WNBA free agency tracker: Sun trade fan favorite Courtney Williams to Dream

Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams drives the ball in the first half of Game 1 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Washington Mystics, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

It’s time for some free agency movement in the WNBA as players were able to finalize deals as of Feb. 10. There are some big names in the mix this season that could shake up the landscape, including Courtney Vandersloot, Liz Cambage, Brittney Griner, Chelsea Gray, Courtney Williams and Kahleah Copper. League MVP Elena Delle Donne, Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and veteran Kristi Toliver of the Washington Mystics are also unrestricted free agents.

We’ll keep you up to date with the rumors, signings and trades of WNBA free agency. Check back daily.

Sun trade Courtney Williams to Dream, acquire Briann January

The Atlanta Dream acquired one of the 2019 playoffs most electrifying stars, trading for the Connecticut Sun’s Courtney Williams in a three-team trade.

The Dream sent forwards Jessica Breland and Nia Coffey to the Phoenix Mercury, who gave them the No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 draft. The Mercury sent veteran guard Briann January and a 2021 second-round pick to the Sun to complete the deal.

Williams, a 5-foot-8 guard, is one of the league’s best mid-range scorers and efficient 3-point shooter. She averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists — all besting her regular season averages — as the Sun went through the playoffs to the a five-game finals series. Her reactions courtside with her father, Don, went viral.

In the Sun’s release on the move, head coach Curt Miller acknowledged the fifth-year player as a fan-favorite, but adding that she was not interested in returning.

“We realize Courtney was a fan-favorite and we wish her the best in Atlanta. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and all the loyalty and support we’ve shown Courtney over the last four seasons, it became clear she no longer wanted to return to Connecticut. I will look back fondly on the memories we created together, but my focus as always is with the players that have a burning desire to help the Connecticut Sun hang the franchise’s first championship banner. I can’t wait to get back on the court with this team.”

Williams attended high school in Folkston, Georgia, about four hours from Atlanta. Per Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops, her contract is for two years at $185,000 in year one and $190,550 in year too.

January won the WNBA championship with the Indiana Fever in 2012 and reached the finals with them in 2009 and 2015. The 5-foot-8 guard has been named to the all-defensive team six times.

Breland averaged 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over 67 games with the Dream. Coffey spent one season in Atlanta and averaged 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 28 games.

Mystics re-sign Finals MVP Emma Meesseman

The Washington Mystics made it official Monday and announced they had re-signed Finals MVP Emma Meesseman. The move was expected and head coach/general manager Mike Thibault confirmed that last week.

Meesseman said she’s happy to be back and “Let’s get another one!”

The 6-foot-4, 191-pound center averaged 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and a career-high 3.2 assists per game in 23 games, six of which she started. She shot 52.2 percent and 42.2 percent from 3-point range.

Meesseman, the 19th overall draft pick in 2013, returned to the Mystics after skipping the entire 2018 season to play for the Belgium national team. Washington teammates called her the missing link since they made it to the Finals that season, but lost in the title series to the Seattle Storm.

She was clutch in the team’s postseason run, especially with league MVP Elena Delle Donne missing time in the Finals against the Connecticut Sun due to herniated discs in her back. Meesseman became the first reserve player in WNBA history to be named Finals MVP by averaging 17.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game on 57.1 percent shooting overall and 50.0 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Glory Johnson signs with Dream

The Atlanta Dream signed two-time all-star Glory Johnson on Thursday to a one-year, $165,000 deal, High Post Hoops reported. The Dream are looking to bolster the league’s worst offense and have now added two players with size, including the addition of Kalani Brown earlier in the week.

Johnson, 29, averaged 12 points and 7.7 rebounds through seven seasons with the Wings, who are watching veteran players leave this free agency period and have yet to make a big signing. A 6-foot-3 forward, she’s one of 10 active players with at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and the only one to do it with less than 400 turnovers.

The No. 4 overall pick out of Tennessee in the 2012 draft was named an all-star in 2013 and 2014. She missed the 2015 season to give birth to twins.

