January 11, 2024
2024 WNBA free agency preview: Las Vegas Aces
The Aces need the same thing in free agency as they did in 2023: depth
In 2023, the Las Vegas Aces became the third team ever to win back-to-back WNBA titles, securing their latest championship in four games over the New York Liberty. As they head into the 2024 free agency period, they have more cap room than they’ve ever had under head coach Becky Hammon, and they have one glaring need: depth.
The Aces went into the 2023 free agency period with all their stars under contract and not needing to make a lot of moves. Then the team surprised many by trading starting forward Dearica Hamby to the Los Angeles Sparks. The move eventually opened up cap space for the additions of seven-time All-Star Candace Parker and 2023 WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Alysha Clark.
This year, the team wouldn’t need to make such a trade, as it has $512,585 left under the salary cap. But it also has four unrestricted free agents and one restricted free agent.
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“We’re very, very happy with the pieces that we have,” Aces general manager Natalie Williams told The Next. “And we know [unrestricted free agent center] Kiah Stokes is a great piece for us. We’re definitely looking to re-sign her. And then we also feel that we need to get a little bit more help for [star forward] A’ja [Wilson] as well. We’ll be looking in that area and then probably another great veteran guard.
“And just looking forward to the draft, there’s a lot of good players who could possibly be coming out. We still feel that at [picks] 16 and 18, we will have good options.”
The two biggest free agents the Aces have this offseason are in the frontcourt in Stokes and Parker. Stokes has been a big key to the Aces’ back-to-back championships, jumping into the starting lineup midway through both seasons and playing pivotal roles in their championship runs. She signed for $81,000 before the 2023 season, down from $115,000 in 2022, but Williams made it clear that she is a priority. With more cap space this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Stokes get a pay raise if she decides to re-sign with the Aces.
Parker, meanwhile, is coming off a major foot injury that cost her the final 22 games of the regular season as well as the entire playoffs. Parker was starting to find her stride right before her injury, but it may have been the injury that caused her to struggle early in the season. The 17-year veteran took a sizable pay cut to come to the Aces in 2023. The team is leaving it up to Parker to determine whether she wants to come back for another season.
“We’d love to have Candace back,” Williams said. “I mean, she’s a legend, just an incredible competitor, and it’s really going to be up to her and what she’s able and feels that her body can do and if it’s something that she wants to do.”
The other three free agents the Aces have are guard Sydney Colson, guard Riquna Williams and center/forward Cayla George. Colson has been the heartbeat of the locker room during the two-year championship run, and her overall importance to the team’s chemistry cannot be understated, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team re-signed her.
Williams, meanwhile, had some injury and off-court issues last season and was away from the team for a long stretch to finish the season. Her limited impact on the court will make it hard for the Aces to bring her back.
George is a restricted free agent, so the Aces can match any offer from another team. She was great for the chemistry of the team, but it will be interesting to see whether the Aces think they can find higher-quality depth on the free agent market.
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The Aces’ biggest need this offseason is to add quality depth. Due to injuries and off-court issues, the Aces were only using six players down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. The franchise needs to help ease the load on Wilson and guards Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum. Natalie Williams emphasized the need to add another forward to give Wilson a breather and also brought up adding another point guard to help balance out Gray’s minutes.
“We’ve got … probably the No. 1 point guard in the world in Chelsea Gray, and it’d be great to have a good young point guard or a one/two guard behind her to learn from her in case we need it,” Williams said. “Then, of course, we still need [a] backup shooter off the bench as well to help Alysha Clark, and then … helping out A’ja [at the] four or five spot.
“I think we can do a better job at getting some bench players that can come in [and] contribute consistently to give A’ja, Chelsea, Jackie, Kelsey a nice little break and even Kiah.”
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Depth was an area of need last year for the Aces in free agency, and that hasn’t changed a year later. However, the advantage for the Aces this time around is they have a lot more cap room to play with and an easy pitch to potential free agents.
Getting a good mix of veteran depth and young up-and-comers to support their superstars will be an interesting challenge, but the Aces will definitely look at who is the best fit with their stars. If we have seen anything from Las Vegas over the last two years, it’s that chemistry has been very important to the team’s success.
If the Aces can add quality depth that helps them both on the court and in the locker room, it would go a long way toward seeing them become just the second WNBA franchise ever to three-peat as champions.
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.