucky product is the cornerstone of the Dream’s young core.

That young core also includes Aari McDonald, Haley Jones, Laeticia Amihere and Naz Hillmon. All of them are on nonguaranteed rookie contracts, according to Her Hoop Stats.

Iliana Rupert, a 22-year-old center, is also under team control through 2025, though her status for the upcoming season is unclear due to obligations with the French national team.

“There’s not an update at this point,” general manager Dan Padover told The Next. “But as discussed, [Rupert] is viewed as a long-term asset and we really enjoyed having her in Atlanta this past season.”

Spain’s Maite Cazorla, a 5’11 guard for USK Praha in the EuroLeague, hasn’t played in the WNBA since 2019, but the Dream hold her exclusive rights as a suspended contract. The No. 23 overall pick in 2019, now 26 years old, averaged 3.0 points and 1.6 assists in 15.4 minutes per game in her lone season in Atlanta in 2019.


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Who’s entering free agency?

Four of the 12 players under contract with Atlanta last season are entering free agency: Nia Coffey, Danielle Robinson, Monique Billings and AD Durr.

Coffey, Robinson and Billings are unrestricted free agents, meaning they can sign with another team outright beginning Feb. 1. Atlanta has the option to match an offer sheet given to Durr, a restricted free agent. If a qualifying offer isn’t extended to Durr before Jan. 15, they will become an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 1, as explained in Her Hoop Stats’ CBA guide.

Coffey is a valuable 3-and-D forward with a versatile defensive skillset. She anchored the WNBA’s top defense over a 17-game stretch from July 1 to Aug. 13 (96.5 defensive rating) before she went down with a left hand injury for the rest of the season.

Following Coffey’s injury, the Dream’s defense was No. 7 in the league (103.5 defensive rating) over the final nine games of the regular season — a testament to her defensive value.

Though Coffey is approaching free agency, she’s been working with the coaching staff in-market more than almost any other player this offseason.

“We’ve had various players in and out this offseason, but the players that have been with us the most in Atlanta are Jones and Coffey,” Padover said. “Obviously, [Coffey] was with us in the offseason last year, and it was a great experience for her.”

Robinson, a 34-year-old veteran point guard and the 12th-oldest player to enter a game last season, could be an option in the backup point guard spot. However, she and McDonald both shot under 35% from 3-point range last season, so the team might want more shooting.

What’s Atlanta’s offseason approach?

Atlanta wasn’t satisfied with its postseason outcome from a season ago and wants to continue to climb up the standings. But Padover doesn’t want to compromise the development and upward trajectory of one of the best young cores in the WNBA.

“It’s the biggest challenge for where we’re at right now,” Padover on the balance between wanting to compete and continuing to develop young players. “We’ve made strides to become more of a competitive basketball team, but we’re not where our end goal is yet, which’s to be contending for a WNBA championship. My job and our goal collectively as an organization is to thread the needle and continue to stay competitive and develop our young talent, while also looking to increase our competitiveness year over year.

“We want to be more competitive in 2024 than in 2023, but not at the sacrifice of building what we wanted to build from Day 1, which is a long-term, sustainable roster. It’s not necessarily easy, but plenty of teams have done it before.”

One need for the Dream is bench shooting. Last season, Atlanta used its bench more than any team other than Phoenix, but it ranked No. 10 in the league in bench 3-point percentage (28.3) and No. 11 in bench 3-pointers made (1.2 per game).

“Overall, one of the things we want to get better at is being a threat on the court at all times and having groups that can play together to be a threat,” Padover said. “Part of that comes with internal growth and our young core that is going to continue to get better and better, but our ears will always be open to adding pieces with firepower as well.”

Outside of the guard position, Atlanta will need to add size in the frontcourt after being one of four teams without a player 6’5 or taller on the roster last season. Another of those four teams, the Las Vegas Aces, had five players listed at 6’4: A’ja Wilson, Candace Parker, Kiah Stokes, Cayla George and Alaina Coates. But Atlanta had only two (Parker and Billings) before Rupert joined the team in July.


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Who might the Dream target?

Here’s a list of potential free agency options for the Dream, in addition to some 2024 draft prospects who could help fill needs in the short and long term. The Dream hold the No. 8, No. 20 and No. 32 picks in a loaded 2024 draft class.

Players are listed alphabetically, alongside their previous team, age, height, and free agency or draft status.

Point guards

Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech (22 years old, 5’6, draft)

Sarah Andrews, Baylor (22 years old, 5’6, draft)

Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics (31 years old, 5’10, unrestricted)

– Maite Cazorla, Spain (26 years old, 5’10, suspended – expired)*

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury (33 years, 5’9, unrestricted)

Te-Hina Paopao, South Carolina (21 years old, 5’9, draft)

– Danielle Robinson, Atlanta Dream (34 years old, 5’9, unrestricted)

Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State (22 years old, 5’10, draft)

Wings and forwards

Rebecca Allen, Connecticut Sun (31 years old, 6’1, unrestricted)

Isobel Borlase, Australia (19 years old, 5’11, draft)

Rae Burrell, Los Angeles Sparks (23 years old, 6’2, unrestricted)

– Nia Coffey, Atlanta Dream (28 years old, 6’1, unrestricted)*

Rickea Jackson, Tennessee (22 years old, 6’2, draft)

Hannah Jump, Stanford (23 years old, 6’1, draft)

Karlie Samuelson, Los Angeles Sparks (29 years old, 6’, unrestricted)

Alanna Smith, Chicago Sky (27 years old, 6’4, unrestricted)

Bigs

Kalani Brown, Dallas Wings (26 years old, 6’7, unrestricted)

Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina (22 years old, 6’7, draft)

Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty (29 years old, 6’6, unrestricted)


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Written by Hunter Cruse

Hunter Cruse covers the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Draft for The Next.

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