Mystics ‘thrilled’ to have Leilani Mitchell back

Two-time “Most Improved Player” winner Leilani Mitchell is heading back to the Washington Mystics four years after she played her lone season with the franchise. The 5-foot-5 guard was an unrestricted free agent after three years with the Mercury, where she averaged a career-high 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season to win the MIP award. She also won it in 2010 while with the New York Liberty.

Both owner Ted Leonsis and coach/general manager Mike Thibault tweeted about the move.

“Leilani will be a terrific addition and perfect fit to our team. We loved having her when she was here before and everyone in the organization is thrilled to have her back,” Thibault said in a release. “Her leadership, ball handling, passing, and 3-point shooting will fit seamlessly with our style of play. On top of all that, she is one of the best teammates you could ask for.”

Storm re-sign Breanna Stewart early

Breanna Stewart re-signed with the Seattle Storm a year before she was set to become a free agent. The 2018 WNBA and Finals MVP is coming back from an Achilles injury and played this month for Team USA.

“At first, it was about getting back on the court, that was the motivation,” Stewart said in a team release. “Now, it’s beyond that, it’s about continued growth and supporting my teammates as we come back together in Seattle. I’m back and signed up to chase more Championships.”

Stewart will see a large bump in pay thanks to the new CBA. Per Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops, she signed for two years at a starting salary of $185,000. The 25-year-old has been open about her rookie contract salary of around $50,000. WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike praised her it in helping the new CBA go through during “The Tea” series on The Player’s Tribune.

Sky core three re-sign, per report

The Sky were a surprise in 2019 and will bring back the three leaders, Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Mercury acquire Skylar Diggins-Smith

The Phoenix Mercury are adding four-time all-star Skylar Diggins Smith, Rachel Galligan of Winsidr reported Wednesday. The deal, first reported late Tuesday by High Post Hoops’ Howard Megdal and confirmed by Galligan, is likely a four-year max superdeal with the return for the Dallas Wings being finalized, per Galligan.

The team confirmed it was adding Diggins-Smith later Wednesday.

The Mercury were in talks to acquire Tina Charles from the New York Liberty as well, Medgal reported.

Diggins-Smith is a six-year veteran and four-time all-star who has been with the organization for her entire career. She’s averaged 15.9 points per game and 4.9 assists per game in her career.

The former Notre Dame star missed all of last season after giving birth to her son. She has been open about postpartum depression and feeling unsupported by the Wings organization. They placed the core designation on the star; Wings president and general manager Greg Bibb said the preference is a sign-and-trade, per The Athletic.

Charles, 31, averaged 16.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists for the New York Liberty last season. She was also given a core designation by the Liberty, similar to the NFL’s franchise tag.

The Mercury appeared to be stockpiling draft picks for the future earlier in the day, but adding two established stars alongside Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, all of whom would likely get the new $215,000 minimum or close, puts them as win-now. It also might be one of the best big 3 combos the league has ever seen.

Mystics bring back MVP Elena Delle Donne

The Washington Mystics made it official and announced the signing of reigning league MVP Elena Delle Donne to a multi-year contract. She led the team to its first championship in franchise history, playing through three herniated discs in her back during the finals against the Sun.

Delle Donne underwent back surgery last month and is expected back for the season opener.

“Elena is the most impactful player in the history of the Washington Mystics and her commitment to us three years ago set the stage for us to make our championship run possible,” head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said.

Delle Donne, 30, became the first WNBA player to join the exclusive 50/40/90 club. By doing so she led the team to franchise and WNBA records, including most points per game in Mystics history (89.3), best free throw percentage (87.5) and most assists per game in league history (21.9).

Thibault told the Washington Post’s Ava Wallace on Monday that Kristi Toliver was the only one of the big three that includes Delle Donne and finals MVP Emma Meesseman that he expected to leave.

Mercury trade DeWanna Bonner to Sun

DeWanna Bonner, a two-time champion with the Phoenix Mercury, is heading east to the runner-up Connecticut Sun in a bombshell sign-and-trade announced Tuesday morning by the teams involved.

The star is eligible to receive a $215,000 a year max deal under the new CBA. Contract information is not disclosed by teams.

The Sun will bolster their lineup with the 6-foot-4 veteran forward that they signed to a multi-year deal. The Mercury are getting three first-round draft picks. Phoenix will get the Sun’s seventh and 10th picks in the 2020 draft and their first-round pick in 2021.

