Late on Sunday evening, a report from WNBAInsidr indicated that Courtney Williams' recent absence from the Connecticut Sun lineup -- she hasn't played since June 27 -- was due in part to an altercation with teammate Alex Bentley. Less than 24 hours later, Bentley was off the team.
The WNBA announced on Monday morning that the Sun had traded Bentley to the Atlanta Dream in exchange for Layshia Clarendon and a 2019 second-round pick. This is the first trade of the WNBA season, and comes exactly two weeks before the July 23 trade deadline.
Aside from the strange circumstances, how did each side do in the deal? Let's grade the trade from purely a basketball perspective.
- Layshia Clarendon
- 2019 second-round pick
Bentley was having a pretty good season off the bench for the Sun, putting up 10 points and 3.2 assists per game, which suggests this trade was largely motivated by whatever transpired between her and Williams. Given that Williams is not only the better player, but younger, the Sun apparently decided to part ways with Bentley to try and solve whatever problems had developed in the locker room. In return, they picked up a veteran guard in Clarendon.
After three average seasons with the Indiana Fever, Clarendon was traded to the Dream in 2016, and assumed the starting point guard role. Early in 2017, she finally put everything together and excelled, earning her first All-Star Game appearance. Though she faded a bit down the stretch, Clarendon averaged career-highs with 10.7 points and 6.6 assists per game -- the latter good for second in the league. But she was marginalized after the Dream's moves this summer, which included bringing in a new head coach in Nicki Collen and a new starting point guard in Renee Montgomery.
Clarendon isn't much of a scorer, but she should fit in well with the Sun as she loves to get out in transition, and is adept at getting into the lane to create for others. It's easy to see Clarendon slotting in as the lead guard on the second unit, and with as many 3-pointers as the Sun like to shoot -- their 21.8 3-point attempts per game is fourth in the league -- she'll have no trouble finding people on the perimeter. Plus, Clarendon should be a good veteran presence on a young Sun team that's looking to turn things around in the second half of the season.
- Alex Bentley
It's been a strange season for the Dream, who underwent a number of changes this offseason after a disappointing, playoff-less end to last season's campaign. New coach Nicki Collen brought in Renee Montgomery and Jessica Breland in free agency, and four-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry returned after sitting out last season to rest. On the defensive end, it's been a spectacular success, as the Dream boast the league's best defense. However, they also own the league's worst offense, as they've struggled to fit all the new pieces together.
Part of the problem is they have too many of the same type of player. Versatile wings like McCoughtry, Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes are part of what has made their defense so solid, but for the most part they're all slashers on the offensive end. Clarendon, too, is best at penetrating into the teeth of the defense and creating for others.
Unfortunately, they don't have anyone who can shoot. Aside from Montgomery's 35.5 percent clip from 3-point range, no one else who plays a major role in the Dream rotation is shooting better than 27.7 percent from downtown. And that allows opposing defenses to pack it in, negating the spaces that allows the likes of McCoughtry and Hayes from doing their best work.
Dealing for Bentley could help alleviate some of those problems. Now, Bentley isn't exactly an efficient shooter. In fact, she's shooting just 30.4 percent from beyond the arc-- though that is better than most players on the Dream roster. However, she's certainly not shy, hoisting nearly four 3-pointers per game this season. At the very least, opposing defenses usually have to respect the fact that she's willing to take the shot, and that could open up a bit more space for the Dream's other players to operate. Plus, Bentley is more than capable of getting her own looks, and her ability to create off the bench could boost the Dream's lackluster offense.