June 13, 2024 

What Ezi Magbegor’s contract extension means for the Seattle Storm

Skylar Diggins-Smith: 'I think she’s just scratching the surface'

SEATTLE — Through four seasons with the Storm Ezi Magbegor has shown exponential growth every year. A first-time All-Star in 2023, Seattle is confident the Australian center will only continue to improve.

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The Storm ensured that Magbegor will continue this growth in Seattle at least one more year as she signed a one-year contract extension. The move was announced last Tuesday and keeps the 24-year-old with the team that drafted her through at least 2025, while avoiding the chance of losing her via free agency this coming offseason. 

“I think as good as she is now, there’s a stratosphere that she can reach,” Nneka Ogwumike told The Next. “She comes out, she plays hard, she knows what she’s capable of, but I think over time we can awaken a real beast level from her that I feel has been kind of tucked away for a while.”

An eight-time All-Star, former No. 1 overall pick, WNBA MVP and Champion, Ogwumike knows what it takes to be the best of the best and thinks Magbegor has what it takes. While Magbegor’s natural athleticism is important it is her inherent basketball IQ that stands out most to the WNBPA President.

“She’s very smart, she knows the game, she can make reads, and she anticipates a lot of things on both ends of the floor,” Ogwumike said. “Her basketball IQ is where it needs to be for someone who can achieve some real historical status.”

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Magbegor decided to forgo that free agency opportunity by signing her extension now. The young center told reporters that she didn’t really have an interest in the wining and dining or even seeing other options. “At the end of the day I knew what I wanted, I knew where I wanted to be,” Magbegor said.

The Storm star was picked with the last pick of the first round in the 2019 WNBA Draft. She first joined the team for the 2020 bubble season and won the 2020 WNBA championship as a rookie. Since then, Magbegor has twice been named to the WNBA All-Defensive team and earned her first All-Star distinction in 2023.

Magbegor is also a key piece on the Australian national team. She earned MVP honors at the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Brazil as she led the Opals to an undefeated record and Olympic qualification. Magbegor is expected to feature prominently once again this summer in Paris.

The 6’4 defensive stalwart has been fantastic to start the 2024 season and continues to write her name in the history books alongside veritable legends of the game. 

She leads the league in blocks per game and Sunday’s defeat at Minnesota marked her seventh straight game with at least three blocks, tying Margo Dydek for second on the all-time WNBA record books. The only player ahead of them is Lisa Leslie, who had 10 straight games of three or more blocks. 

New teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith thinks that even beyond the impressive blocks Magbegor has shown herself to be a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

After Tuesday’s home victory over Phoenix, Diggins-Smith told media Magbegor is “the ultimate helper defensively” and “makes everything so easy” from her spot as the team’s defensive anchor. The point guard specifically pointed to her ability to switch defensive assignments and guard on the perimeter, not something all 6’4 players are agile enough to do. 

Ogwumike referred to Magbegor as the team’s defensive “closer.”

“I think that we do our jobs to make sure that we know our personnel and we guard our spaces, but Ezi does an amazing job of sealing the deal,” Ogwumike said. “I think what makes her our anchor defensively is that she’s always there. She’s very consistent in being there. We don’t have to wonder if she’s going to be there and that’s something that we can rely on heavily.”

Magbegor has also improved her offense year after year, becoming very versatile and able to score in a myriad of ways. Whether it’s putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket, posting up closer to the basket, hitting a three-point shot, or stepping out for a long two, the young player keeps adding elements to her game.

A terrific rebounder, Magbegor also has the ability to push the ball up the floor with poise and confidence whether she is taking it all the way herself or finding a teammate.

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Ezi Magbegor skies for a rebound against the Minnesota Lynx on June 9, 2024 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo credit John McClellan | The Next)

People around the Storm organization are confident Magbegor will continue on this growth trajectory to impressive heights. As Diggins-Smith said, “I think she’s just scratching the surface of the player that we’ll see in final form.”

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Though Magbegor has distinguished herself with her play on the court, her biggest, and most important, area of growth may be in her confidence.

Now in her fifth season playing with Jewell Loyd, the guard has seen her teammate’s confidence grow year after year. Loyd said playing in Europe during the offseason could particularly be a factor because “she came in with a different confidence level and a work ethic that she wants to get better.”

Seemingly everyone in Seattle but Magbegor knows how great she can be, but Loyd thinks that the outstanding performances we are seeing now are Magbegor starting to believe it herself.

“She’s observant and she understands what needs to get done, she plays very hard, but I do think that we can give her confidence that can really help her realize some more things about herself,” Ogwumike said.

Head coach Noelle Quinn praised Magbegor’s character off the court and her commitment to being a great teammate. A selfless player who brings stoic joy to her team, Quinn thinks that “who she is as a human being is amazing. And I’m so proud of her and happy that she’s committed and we’re committed to her because she wants to be here.”

Though she admittedly usually procrastinates with decisions Magbegor said she knew she wanted to stay in Seattle and getting the contract done now is a huge relief. She was ready to commit to the team and now she can just focus on basketball.

The one-year contract extension pays Magbegor the maximum amount Seattle is allowed to pay her. Fans should not be alarmed by the short nature of the extension as the vast majority of players are not signing past the 2025 season. It is largely expected that the WNBPA will opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2024 season, which would bring the current deal to an end following the 2025 season. A new CBA would likely mean larger salaries, so players don’t want to be locked into smaller contracts.

Even though Magbegor signed for just one additional season, the agreement indicates a positive relationship between player and franchise, a key to retaining talent. Magbegor cited the team’s professionalism and investment, which can particularly be seen in things like the practice facility, as important elements of the franchise she wants to continue to be a part of.

For all the talk around Seattle’s veteran stars — Loyd, Ogwumike, and Diggins-Smith — Magbegor is just as important to this current group’s push to win a championship while also being a key piece of the franchise’s future. As those three stars have pointed out on several occasions, it is not just a “big three,” it is a fantastic four that you can’t omit Magbegor from.

Rowan Schaberg contributed reporting to this story.

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Written by Bella Munson

Bella has been a contributor for The Next since September 2023 and is the site's Seattle Storm beat reporter. She also writes for The Equalizer while completing her Journalism & Public Interest Communication degree at the University of Washington.

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