The Connecticut Sun fell short in the 2019 Finals and will get another strong offensive presence in Bonner to go along with Jonquel Jones — who signed a multi-year deal to stay in Connecticut on Monday — Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas and possibly Courtney Williams.

Bonner, a 10-year veteran, is a three-time Sixth Woman of the Year, the 2018 Comeback Player of the Year and won titles for Phoenix in 2009 and 2014.

“[Bonner] is an established all-star in our league and one of the most versatile players in our game,” head coach Curt Miller said. “DB’s talent is undeniable but most impressive to me was the praise she had for our roster and her desire to join our nucleus as we chase our first championship.”

She holds the franchise record for career rebounds (2,072), is second in points with 4,820 and second in games played at 335. She averaged 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in her career.

“I’m excited to play with this talented group and do whatever I can to help this organization hang its first championship banner,” Bonner said. “Nothing is more important to me than winning.”

For the Mercury, it’s about building a new core to add to its championship banners.

Brunson retires, joins Lynx staff

Five-time champion Rebekkah Brunson officially retired on Tuesday and will join the Minnesota Lynx as an assistant coach. The team announced her No. 32 jersey will be retired this season. She’s the second player to have it retired after Lindsay Whalen.

“It’s a tremendous day for our franchise,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said, adding Brunson’s career in Minnesota could not have gone better. “Really happy to have Rebekkah remain with the organization. We will do it up right the day we retire her jersey.”

Brunson is a 15-year veteran and was a key part of the Lynx dynasty in the 2010s after Minnesota acquired her in a dispersal draft when Sacramento folded. She will assist the team’s scouting tam and player development with post players, per a team release.

She is the WNBA’s all-time leader in total rebounds (3,356) and offensive rebounds (1,166) and holds various Lynx franchise records. She averaged 9.2 points per game (on 46.6 percent shooting), 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game in her career. She made a league-record 34 postseason appearances and is the league’s leader in postseason wins at 57.

Sparks bring back champ Kristi Toliver

Veteran point guard Kristi Toliver will leave the reigning champion Washington Mystics and return to the Las Vegas Sparks, the team announced with a video of her accomplishment’s in L.A.

Toliver joined the Mystics from the Sparks in 2017. She led Los Angeles to the playoffs six of her seven seasons, then joined Washington to help get the Mystics their first title.

Toliver, 33, won a title with the Sparks in 2016 and will reunite with Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, among other former teammates. Los Angeles suffered a second-round sweep in the postseason that created friction and questions about Derek Fisher’s coaching acumen.

“Returning to Los Angeles is special to me for many reasons,” Toliver said, via the team release. “I’m ready for what’s ahead and can’t wait to get started. I’m looking forward to a successful and exciting season with the Sparks.”

Toliver was a leader for the Mystics’ first championship, though she missed considerable time due to injuries. She’s averaged 12.4 points per game over her career. Per Wallace, she will keep her assistant coach position with the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

The Sparks and Mystics tip off the regular season against each other in D.C. on May 16. That game will be on ESPN.

Wings sign Moriah Jefferson, Megan Gustafson

The Dallas Wings made a flurry of signings, most notably inking point guard Moriah Jefferson and Megan Gustafson to multi-year deals.

The Wings acquired Jefferson, a Dallas native, at the beginning of the 2019 season in the trade that sent Liz Cambage to the Las Vegas Aces. She missed the season due to injury. The former UConn star was second in rookie of the year voting in 2016 averaging 13.9 points and 4.2 assists in 30.4 minutes per game for San Antonio before its relocation to Vegas. She missed time due to injury in the following two seasons.

Gustafson was named National Player of the Year and set school records at Iowa, where her jersey was retired last month. She was taken No. 17 overall in the 2019 draft, but getting on to a regular season roster is tough and she was released by the Wings when they had to whittle the roster down.

They brought her back in June and she averaged 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in 9.5 minutes a game.

The Wings also signed Imani McGee-Stafford, Karlie Samuelson and Morgan Bertsch.

Liberty sign Layshia Clarendon

The New York Liberty added 5-foot-9 guard Layshia Clarendon, a WNBA all-star in 2017 and current member of the USA Basketball national team that finished the qualifying tournament over the weekend.

