January 21, 2023
How trading away Dearica Hamby gives Las Vegas Aces flexibility this offseason
Plus, how Amanda Zahui B. fits the Aces' style of play
The 2022 WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces made their first move of the offseason via trade. The team announced on Saturday that it had acquired the rights to center Amanda Zahui B. and a 2024 second-round pick from the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for forward Dearica Hamby and the Aces’ 2024 first-round pick.
With this move, the Aces traded away their longest-tenured player in Hamby. She started her career with them, then known as the San Antonio Stars, after being drafted sixth overall in 2015 out of Wake Forest. Since the franchise moved to Las Vegas after the 2017 season, Hamby has won two WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year awards, has been named an All-Star twice, and won a championship with the Aces last season.
“Dearica has dedicated eight years of her career to this organization and played a big role in our success since the team moved to Las Vegas,” Aces general manager Natalie Williams said in a statement. “We’re going to miss her as a teammate and are grateful for all of her contributions to the Aces over the years.”
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The loss of Hamby is significant. She had been a franchise stalwart for eight years and had many memorable moments with the team, including the famous “Hamby Heave” to help Las Vegas advance in the 2019 playoffs.
Last season, she started strong but faded down the stretch. She averaged 9.3 points per game, her fewest since 2018. She brought a lot of energy in her sixth player role but also missed significant time at the end of the season and in the playoffs with a bone contusion in her knee.
Hamby also announced at the 2022 championship parade that she was pregnant with her second child. That left her status uncertain for the start of the 2023 season, but she hopes to be ready to contribute.
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The Aces went into this offseason with very limited cap space because they had signed all of their core players to extensions during the 2022 season. This included Hamby, who signed a two-year extension through 2024 in June. In trading Hamby, the Aces open up $169,000 in cap space for this offseason. This gives them $307,804 in total to work with to sign three to four free agents.
The first of those free agents may be Zahui B., whom they traded for. Her contract was suspended last year by the Sparks due to a roster crunch, so she comes to the Aces as a suspended-contract expired player, which is the same as being a restricted free agent.
Zahui B. is a great fit for how the Aces want to play. At 6’5, she is a post player who can space the floor and will fit well next to 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. When she last played in the WNBA in 2021, Zahui B. averaged 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. She is a career 31.2% 3-point shooter and has seen her overall production increase year over year during her seven-year career. Her ability to stretch the floor as well as play in the paint should be a great help and allow Wilson at times to move back to her more natural position of power forward.
This move by the Aces will sting for fans due to how beloved Hamby was and how long she had been a part of the franchise. However, it will open up flexibility for the Aces to add to their roster and try to repeat as WNBA champions. Plus, Zahui B. is a great fit for the Aces and the style of basketball they want to play.
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.
There’s something that doesn’t quite feel right about this transaction, namely:
“In June, the Aces announced the had signed Hamby to a two-year contract extension. But there were signs that something might be amiss this week when Hamby — who during the Aces’ victory parade announced she is pregnant — tweeted, “Imagine expressing your fears as a woman and being pregnant in this profession/world…. Then to be reassured that you were supported.. and your back was “had”…. only to then be used against you.” (according to ESPNw).
Was Hamby referring to the contract extension? Or to the pregnancy and the fact that the WNBA still considers players that are pregnant and/or mothers active and their salary counts against the cap, whether they’re on the court or at home? As such, did Las Vegas use the pregnancy and extension to open up cap space for a 2023 replacement who will be there all season? If that’s become business as usual, I think the WNBA needs to look at that policy. This is, after all, a league that features female players.
That aside, Hamby for Zahui B? Geesh, I’ve seen the latter during her days for both the Liberty and Sparks and while she certainly has her moments, consistency is not a word I’d use to describe her game.
In my mind, I’ve got to think Las Vegas has some other targets in mind to pair up with A’ja Wilson. A veteran (Candace Parker, Emma Meesseman) or a youngster (Ezi Magbegor)?
We’ll see….but something seems a bit off, even rotten, in Vegas.