January 10, 2024
2024 WNBA free agency preview: Seattle Storm
Jewell Loyd's extension 'jump-started everything' for Seattle
After free agency left the Seattle Storm roster in shambles in 2023, this year’s edition is seemingly more straightforward. The organization’s proactivity in retaining its key players before the free agency period has allowed it to focus entirely on adding new players to its evolving roster.
Last offseason, the question of whether former WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart would return to the Emerald City or move back home to New York was looming over the franchise until the very end of the free agency period, making it difficult for Storm general manager Talisa Rhea and head coach Noelle Quinn to fully focus on signing other players. This year, the most crucial step came a day before the last game of the season, when Seattle star Jewell Loyd signed a two-year contract extension.
“I feel like our offseason really started when Jewell signed an extension,” Rhea told The Next in December. “That has really jump-started everything that we’ve been looking to do. We’ve been in offseason planning mode since that happened and really trying to complement Jewell on her commitment to the Storm and having a really strong roster of talented players around her.”
The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom
The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Seattle’s second All-Star, Ezi Magbegor, is also locked in for the 2024 season after signing a two-year extension in February 2023. The 24-year-old Australian phenom has built on her skills season after season and proven herself as one of the top players in the league, earning a spot on the WNBA’s All-Defensive Second Team in 2023.
Currently, guard Sami Whitcomb, center Mercedes Russell and guard Kia Nurse are the only players from last season’s roster joining Loyd and Magbegor on protected contracts. Wing Gabby Williams, who unexpectedly returned to Seattle in 2023, is the sole unrestricted free agent from Seattle’s roster. However, due to WNBA prioritization rules taking effect this season, she won’t be able to play in the WNBA in 2024.
Williams, a dual citizen of the United States and France, had previously committed to representing her mother’s home country when it hosts the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She has openly spoken against the league’s prioritization rules, suggesting that individual teams should be able to decide whether they are willing to wait for players playing overseas to join the team later in the season. Williams has made it clear that if prioritization rules change, she will happily return to the WNBA to play in a Storm jersey.
“I’m hoping that I stay healthy and 2024 looks like it’s not possible because of prioritization,” Williams said in her exit interview in September. “But in 2025, do I plan on coming back? Yes.”
Veteran guard Yvonne Turner, who was acquired by Seattle in the 2023 free agency period, is lone restricted free agent from Seattle’s current roster. After the departure of star point guard Sue Bird at the end of the 2022 season, finding a veteran point guard was a priority for Rhea and Quinn.
As a restricted free agent, the Storm must extend a qualifying offer to Turner if they wish to have her back on the roster in 2024, but that scenario seems a bit unlikely. Turner averaged 13 minutes per game for the Storm in the first half of the season. That number dramatically dropped, however, to just over four minutes, in the second half of the season as Quinn and her team tried different lineups. By the end of the season, Quinn’s discussions of needing a point guard resurfaced.
“We need a point guard, a starting point guard,” Quinn said in her exit interview in September. “We also need another complementary player alongside Jewell, another scorer, some more physicality in the paint. We like those things. We’re trying to figure out our point guard rotation, overall consistency… and having that post player presence.”
The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up
The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribe to The Next now and receive 50% off your subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.
So which free agents should Rhea and Quinn be scouting for their 2024 squad?
On Dec. 10, the Storm received the No. 4 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft through the lottery. It was another box to check off on their pre-free agency checklist. With a tall draft class and a need for veteran leadership, a point guard should be a top priority in Seattle’s scouting.
Veteran Skylar Diggins-Smith headlines the list of free-agent guards this season as she looks to make her return to the WNBA, after last suiting up for the Phoenix Mercury in 2022. However, Quinn has always put locker room chemistry at the forefront of roster-building decisions. She might be reluctant to get involved with drama like what plagued the Mercury over the past few years.
Lindsay Allen, a sixth-year WNBA veteran out of Notre Dame, had the best season of her career in 2023 with the Minnesota Lynx. She averaged 6.2 points, 4.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 0.6 steals per game.
Three-time All-Star and three-time All-Defensive Team selection Danielle Robinson would also be a great pickup as she heads into her 13th WNBA season.
These are just a few of the players that haven’t indicated that they will definitely return to their previous rosters.
Another strong post presence is also going to be key for a successful 2024 season, but the wisest decision could be to look to the draft to fill that need. Kamilla Cardoso, a 6’7 center of South Carolina, is one of the many young talents available in this draft class.
Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine
Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.
With Loyd, Magbegor and Williams’ plans set for the 2024 WNBA season, Rhea, Quinn and the rest of Seattle’s staff have a clear vision for the free agency period. A veteran point guard presence, coupled with experienced shooters to take some of the offensive load off Loyd, will be crucial once teams are able to begin negotiating contracts with free agents on Jan. 21.
“I think that we’re a few pieces away,” Quinn said. “I don’t think that [our roster] is a complete overhaul. This is a big offseason for not only free agency, but for how our players are going to prepare, how they come back … understanding how we want to play. So we have good pieces in place.”