Clarendon was most recently with the Connecticut Sun, which acquired her in a July 2018 trade. She missed most of the team’s run to the finals due to an ankle injury. She averaged 6.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in nine games at the start of the season.

“Layshia is an elite facilitator and floor general with an extremely high basketball IQ,” first-year head coach Walt Hopkins said in a release. “She not only leads vocally, but also by consistently modeling a tireless work ethic and respect for those around her. She is going to be a massive boon to our roster and our team culture – both on, and off of the court.”

The Liberty have the No. 1 pick in April’s draft and are likely taking Oregon sensation Sabrina Ionescu. The team is moving to Brooklyn after a few years at the smaller, out-of-the-way Westchester County Center.

Sun trade Morgan Tuck to Storm

The Connecticut Sun traded Morgan Tuck, a 6-foot-2 forward they drafted third overall in 2016, and the 11th pick in the draft to the Seattle Storm. The Sun will get the No. 7 pick in return.

Tuck played with Breanna Stewart, the 2018 league MVP, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis at UConn. She averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in 14 minutes off the bench over her four-year career.

Aces sign Angel McCoughtry

The Las Vegas Aces signed Angel McCoughtry, a five-time all-star with strong defensive presence who spent her entire career with the Atlanta Dream. She was drafted No. 1 in the 2009 draft and led the Dream to the postseason eight times, including Finals in 2010, 2011 and 2013. She led the league in scoring in the 2012 and 2013 season and made the defensive all-star team seven times.

McCoughtry rehabbed an ACL injury and missed last season. She voiced frustration with the Dream and said the team tried to trade her rather than stay patient.

Per Winsidr, she was considering the Sparks and the Aces, both of which offered multi-year deals rather than one-year offers. The deal is reportedly multiple years at the maximum $185,000 salary.

Sparks trade Kalani Brown to Dream

The Los Angeles Sparks dealt their 2019 first-round pick, Kalani Brown, to the Dream for guard Brittney Sykes and center Marie Gülich.

Brown, a 6-foot-7 center, won the 2019 NCAA national title with Baylor. She averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 13.5 minutes off the bench her rookie season.

Sykes averaged 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in her three-year career. She averaged 12.6 points over five games in the 2018 playoffs.

Gülich, a 6-5 German center who attended Oregon State, played limited minutes with the Phoenix Mercury her rookie season in 2018 and again with the Dream last year.

Sun sign Jonquel Jones to multi-year deal

The Connecticut Sun, which lost in the Finals to the Mystics, will bring back Jonquel Jones. Jones averaged 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in the postseason run.

“We are pumped to have JJ sign a multi-year contract to stay in Connecticut,” head coach and general manager Curt Miller said in a release. “She has proven to be one of the most dominant and versatile players in the world. She continues to be one of the elite rebounders in the game and took a huge step on the defensive side of the ball in 2019. She is just scratching the surface and we look forward to her continued growth and leadership in 2020.”

Jones, a 6-foot-6 center, has been with the Sun since 2016. The Sparks drafted her sixth overall and traded her east. She has 1,827 points, 1,152 rebounds and 198 blocked shots in her career.

Feb. 7: Sue Bird intends to stay in Seattle

Sue Bird told High Post Hoops she plans to stay with the Seattle Storm, where the point guard has spent her entire 17-year career.

“No, obviously where I am now, it makes zero sense for so many reasons,” Bird said of leaving, per High Post Hoops. “The main one being: I don’t want to.”

Bird, 39, wasn’t able to play in 2019 due to a knee injury she eventually underwent surgery for in September. The three-time WNBA champion averaged 10.1 points and 7.1 assists, good for second in the league, during the 2018 title run. Breanna Stewart, who will also return to the court after her Achilles injury, got in a good joke with High Post Hoops about Bird’s return.

“We have things in Seattle she likes besides basketball,” she said, referring to Bird’s romantic partner, Megan Rapinoe of Reign FC in nearby Tacoma.

Seattle finished the 2019 campaign at 18-16, third in the Western Conference, despite injuries to Bird and Stewart. Head coach Dan Hughes also missed time after he underwent surgery for cancer. They lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Sparks.

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