The defending champion Seattle Storm traded for two first-round draft picks, then flipped those selections for a number of young players as part of a series of WNBA trades that will allow the titleholders to remain competitive in the years to come.
The Storm began Wednesday by trading All-Star forward Natasha Howard to the New York Liberty in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
Storm Acquire, Move Picks to Retool Roster
That haul included the 2021 No. 1 overall pick, as well as a 2022 first-rounder. Seattle moved the 2022 pick to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for forward Mikiah Herbert Garrigan.
The Storm continued a busy day by trading guard Sami Whitcomb to the Liberty in exchange for Stephanie Talbot. Finally, Seattle exchanged the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA draft to the Dallas Wings for forward Katie Lou Samuelson and a 2022 second-rounder.
“The opportunity to acquire the top pick in a draft does not present itself very often,” Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb said after the trade. “By securing this pick, we will ensure our ability to draft the player at the top of our draft list while having additional draft assets at our disposal to further improve our team.”
Howard represents the biggest immediate loss for Seattle. The 29-year-old averaged 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Storm last year, but scored 18.1 points per game in the 2019 season. She also won the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in the 2019 season.
|2021 WNBA Championship Odds (via PointsBet)|
|Seattle Storm: +150||Las Vegas Aces: +350|
|Washington Mystics: +350||Los Angeles Sparks: +600|
|Phoenix Mercury: +800||Connecticut Sun: +800|
|Chicago Sky: +1000||Minnesota Lynx: +2500|
|New York Liberty: +5000||Dallas Wings: +7500|
|Indiana Fever: +7500||Atlanta Dream: +10000|
Seattle couldn’t afford to keep all of its core players while staying under the $1.34 million salary cap. Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd all command large salaries, meaning the team had to make changes in order to continue fielding a championship-level roster.
WNBA Trades Leave Storm as Title Favorites
Samuelson could be the key player coming back to Seattle. The former UConn star came into the WNBA in 2019 as the No. 4 overall pick. She hasn’t yet found much success as a professional, scoring just 5.0 points per game for Dallas in the 2020 season.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) February 10, 2021
Despite the changes, PointsBet still rates the Seattle Storm as the +150 favorite to win the 2021 WNBA Championship.
Other teams may ultimately see a bigger impact from Wednesday’s deals. The Liberty went just 2-20 in the truncated 2020 season, but the addition of Howard and Whitcomb should make New York a playoff contender at the very least. New York also traded Kia Nurse and Megan Walker to the Phoenix Mercury in exchange for two first-round draft picks. The Liberty still sit as a +5000 longshot to win the title.
THE FLASH is on her way to NY! Libs Fam, let’s welcome 3x WNBA champion & 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, #NatashaHoward!
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) February 10, 2021
“The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said of the moves. “She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for, and earned everything, that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams, and who will fit seamlessly into Walt Hopkins’ system.”
PointsBet now lists the Mercury at +800 after acquiring Nurse and Walker. The Las Vegas Aces (+350) and Washington Mystics (+350) rate as the chief challengers to Seattle’s title defense.