Where will Skylar Diggins-Smith land? A question for every WNBA team heading into the 2024 season

With the Las Vegas Aces securing the WNBA title last week, it marks the end of another remarkable season. The future of the league is exceptionally promising. This season witnessed outstanding team and individual performances, a fiercely contested race for MVP, a back-to-back champion for the first time since 2002, and an unprecedented rise in viewership. As the offseason commences, it’s never too early to start pondering some questions.

1. Is there a need for Las Vegas to make any changes?
When something is working well, there’s no need to make alterations. The Aces have already secured contracts for five core players for the next season: Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray, A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, and Alysha Clark. Although Candace Parker is an unrestricted free agent, there’s a possibility she may return for another year after being sidelined for half of the season due to surgery for a fractured foot. The rest of the team’s future remains uncertain. Riquna Williams is also a free agent, but given her exclusion from the Aces due to domestic violence charges, it’s likely that Las Vegas will move on from her. The team has flexibility in terms of salary cap and can re-sign post players like Parker and Kiah Stokes or explore other free agent options. Las Vegas will also focus on strengthening their bench, possibly retaining Sydney Colson and Cayla George to maintain team chemistry. It’s impossible not to look at the Aces and consider the possibility of a three-peat.

2. How can the New York Liberty make a run for the championship next season?
Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones are unrestricted free agents, although I anticipate both will remain with the Liberty. Stewart expressed her contentment with New York before the finals, and the Liberty have already confirmed that she will be a core player. Jones, on the other hand, cannot be designated as a core player since she has already been designated twice before in her career. Once she found her stride under Sandy Brondello, it was evident that Jones thrived in New York. It would be a surprise if she doesn’t re-sign. However, with Courtney Vandersloot, Sabrina Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, and Kayla Thorton already under contract, careful negotiation will be required to maintain the core team within salary cap limits.

[Go Deeper: Will the New York Liberty be even better positioned to chase a WNBA championship next season?] (HTML link retained)

New York needs time to strengthen their team chemistry and build deeper connections. The Liberty was formed through various trades and free-agent signings, and it took them a while to come together as a cohesive unit. Leadership, perseverance, and accountability were lacking in the finals, and these qualities are developed through experience, playing together, and overcoming heart-wrenching losses. Undoubtedly, New York will be highly motivated for the next season. However, the players also have a deeper understanding of each other both on and off the court, and this can make a significant difference.

3. What can Connecticut do to overcome obstacles and win a championship?
The Sun have come extremely close to claiming the championship in recent years, and it must be frustrating for players like Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner. Nevertheless, despite losing Brionna Jones to a season-ending injury, Connecticut still managed to finish third in the standings. The Sun had to revamp their entire system by heavily relying on Thomas and employing a versatile defensive strategy. The approach paid off, with Thomas delivering her most exceptional season. She has a contract through next season. Bonner is an unrestricted free agent, but she has openly expressed that this season was the most enjoyable time she has had playing basketball. I anticipate her re-signing and staying for another run alongside her fiancé, Thomas. Jones’ future remains uncertain. As an unrestricted free agent, she may choose to sign with another team or potentially be designated as a core player. If she remains with the Sun, her condition at the start of the season after her injury is unknown. The Sun also discovered the effectiveness of playing small ball and might want to continue employing that tactic. Regardless, signing influential free agents to support Thomas and Bonner and upgrading the bench will be essential. As remarkable as Thomas and Bonner performed last season, they cannot do it alone, especially against teams with multiple star players like New York and Las Vegas. The Sun should consider pursuing players like Skylar Diggins-Smith.

4. How can Dallas capitalize on their playoff momentum and continue to progress?
Wings coach Latricia Trammell found the perfect combination of players to complement Arike Ogunbowale, and with a focus on defense, the Wings experienced a successful season. Now, they have the opportunity to build on their achievements. Satou Sabally had a breakout season, earning well-deserved honors as the Most Improved Player. As a restricted free agent, Dallas is unlikely to let her slip away. Teaira McCowan, Ogunbowale, and Natasha Howard are all under contract. Diamond DeShields, an unrestricted free agent, did not play this season due to a knee injury, but the Wings may consider re-signing her. Given her injury history, they might explore alternatives for another athletic guard, especially with Lou Sénéchal already on the roster. Insufficient depth caused by injuries made managing the team challenging for Trammell, and the Wings had to bring in numerous players on hardship contracts throughout the season. Nonetheless, the team possesses talent and chemistry. Stephanie Soares, last year’s No. 4 draft pick, will be in the mix. Dallas needs to strengthen their backcourt, make wise roster decisions during training camp, and prioritize player health.

[Go Deeper: The Dallas Wings have been struggling for years. Then they hired Latricia Trammell] (HTML link retained)

5. What are the significant missing elements for Atlanta?
Despite an underwhelming performance in August with a 2-8 record, the Dream made progress this season and secured a playoff spot for the first time since 2018. They took steps forward, such as improved play from Cheyenne Parker and the introduction of Allisha Gray to create a dynamic backcourt alongside Rhyne Howard. However, the first-round playoff sweep by Dallas exposed some of Atlanta’s crucial needs, particularly in experience. Atlanta is still in a growing phase, and with a handful of young and talented players, there will naturally be a learning curve. The Dream did not make any major moves in free agency, but acquiring one or two high-caliber veterans, especially in the frontcourt, would greatly benefit them. If they are not ready to entrust Aari McDonald with the starting point guard position, bringing in a free agent or re-signing Danielle Robinson would be a wise decision. Atlanta requires one or two key players who can provide on-court leadership, experience, and scoring ability to alleviate offensive pressure from Howard and Gray.

6. Is Minnesota only one position away from contending for the title?
The Lynx were one of the season’s success stories, rebounding from an 0-6 start to finish sixth in the standings and secure a playoff spot. Napheesa Collier had a season deserving of MVP consideration. Kayla McBride consistently contributed scoring, and rookies Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhasz showcased their potential. There is much to be optimistic about. However, despite Lindsay Allen stepping up and performing adequately at the point guard position, Minnesota has lacked consistency in that role. Coach Cheryl Reeve believes in having a floor general, someone who can act as an on-court coach, facilitate plays, and score effectively. Since Lindsay Whalen retired in 2018, Minnesota has struggled to find consistency at the point. Additional moves in the frontcourt may be necessary, but with Allen as an unrestricted free agent and Aerial Powers already intending to play elsewhere, Reeve might consider making significant free agency moves to strengthen the backcourt. Once again, Skylar Diggins-Smith is an excellent option. Jordin Canada and Natasha Cloud are also free agents. Acquiring a reliable point guard could make all the difference.

7. Should Washington consider parting ways with their core roster?
Injuries plagued the Mystics’ championship aspirations throughout the season. Even with the return of Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins, they were still without Shakira Austin for the playoffs. The team struggled due to inconsistent roster availability. So, what’s the next step? Washington has already extended Atkins’ contract. However, it may be worth considering if it makes sense to re-sign Delle Donne and Cloud. Delle Donne has faced difficulties staying healthy in recent seasons, which limits the Mystics’ performance on both ends of the court. Moving on from Delle Donne would allow Washington to prioritize Austin and Atkins as the focal points while gaining the No. 6 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft. Brittney Sykes proved to be an exceptional player—


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