September 18, 2023 

What’s next for the Seattle Storm?

Rebuilding Storm have secured Jewell Loyd as the face of the franchise

Forty WNBA games are officially behind us and thus, so is the entirety of the 2023 Seattle Storm season. Seattle’s squad has already dispersed across the globe, as it wasn’t able to secure a playoff berth for the first time in seven years.

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The Storm wrapped up their season with a two-point home loss to Los Angeles, a very fitting end to a season plagued by an inability to finish down-to-the-wire games. This loss brought the Storm’s final record to 11-29, with seven of those losses being within five points. To head coach Noelle Quinn, this statistic coupled with the bigger picture of their season had a bright side. 

“We had two All-Stars, hopefully a couple of All-Rookie teams, a scoring title leader,” Quinn said, reflecting on the season. “And a team that I think could have folded and didn’t. We were competitive in a lot of games, and only a handful of games got out of hand. But we worked our butts off in spite of being young and inexperienced in a lot of ways and I’m proud of that.”

The experiences of the team echoed their leader’s sentiments as they shared their final thoughts in exit interviews before going their separate ways.

“I think for the most part, we won together, we lost together,” guard Yvonne Turner said. “Obviously, you will want things to be totally different, you know, to be headed into the playoffs and things like that, but with a group of women that we have on our team, it was fun to show up to work every day. We didn’t have any — problems in the locker room or on the court or with any players or anything like that; and that’s unheard of. And it’s my first time having that here and just in general within my career. And it’s been definitely easy to come to work and want to show up to work every day.”

Positive takeaways

Seattle’s rebuild season was full of individual wins and great team camaraderie despite a losing record.

As expected, center Ezi Magbegor continued to grow exponentially this season. After Breanna Stewart‘s departure left a void in the post position and scoring support for the Storm, Magbegor rose to the challenge.

Almost every column of her statistics improved from the 2022 season, from steals to blocks to assists to — most importantly — points per game. Magbegor’s 13.8 average points, 5.3 more per game than in 2022, put her second in team scoring this season; and her average of 1.9 blocks was the second highest in the league behind A’ja Wilson. Magbegor’s impressive performance earned her the first WNBA All-Star selection of her career and she is projected to receive recognition on the WNBA All-Defensive team.

While WNBA awards have yet to be announced, the Associated Press (AP) released their awards Tuesday and acknowledged the individual accomplishments of another Seattle star in the making: Jordan Horston.

Horston, the rookie who fell much lower than projected in the 2023 WNBA Draft to land in Seattle, was honored on the AP’s All-Rookie team after averaging 6.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game and starting 17 of Seattle’s 40 games.

“I liked her on the wing,” Quinn said of the multi-positioned Horston. “But her ability to defend the floor is important in that role. I was very happy about where we ended the season with her on the wing, because we were able to have her defend Jordin Canada, Kelsey Mitchell, Rhyne Howard — all of the very versatile wings in this league. So that was a very good sample size.”

The 2023 season also allowed more opportunities for the roster’s young talents to get invaluable on-court experience than they probably would on a winning team.

Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu, the late second round draft pick out of South Florida, was arguably the biggest surprise of the season. Fankam Mendjiadeu led the Storm in field goal percentage and offensive rebounds, a major sore spot for Seattle in 2022. This effort awarded her a spot in the starting lineup in over half of Seattle’s games this season.

“She was on the cusp of being cut,” Seattle star Jewell Loyd said. “And then she was starting for us. These people that are on this team, they’re fighters. They all have a backstory, they all come from some kind of struggle and they do not back down… We were very lucky to have our rookies that we have on this team and compete the way they did.”

A side profile of Seattle Storm combo guard Jewell Loyd as she looks offscreen, while in the background, the lights of the stadium are blurry oranges.
Jewell Loyd in a game against the New York Liberty at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on May 27, 2022. (Photo credit: Lydia Ely | The Next)

Looking back at this season, the most notable of all of the individual feats this season was Loyd’s historic record-breaking performance. When many thought that the five-time All-Star had already reached her peak, Loyd proved them wrong by having the best season of her career in this rebuild year.

Loyd set the single season scoring record with 939 points (in 38 games), passing the previous number set by Diana Taurasi in 2006 of 860 points (in 33 games). Loyd’s scoring edged past Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, who also passed Taurasi’s record but couldn’t quite catch Loyd. On top of this record, Loyd held the crown for the highest average points per game the majority of the 2024 season, ending the season averaging 24.7 points. In addition to the league records, Loyd also set the WNBA All-Star scoring record with 31 points, earning her the All-Star MVP trophy.

Luckily for Seattle, the new face of the franchise solidified her commitment to the future of the squad by signing a two-year extension worth the supermax of $241,984 in 2024 and $249,032 in 2025. With Loyd now locked in, the Storm organization is now able to focus their full attention on finding new pieces to build their 2024 roster.

