With the WNBA free agency season in turbo mode, two Western Conference teams quickly stood above the fray as the Las Vegas Aces and Los Angeles Sparks made the biggest splashes of the free agency period.
Early Monday morning, the Aces announced the signing of five-time All-Star guard Angel McCoughtry, who had spent her entire 10-year career back east with the Atlanta Dream. Bill Laimbeer, the Aces head coach and president of basketball operations, made clear that McCoughtry was one of their main objectives of the off-season.
“Angel was a primary target for us during free agency,” Laimbeer explained. “She is an elite level scorer who loves to attack the basket, and is also one of the best defenders in the league. When she steps on the court, we immediately become a stronger team on both ends of the floor out on the perimeter. Angel knows the kind of culture we are building here with our core group, and her addition moves us another step closer to our goal of bringing a championship to the city of Las Vegas.”
McCoughtry, the number one pick out of Louisville in 2009, has led the league in scoring twice (2012, 2013), is a six-time all-WNBA honoree and a seven-time all-WNBA Defensive Team selection. On top of her defensive prowess, she is also one of the most prolific scorers in league history as she is one of only two players to average 20 or more points a game for four straight seasons (Diana Taurasi being the other).
McCoughtry pitched in via Twitter before heading to Russia to report to her other team, Dynamo Kursk:
This move instantly puts the Aces as a serious contender for the championship in 2020. Along with McCoughtry, the Aces have three other no. 1 picks: Kelsey Plum (2017), A’ja Wilson (2018) and Jackie Young from last season. To add, they still have center Liz Cambage and guard Kayla McBride to bolster the scoring load.
Even without McCoughtry, the team wasn’t too far off from title contention – making it to the semifinals before being eliminated by the eventual champion Washington Mystics.
The Los Angeles Sparks didn’t sit idly by on Monday, however. Not too long after the McCoughtry signing was announced, the Sparks announced the return of Kristi Toliver, who had spent seven seasons with the team (winning the 2016 championship) before going to her hometown Washington Mystics and winning the title in 2019. Toliver, a three-time All-Star and 2013 Most Improved Player, definitely has the team buzzing with joy.
“We are thrilled to have Kristi Toliver back in a L.A.. Sparks uniform,” said Eric Holoman, the Sparks’ managing partner and governor. “Kristi is a phenomenal leader and proven winner at every level. We can’t wait to see her back on the floor with her 2016 championship teammates.”
The Sparks didn’t stop there. Soon after signing Toliver, the team traded center Kalani Brown to the Atlanta Dream for guard Brittney Sykes and center Marie Gulich. Sykes, a three-year vet, averaged 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists in her time with the Dream. Gulich averaged 3.3 points off the bench last season and will give the Sparks additional frontcourt protection.
OTHER NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS:
- The Connecticut Sun re-signed Jonquel Jones and Morgan Tuck, but traded Tuck immediately to the Seattle Storm for the 11th pick in the 2020 draft. Tuck is reunited with her college teammate and former MVP Breanna Stewart. .
- The Dallas Wings re-signed Imani McGee-Stafford, Karlie Samuelson, Megan Gustafson, Moriah Jefferson (who sat out 2019 due to injury) and Morgan Bertsch.
- The New York Liberty signed Layshia Clarendon, who spent last season with the Connecticut Sun.