WNBA free agency 2018: A guide to everything you need to know

For the second season in a row, the WNBA Finals ended with a thrilling Game 5 between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. Now, three-plus months after the Lynx came out on top to claim their fourth WNBA title (in only odd-numbered years: 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017), it's time to start thinking about the new WNBA campaign.

That's because as of Monday, Jan. 15, free agency has officially begun. Teams can now start to negotiate contracts with free agents, though no deals can be signed until Feb. 1.

How WNBA free agency works

For the most part, WNBA free agency works just like NBA free agency. There are unrestricted free agents, who can sign with any team they want to, and restricted free agents, whose prior team has the ability to match any offer that player receives. Even the waiting period is similar, albeit longer, than the NBA's free agency moratorium. 

However, in the WNBA there are also reserved players and core players. Reserved players are veteran free agents who have played three or fewer years in the league, and whose team has exclusive negotiating rights.

A core player designation, meanwhile, works similar to a franchise tag in the NFL. Each season, each team is allowed to designate one of their veteran free agents as a core player. They can use it on either an unrestricted free agent or a restricted free agent, and doing so gives them exclusive negotiating rights with the player. However, a player can only be designated as a core player four times in her career.

Top 10 unrestricted free agents

There are a number of key restricted free agents, including Kayla McBride, Alyssa Thomas, Odyssey Sims, and Stefanie Dolson, but given the rarity of these players signing with new teams, there doesn't seem to be much use ranking them. (Last season, every restricted free agent either re-signed with their prior team, or was traded.)

Thus, the ranking of free agents will include unrestricted free agents only. You can find a full list of restricted and unrestricted free agents here, via WNBA.com.

1. F Tina Charles (cored)

2017 stats: 19.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists for New York Liberty

The 2012 MVP, and runner-up for the award in each of the past two seasons, Charles is by far the biggest prize of this free agent class. The forward is a double-double machine, and has expanded her offensive game out to the 3-point line. In all likelihood she returns to her hometown Liberty, but with the team still looking for new ownership, the door is open slightly for her to go elsewhere.

2. G Allie Quigley (cored)

2017 stats: 16.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 43 percent 3-point shooting for Chicago Sky

The former two-time Sixth Woman of the Year, Quigley got a chance to start last season for the Sky, and excelled in an increased role. She had career-best numbers in scoring, rebounding, assists, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage. Her 43 percent mark from downtown was good for fourth in the league, and she won the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend in Seattle.

3. Candice Dupree (cored)

2017 stats: 15.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists for Indiana Fever

Dupree put together yet another very solid season in her first campaign with the Indiana Fever after being traded there in a three-team deal last offseason. Averaging 15 points per game -- her highest mark since 2013 -- Dupree made her sixth All-Star team. With the Fever in the midst of a rebuild, she certainly could sign somewhere else. Keep an eye out for her going back to Phoenix, where she played for seven seasons and where her wife, DeWanna Bonner, currently plays.

4. Alana Beard

2017 stats: 6.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 steals for Los Angeles Sparks

Last season's Defensive Player of the Year, Beard just keeps getting better as she ages. She may be turning 36 in May, but she'll still be one of the most sought-after free agents because of the ability she has on the defensive side of the ball. She's the best perimeter defender in the league, and still extremely durable, playing all 34 games each of the past two seasons.

5. Crystal Langhorne (cored)

2017 stats: 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 64 percent field goals for Seattle Storm

Since her second season in the league, when she really started to get playing time, Langhorne has been one of the most consistent post presences around. Every night she's going to go out and get you anywhere from 12-16 points, and 6-10 rebounds, while shooting a very high percentage. It won't be flashy, but Langhorne and her unorthodox jumper will get the job done.

6. Monique Currie

2017 stats: 10.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 39.8 percent 3-point shooting for San Antonio Stars and Phoenix Mercury

Currie started last season in San Antonio (now Las Vegas), and was then traded to Phoenix, where she helped the Mercury reach the semifinals of the playoffs. Coming off her best 3-point shooting season since 2010, Currie does a bit of everything on the wing.

7. Jessica Breland

2017 stats: 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 38.1 percent 3-point shooting for Chicago Sky

Emerging from a crowded Chicago frontcourt, Breland put together one of the best seasons of her career in 2017. Not only will she defend the rim -- top 10 in blocks each of the past four season -- but she's expanded her offensive game, and is now capable of hitting 3s.

8. Rebekkah Brunson

2017 stats: 10.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 34.8 percent 3-point shooting for Minnesota Lynx

Last season was Brunson's 14th, but she was still her quietly productive self, doing all the little things to help the Lynx win their fourth title. In the process, she became the first player in WNBA history with five rings. It would be a surprise if she leaves Minnesota at this point in her career.

9. Renee Montgomery

2017 stats: 8 points, 3.4 assists, 35.8 percent 3-point shooting for Minnesota Lynx

Montgomery put together another solid season as the backup to Lindsay Whalen, and filled in admirably when Whalen went down with a hand injury. The energetic guard can knock down open shots from outside, and knows how to run a team. Like Brunson, it seems likely she stays in Minnesota, but if offered a starting point guard role, perhaps she goes elsewhere.

10. Karima Christmas-Kelly (cored)

2017 stats: 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals for Dallas Wings

An extremely tough player, KCK does a little bit of everything on the wing, where she can guard multiple positions, rebounds well, and is capable of facilitating. She did struggle with efficiency on the offensive end last season (38 percent field goals), but still brings plenty to the table.

Team needs

Atlanta Dream: Angel McCoughtry's return, 3-point shooting

Chicago Sky: defense, backcourt and wing depth

Connecticut Sun: Chiney Ogwumike's health, wing depth

Dallas Wings: defense, frontcourt depth

Indiana Fever: defense, 3-point shooting

Las Vegas Aces (formerly San Antonio Stars): veteran leadership, wing and frontcourt depth

Los Angeles Sparks: health, re-signing key free agents

Minnesota Lynx: health, re-signing key free agents

New York Liberty: Tina Charles re-signing, another key scorer on the wing

Phoenix Mercury: health, another scorer (DeWanna Bonner's return)

Seattle Storm: rebounding, backcourt and wing depth

Washington Mystics: backcourt depth, another wing scorer

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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