The WNBA's 2021 free agency officially got underway last week as teams were able to begin negotiating with players on Jan. 15. However, deals cannot be finalized until Feb. 1, which means we have over a week to break things down and discuss this year's free agent class.
And what a class it is. Legends like Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are all hitting the market, and that's only a few of the stars that will be looking for new contracts. As we wait for teams and players to make their decisions, here's a look at the top 10 free agents of 2021.
(Note: This list does not include Liz Cambage, Natasha Howard or Nneka Ogwumike, all of whom have already been designated as core players, giving their teams exclusive negotiating rights. If they were still unrestricted, all three of them would be in the top five.)
For a full list of every WNBA free agent and their status, click here.
1. Candace Parker
The Sparks had a number of key free agents this offseason and chose to core Nneka Ogwumike, which means Parker, one of the league's all-time greats, will hit unrestricted free agency. Head coach Derek Fisher, who is now also GM, said it will be a priority to re-sign Parker, but those two haven't always seen eye-to-eye. If another team is able to lure Parker away from the only team she's ever known, it will be a monumental shift for the league. But if the Sparks convince her to stay, they'll remain a title contender heading into next season.
2. Alyssa Thomas
Thomas had to return to the U.S. earlier this month after suffering a knee injury while playing overseas, and the severity of the issue is still not clear. She's going to get a max deal no matter what, but it's obviously a big deal if she ends up not being able to play this season. If that is the case, it would really be a bummer considering how good Thomas has become. She's an absolute force on both ends of the floor, and the fact that she didn't make an All-WNBA team last season is a travesty.
3. Chelsea Gray
The Sparks could only core one of their free agent stars this offseason, and they didn't choose Gray, which opens up the possibility that she could be on the move. And as the best point guard on the market, she should have no shortage of offers. Last season's weird slump aside, she's a strong 3-point shooter, has great size for a point guard and can defend. Of course, she's also a really slick passer, and one of only two players to average at least five assists in each of the past three seasons.
4. Emma Meesseman
Meesseman is interesting in that last season showed that she's not really equipped to single-handedly carry an offense. And yet, as a complementary star she's completely overqualified. She's one of the best frontcourt playmakers in the league, an efficient scorer from all over the floor and a clutch playoff performer. The Mystics will be eager to bring her back to see if they can reclaim their title with everyone back in action in 2021.
5. Diana Taurasi
It's a testament to Taurasi's greatness that last summer in the bubble, despite being in her 17th season, she was the only player in the league to finish in the top 10 in scoring and assists. Even well beyond her peak, there still aren't many players who can create offense the way she does, both for herself and others. However, even though she is an unrestricted free agent, there doesn't figure to be much drama here. It would be a shock if she leaves Phoenix.
6. Kayla McBride
As great as the 2020 season was for the Aces as a team, it was a rough one for McBride on a personal level. She posted some of the worst numbers of her career, and revealed in an article for The Players' Tribune that she struggled with her mental health during the early portion of the pandemic. None of that will scare off any GMs, however, because even if she wasn't at her best last summer, McBride is still an elite shooting guard who can make an impact on both ends of the floor.
7. Aerial Powers
The Mystics were extremely shorthanded last season, which is why they barely snuck into the playoffs. But the absence of so many key players created an opportunity for those who did play in the bubble, and Powers was taking advantage in a major way before a hamstring injury cut her season short. She's one of the few two-way wings on the market this winter, and plenty of teams will be interested.
8. Alysha Clark
Clark is never going to put up huge numbers or command headlines, but she's just really, really solid. Defense, 3-point shooting, championship experience, durability, leadership ... she checks every single box you would want in a complementary player, which is why contenders across the league will be lining up to try and sign her.
9. Betnijah Laney
Laney will be the test case for how much playing inside the bubble impacted performance. A role player for her first four years in the league, she was tremendous for the Dream last season, putting up career highs across the board. Wings with size who can create their own shot, make 3s and facilitate are a rare commodity in the league, and if front offices believe Laney's improvement was real, she's going to get paid big bucks. The question is, how much stock will they put into such a unique 22-game sample size?
10. Sue Bird
It was difficult to figure out where to place Bird on this list considering, one, she's not leaving Seattle, and two, there are valid concerns about her ability to hold up through a full season at this point in her career. However, the reason she belongs is because when she is healthy she's still one of the top point guards in the league, and an absolute master at running an offense.