When does WNBA free agency start, what are the rules, and which All-Stars and future Hall of Famers are available? Boardroom has the answers.
The 2022 WNBA season ended with the Aces bringing Las Vegas its first major professional sports championship. And while we’re not here to sweep such a huge accomplishment under the rug, it’s officially time to start looking ahead to a whole new season.
Why? 2023 WNBA free agency has officially begun, which means qualifying offers and core player designations are once again the name of the game. With a little more than eight months until tip-off, expect the WNBA’s 12 teams to keep extremely busy given that several star players and future Hall of Famers are out of contract and potentially on the move.
For the 2023 season, the league’s salary cap is set at $1,420,500 — a minuscule increase from a $1,379,170 mark one year ago. For individual players, a base max salary is set at $202,000 while the proverbial “supermax” is roughly $234,000. Excluding the Aces, the 11 other teams have cap space for an additional max player signing as of this writing.
So, how does WNBA free agency work? What are the key dates that fans should be looking out for? Which superstars are up for grabs? You have questions, Boardroom has answers.
Key Terms & Dates
Unrestricted Free Agents: Players with five or more years of playing service will become an unrestricted free agent. These players may sign with any team so long as they’re not designated as a Core Player by their last team. Any players with fewer than five years of service who do not receive Qualifying Offers will also become Unrestricted Free Agents.
Restricted Free Agents: Players with four years of tenure can receive Qualifying Offers to become Restricted Free Agents, which gives the player’s prior team the right to sign the player by matching a contract offer from another team (Right of First Refusal). If the player signs an offer sheet with another team, the player’s prior team has four days from the date it receives the Offer Sheet to determine whether it wishes to match. If the team matches, the player stays with said team. If not, then the player will be under contract with the offering team.
Reserved Players: Players with three or fewer years of service can receive Qualifying Offers to become Reserved Players. The Reserved Player’s prior team has exclusive negotiating rights.
Core Players: The Core Player designation enables exclusive negotiating rights with a player. Since 2022, a player is not eligible to be given a Core designation if they have played pursuant to a Core player contract for two or more seasons.
Dates To Watch
- Jan. 11-20: All qualifying offers and core player designations delivered
- Jan. 21: 2023 Player Negotiating period begins
- Feb. 1: Player Contracts can be signed
Top WNBA Free Agents
In total, there are 74 players on the market — more than half of league’s total amount of players (144). Out of those 74, 48 are unrestricted free agents and 26 are restricted free agents. Let’s take a look at five of the biggest names to watch.
F Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
- The two-time WNBA champion and Finals MVP (2018, 2020) is coming off a season in which she averaged 21.8 points and 7.6 rebounds.
- 2022 salary: $228,094
F Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
- The one-time WNBA champion and 2016 league MVP averaged 18.1 points and 6.6 rebounds on 54.4% shooting last season.
- 2022 salary: $196,267
C Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
- Griner didn’t play in 2022 she was detained in Russia for nearly 10 months. In her first comments since returning home, the All-Star stated her commitment loud and clear: “I also want to make one thing very clear, I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon.”
- 2022 salary: $227,900
F Candace Parker, Chicago Sky
- The two-time WNBA champ and two-time MVP averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in 28.2 minutes per game last season.
- 2022 salary: $195,000
G Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
- The three-time WNBA champion has done just about everything there is to accomplish in one’s career, and she averaged 16.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists last season. She’s played her entire 18-year career in Phoenix; it would be truly strange seeing her wear another jersey.
- 2022 salary: $228,094
Final Notes on WNBA Free Agency
In the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players, the WNBPA agreed to “prioritization rules” in exchange for higher salaries. The 2023 season is the first in which these rules, which are meant to formalize players’ commitments to their WNBA teams above other commitments, are coming into effect. If players don’t report to their teams by opening night on May 19, they will be ruled ineligible for the entire season. In 2024, players must report by May 1 or the start of training camp — whichever is later.
“The owners really stepped up on the compensation side for the players in this collective bargaining cycle, and I think the kind of quid pro quo for that was prioritization,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “Showing up on time for our season, and quite frankly after 36 years of working in my working world, there wasn’t once where I wasn’t required to show up on time.”
Breanna Stewart had her own thoughts on this matter.
“I think prioritization needs to be talked about and addressed,” Stewart said. “It’s one of the biggest disconnects between the players and the WNBA Board of Governors. The fact of the matter is there are a lot of players going overseas. This is something that will affect the majority of the players in our league.”
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