2023 free agency is shaking up the entire WNBA and the Dallas Wings need to be precise to ensure they’re still in a position to win this season.
After acquiring Natasha Howard and Crystal Dangerfield and offloading Allisha Gray for two first-round picks, the Dallas Wings are establishing themselves as big movers this offseason. There’s nothing to hide here, their cap sheet is munted and everyone knows it.
It isn’t completely hopeless, however, as they are able to test many avenues with their money. They’ve already shown a willingness to drop one of their starters for draft picks and another for depth pieces. The 2023 Wings will look considerably different to the 2022 Wings which has been signified by roster moves as well as a head coaching change.
Rookie head coach Latricia Trammell, who was signed in November, brings a defensive background to a bottom-third defence in the WNBA. She will also be the beneficiary of seeing a full offseason and preseason with the team, allowing her to grow alongside the organisation.
Their next priority should be retaining what made them successful last season. Teaira McCowan and Marina Mabrey need to be re-signed before the team is to take any next steps.
If the Wings are able to sign Isabelle Harrison to a team friendly deal then they should explore that avenue but otherwise the front office should look externally for their next step, adding a playmaker who can lead and also take a backseat while the younger players develop their own ability to lead.
Oh wow would you look at that, there’s a player who perfectly fits that mad specific description… Courtney Vandersloot can take lead guard responsibilities for a team that ranked third last in assists last season.
With the retirement of Sue Bird, Sloot is now the premier table setter in the WNBA. She brings a steadiness on the offensive end and a grittiness on the defensive end. She was an integral part of the Chicago Sky’s 2021 WNBA Championship, the team went as she went. Their one loss in the Finals saw her dish out six turnovers, while their three wins featured 36 assists and three turnovers. She was the foundational piece in whether or not they had success.
So, you wanna retain Teaira McCowan and Marina Mabrey, you wanna bring in Sloot, but what about Arike Ogunbowale? She led the team in scoring last season and was fourth in the league for points per game. Yeah, and we bloody love her for it, but 40 percent from the field ain’t gonna cut it for where this team is going.
This team has been
Trendon Watford trending upwards over the past few years and they need to maintain this momentum while adding a punch, otherwise they could risk running back into mediocrity.
I believe Ogunbowale has a great career ahead of her as a perennial sixth player of the year candidate, I don’t, however, believe it’s on this team.
Much like they have done with the Allisha Gray deal, they need to offload Arike’s money for draft compensation. It would lighten up their cap sheet and give them more space to retain McCowan and Mabrey, as well as bring in Vandersloot. It would also suit Trammell’s defensive system as Ogunbowale is one of the worst defenders in the league. In a trade that may look as though there are direct losses, the indirect benefits could define the Wings for the next few years to come.
If the Wings were able to send Arike to the Indiana Fever for pick seven in this year’s draft as well as their 2024 first and second round picks then they can find a very nice financial cushion. Ogwumike could also jump start Indiana’s league worst offence, putting points on the board in a hurry. Her and Kelsey Mitchell could be a potent backcourt and a handful to stop, shaping the Fever’s identity through the next few years. Aussie Kristy Wallace brings a toughness and competitiveness to the backcourt that could stymie Indiana’s lead guards defensive liabilities.
The 2018 season saw the departure of Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith (and Aussie Cayla George) and the focus towards a rebuild. Ogunbowale was given the keys to a tanking team and permission to chuck up anything and everything. Under coach Brian Agler the team put up winning percentages of .294 and .364 which then head coach Vickie Johnson backed up with .438 and .500. This rebuilding/tanking mindset may be hard for Ogunbowale to grow out of while in Dallas and she may resist a new role, even more reason to part ways with her.
Overall, the Wings have already done half of the work for their offseason. If they’re able to retain their free agents, bring in Vandersloot and shed Ogunbowale’s cash then they should be primed for their next step; where are they going?
Looking at the landscape of the league, the Wings need to be realistic. They aren’t going to be a tier one team with the likes of the Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm pending Breanna Stewart’s free agency. The Chicago Sky’s free agent picture is extremely dicey so I’m not going to tier them now. The Washington Mystics are a firm tier two team, biting at the heels of the Storm and the Aces. Even with the departure of Jonquel Jones (and acquisition of Aussie Bec Allen), the Connecticut Sun still need to be in that second tier.
That third tier is where the Wings should set flight ahead of the 2023 season. This would leave them with the fifth best record in the league, which they should aim at pairing with a .550 win percentage
You aren’t going to solve everything at once and the Aces aren’t budging from the helm. The upcoming season needs to see a natural step from the exterior but many foundational steps from the interior. Dallas should see a 22-18 record in the 2023 season as a mark they don’t step below for the next few years to follow.
Although the last few seasons have seemed quite uninspired, the future is hopeful for the Wings. Although their cap sheet may suggest otherwise, they’re in quite a manoeuvrable position. Their prospects take many avenues with exciting unknowns ahead. They’re a team you’re going to have to keep tabs on this year.