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Seattle’s next steps

Seattle’s first step in preparing for the 2024 season is the WNBA Draft Lottery, scheduled to happen later this fall. The Storm will be going up against the Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever and Los Angeles Sparks for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

The odds for each team is determined by their record over the past two seasons, so Seattle is projected to have the lowest chance of receiving the No. 1 pick, as they finished in 2022 with the best record of the four teams. While the likelihood of the Storm getting a fifth No. 1 pick in franchise history is slim, any pick in the top four of this strong draft class is a win for Seattle.

“We have to really do our due diligence and understand that this is a very good draft,” Quinn said. “I’m excited to be following a lot of top players this year. I’m excited to be looking at overseas prospects, as well, diving in deeper to the process because this pick could be a generational talent. This pick has an ability to really jumpstart our building, so it’s important.”

The next step in building the 2024 roster is utilizing the free agency period wisely. Last year, the Storm had a difficult time securing big name free agents, as Stewart was still deciding whether to stay in Seattle or return to her home state of New York, making it impossible for the Storm to know how much salary cap space was available for new signings.

The timing of the announcement of Loyd’s decision to stay in Seattle was ideal for many reasons: it allows Seattle to know how much money is available to pick up free agents and know what positions they need to be looking for. It also allows the franchise to use Loyd as somewhat of a recruiting tool, and — most importantly for fans — Loyd’s decision ended the season an optimistic note.

Currently, Magbegor, Mercedes Russell, Kia Nurse and Sami Whitcomb are the only players on Seattle’s 2023 roster on protected contracts for the 2024 season alongside Loyd. Rookies Horston and Fankam Mendjiadeu, along with Jade Melbourne, are on unprotected contracts and have all indicated their intentions to return to Seattle in 2024.

While the season just ended, Quinn is already diving deep into scouting mode and has a clear vision of what she is looking for to better her squad in 2024.

“We need a point guard, a starting point guard,” Quinn said. “We also need another complimentary 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, consistently keeping things out of the paint, and having that post player presence.”

When looking at the players who will be free agents this 2024 off-season, there are a few names that align with Quinn’s needs. In the point guard position, Jordin Canada will be available to potentially return to Seattle, where she won a championship in 2018, as well as Skylar Diggins-Smith, who seemingly will not be returning to the Phoenix Mercury. Lindsay Allen, Layshia Clarendon and Natasha Cloud are just a few of the free agent point guards who could add a strong veteran and on-court presence to Seattle’s roster. 

“I think we’re a few pieces away,” Quinn said. “I don’t think that it’s a complete overhaul. Again, this is a big offseason not only for free agency, but how our players are going to prepare, how they come back with the knowledge of understanding how we want to play. So we have good pieces in place.”

The last step for building the 2024 roster is actually choosing the best player to use their lottery pick on. As Quinn mentioned, this draft pick is not to be taken lightly. Some of the biggest names in college basketball, including Paige Bueckers, Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark and Cameron Brink, to name a few, are eligible to enter the draft, yet many of them have an extra year of NCAA eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Quinn and her staff will be scouting a number of individual players throughout the NCAA season, they likely won’t know who will actually be available to draft until the NCAA season concludes just days before the draft. Regardless of who chooses to declare, the talent of this draft class will certainly provide a player who could be the future of this Seattle squad.

Even further ahead

Looking even further ahead, perhaps too far to even be thinking about at this point, it will be important to consider how these players will fit into the 2025 roster.

Gabby Williams‘ unexpected return to the WNBA was a pleasant surprise that gave Seattle an extra spark in the middle of the season. Williams suffered a left foot injury in just her tenth game back with the Storm that ended her WNBA season, if not her WNBA career.

Seattle Storm off-ball guard Gabby Williams gets into her jumper form before taking a shot
Gabby Williams shoots in a game against the Minnesota Lynx at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on May 6, 2022. (Photo credit: Lydia Ely | The Next)

Williams has been at the forefront of conversations as the WNBA’s prioritization rule goes into full effect in 2024. As a member of the French national team, Williams has already committed to spending the entirety of the summer of 2024 preparing for the Olympics in Paris.

“I have obligations that I’ve had in place for two years now, so I’m going to see those through,” Williams said. “2024 looks like it’s not possible, more so because of prioritization and, of course, even if I were to come, it would be in August after the Olympics. But in 2025, I plan on coming back.”

Williams’ commitment to returning to Seattle, barring any more prioritization changes, allows the Storm to choose off-season signings that will potentially compliment her, as well as Loyd. If the off-season acquisitions don’t end up fitting for the Storm in 2024, there is the potential for yet another draft lottery pick in 2025 that would create a pretty appealing team of Loyd, two draft lottery picks and Williams, in addition to Magbegor, who will be a free agent in 2025, if she chooses to return.

As a team in a rebuild era, looking years down the road and planning ahead will be incredibly important as Seattle searches for their next generational talent to bring them back to a winning record.

Written by Rowan Schaberg

Rowan Schaberg (she/her) is a Seattle native covering the Seattle Storm for The Next. She is currently studying Sports Journalism at Colorado State University.


  1. J.Zindle on September 22, 2023 at 9:07 pm

    Really insightful article Rowan! I appreciate the complexity of this season more through your chronicling!

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