Early on Sunday, we got the first trade of the 2021 WNBA season: The Chicago Sky agreed to trade Gabby Williams to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for Stephanie Watts, the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft, and the rights to Leonie Fiebich.
The deal comes a few days after the Sky decided to put Williams on the full-season suspended list. That decision cannot be reversed even with a trade, so Williams will not be able to play for the Sparks this season. A French-American dual citizen, Williams is planning to play for France in EuroBasket Women this summer, and possibly the Olympics as well.
Speaking to the media on Sunday before the trade, Sky head coach and GM James Wade said the decision to suspend Williams was made because she hadn't made the Sky a priority.
"We needed our group of 11," Wade said. "We have players like Stefanie [Dolson], who's going to leave for the national team. And Astou [Ndour] who's going to leave for the national team, and they made a point of priority to be here. And so that was our whole thing is that we needed them here. We have a season that we feel can be special, and we didn't want to, you know, put our players behind the eight ball because we only start the season with eight or nine when we didn't have to."
Wade also added that he wasn't made aware of Williams' international commitments until late in the process, and there hadn't been an agreement made between her and the Sky. However, Williams' posts on social media seemed to indicate that she was surprised by the team's decision to suspend her, which suggest there might have been some sort of miscommunication along the way.
In any case, Williams is now off to the Sparks. Though she won't be able to play for them until 2022, this is a smart trade for a Los Angeles team that is entering a new phase after Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray left in the offseason. Williams has been a bit underwhelming at times in her first few seasons in the WNBA, but she's a young, versatile forward who can give the Sparks some much-needed depth on the wing. And if it doesn't work out, they didn't really give up too much.
As for the Sky, this is a disappointing end to Williams' tenure with the team. Even if she hadn't quite lived up to the expectations that made her the No. 4 overall pick in 2018, it's never good when a relationship with a player disintegrates to the point that you have to trade her. It's even worse when it happens with a former lottery pick. Watts was a surprise first-round selection in the draft last month and will compete for one of the final few roster spots in Chicago.