The MVP, two-time gold medalist, and future Hall of Famer is coming to New York — let’s talk about how this blockbuster Breanna Stewart Liberty move happened and what comes next.
The rumors flew. The campaigning raged on. We dared to speak the word “super-team.” Then, free agency began.
Her announcement even included a jaunty little photoshop job:
Sorry, Philadelphia Eagles fans, you’ve had your skyscraperish fun.
Welcome to Stew York.
It’s not every day that a former league MVP, two-time champ and finals MVP, four-time All-Star, and two-time Olympic gold medalist changes teams in free agency, to say the very least. The team-up between Stewie and rising superstar Sabrina Ionescu at Barclays Center has a chance to coalesce into the single most potent, fearsome long-term duo in the league — to say nothing of the addition of Jonquel Jones, herself a former league MVP, via trade from the Connecticut Sun.
But before we overcharacterize what’s to come regarding women’s professional hoops in the Five Boroughs, let’s first establish what actually happened, how this Breanna Stewart Liberty move came together, and how it changes the outlook for the 2023 season from our current vantage point.
Why did Breanna Stewart Leave the Seattle Storm?
The truth is always nuanced, and Stewie can and will speak for herself. But at this earliest stage, let’s start by considering a few key factors:
- The retirement of Storm point guard and future Hall of Famer Sue Bird
- The ability to play with a point guard in Ionescu, the most exciting young talent in the WNBA, and a fellow league MVP in Jones
- Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne: “Stewart made charter air travel a key factor in free agency, sources told ESPN, having discussions with the teams she met with — the Liberty, Storm, Lynx and Mystics — on where they stood on the issue, which she believes is critical to players’ health, safety and performance.” Liberty owners Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai have been outspoken in their advocacy for better travel and quality-of-life conditions for WNBA players, and paid a $500,000 fine last year after they were discovered to have been funding chartered flights without the league’s knowledge.
What is the Liberty’s likely Breanna Stewart salary number for 2023?
Since she is not eligible for the league’s $234,936 supermax salary — only Seattle was eligible to offer it to her under league rules — Stewart will be expected to earn the WNBA’s “regular” max salary of $202,154. As of this writing, her contract details with the Liberty are not yet confirmed.
How has the signing affected WNBA futures betting odds?
On Jan. 29 after Candace Parker moved from the Chicago Sky to the Las Vegas Aces, FanDuel’s odds to win the 2023 WNBA championship looked like this:
- Las Vegas Aces: +145
- New York Liberty: +280
- Washington Mystics: +700
- Seattle Storm: +1400
- Phoenix Mercury: +1400
On Feb. 1, several top sportsbooks now list the odds as such:
- Aces: +135
- Liberty: +165
- Mystics: +1000
- Storm: +1100
- Sun: +1300
How are experts and insiders reacting to the news?
“[O]ne of the biggest free agent moves in WNBA history….”
Lindsay Kagawa-Colas, Stewart’s agent:
“Stewie’s free agency is the story of the WNBA at an inflection point: Players understand their value, the potential of the WNBA, and are eager partners in growing a business that has incredible momentum,” Stewart’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa-Colas of Wasserman, told ESPN.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 1, 2023
Los Angeles Sparks free agent signing Lexie Brown:
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant:
Who are the top remaining WNBA free agents?
Notable names as of this writing include Tina Charles, Brittney Griner, Brionna Jones, Nneka Ogwumike, Emma Meesseman, Diana Taurasi, and Courtney Vandersloot.
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