January 19, 2024 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: Why Washington Mystics hold the keys to WNBA free agency

Will Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud still be Mystics for 2024?

In the latest episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball, host Jackie Powell welcomes Jenn Hatfield, The Next‘s Washington Mystics beat reporter, for a discussion of what WNBA free agency will hold for the Mystics.

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Free agency begins in earnest on Jan. 21, when WNBA teams can start negotiating with players, but the Mystics have already begun their work. On Jan. 13, they extended a core qualifying offer (an offer for a one-year contract at the supermaximum salary of $241,984) to unrestricted free agent and two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne.

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We previously reported at The Next that Delle Donne is expected to move to another team this offseason. Coring Delle Donne means that this will likely have to happen via a sign-and-trade, because the core prevents Delle Donne from directly negotiating a contract with anyone besides the Mystics. Jenn breaks down how coring Delle Donne can help the Mystics even if she ultimately departs:

“You can often use the core if a player is thinking about moving on and you either want to keep them in your market or, if that’s not possible, you can at least get some sort of return. Because now for Elena Delle Donne to go elsewhere, she needs to be signed to a contract by the Mystics and then flipped in a trade to go elsewhere. So … [if] you don’t core her and she goes somewhere else, you don’t get anything in return; you just lose Elena Delle Donne. Now, by coring her, if she wants to go elsewhere, there has to be a return that the Mystics are willing to accept.”

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Jackie and Jenn discuss possible landing spots for Delle Donne as well as for point guard Natasha Cloud, who is an unrestricted free agent and has not been cored. They also discuss what the path forward could be for the Mystics in 2024 if neither Delle Donne nor Cloud returns.

Related reading: 2024 WNBA free agency preview: Washington Mystics

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