January 16, 2023 

Wings acquire Natasha Howard from Liberty in three-team trade

Dallas' move for Howard in a major three-team trade should aid the defense

The Dallas Wings officially announced on Monday that they have traded forward Kayla Thornton to the New York Liberty and guard Tyasha Harris to the Connecticut Sun. In exchange the Wings acquired three-time WNBA Champion and 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard. The team received the playing rights to 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield in the three-team trade as first reported by The Next’s Howard Megdal on Sunday afternoon. This move was reportedly kicked-off by 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones requesting a trade from the Connecticut Sun to the New York Liberty.

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Thornton was the cornerstone of the Wings having spent six seasons with the team as a leader in the locker room. The former University of Texas at El Paso star averaged 8.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and she was also the centerpiece of the teams’ defense. Harris averaged 5 points and played 15 minutes per game. She will join the Sun along with guard Rebecca Allen, who moves over from the Liberty. Connecticut will also receive the sixth overall selection in the 2023 WNBA Draft from New York.

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There are still some decisions to be made with forward Isabelle Harrison being an unrestricted free agent, guard Marina Mabrey as a restricted free agent and the pending trade of Allisha Gray, but a player like Howard will have an immediate impact on the team.

“Natasha is a three-time WNBA Champion who joins the Wings organization with an impressive WNBA resume, including both extensive and successful playoff experience,” Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb said in a statement. “On the court we are adding an all-star caliber player who is one of the premier defenders in the game. Off the court we are adding a veteran who has won on the biggest stage in the biggest moments. Rarely can you address as many needs in one transaction as we do with the addition of Natasha. We are excited to have her join our organization.”

Howard won her first championship in 2017 with the Minnesota Lynx and two with the Seattle Storm in 2018 and 2020. She’s a player that has seen what it takes for a team to go the distance. Dallas has never had that type of player in their locker room.

The former Florida State standout was the second-leading scorer for New York averaging 15.1 points per game and was reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Stars in 2022. Adding Howard to the roster adds defensive tenacity and she will be able to spread the floor with her scoring ability. One area of concern are the turnovers, she led the Liberty last season averaging 3.2 per game.

It is also helpful that Howard has experience playing with Dallas’ leading scorer and all-star guard Arike Ogunbowale as they competed in the Russian Women’s Basketball League in 2021-2022 season as members of the Dynamo Kursk.

New York Liberty guard Crystal Dangerfield (3) during the WNBA game between the New York Liberty and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 19, 2022. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

Dangerfield has appeared in 85 games and averaged nearly nine points and three assists a game. She also had the best assist to turnover ratio on the Liberty at 2.7. Bibb said in the press release that he is also excited to have obtained the negotiation rights and the prospect of adding her to the roster.

“We look forward to working to sign her to an agreement and having her join the team,” Bibb said. “She is a player who adds depth and experience to our backcourt and brings the ability to score and distribute the basketball at an elite level.”

Dallas Wings forward Kayla Thornton (6) during the WNBA playoff game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on August 18, 2022. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

This trade is a win for the Wings. They lose one leader in Thornton, only to gain another in Howard who has more playoff experience and has been a difference maker on each team she has played on. The move also gives Harris a chance to showcase her talents as a member of the Sun.

In our Wings’ free agency preview, we questioned if Dallas would opt for continuity or change for the 2023 season. With moves like this, the answer may be both by the time free agency ends.

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Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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