Breanna Stewart was an unrestricted free agent last winter, but there was never much doubt that she would re-sign with the Seattle Storm to play with Sue Bird during the legendary point guard's final season in the WNBA. That's just what Stewart did, but in a surprise twist she only signed a one-year deal.
As a result, she'll once again reprise her role as. This time, though, it's for real. Stewart may ultimately go back to Seattle, the only franchise she's ever known since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, but not before she goes through the full process. , and has interest in playing with fellow free agent, point guard Courtney Vandersloot.
Those two would be quite the package deal, but for now, let's focus only on Stewart given that there's no guarantee they will sign together. Here's all four potential free agent destinations for Stewart ranked by three important categories: the ability to win, pure fun and best current player.
Is winning everything?
The Liberty met with Stewart last year during free agency, and also play in her home state of New York, which should give them a leg up in negotiations. The fact that they added former MVP Jonquel Jones in a blockbuster trade earlier this month won't hurt either.
There are some questions about the depth on this roster outside of Jones and Sabrina Ionescu, especially depending on what happens with Marine Johannes -- the French guard plays in her native country during the winter, and the Ligue Feminine de Basketball may run afoul of the WNBA's new prioritization rules.
Even so, we can't overthink this. Regardless of what happens with the rest of the roster, Stewart and Jones are two of the top three players in the league, and along with Ionescu would form arguably the WNBA's best big three. It's hard to bet against that kind of high-level talent.
Last season's first-round matchup between the Storm and Mystics played out in thrilling fashion. Stewart must have liked what she saw from her opponents, as she's decided to take a meeting with the Mystics this month. That may have come as a bit of a surprise, but it's hard to blame her.
After a few frustrating seasons defined by injuries, the Mystics were finally healthy last season and the results showed. They were 18-7 when Elena Delle Donne played, and allowed just 96 points per 100 possessions to boast the best defense in the league.
With Delle Donne, two All-Defensive First Team guards in Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins, promising rookie Shakira Austin and versatile forward Myisha Hines-Allen, the Mystics may have the most complete roster of any of these four teams as things stand. In fact, if you could guarantee that Delle Donne would stay healthy, the Mystics could make the case that they give Stewart the best chance to win.
The Storm may be a surprise pick at No. 3 here, but there are just too many question marks about the roster at the moment to choose otherwise. Entering free agency they have only two players under contract for the 2023 season: Jewell Loyd and Mercedes Russell, who only played five games last season.
You can pretty safely assume that Ezi Magbegor, a reserved free agent, will be back. But Sue Bird has retired (this, of course, is where Vandersloot would come in as a direct replacement), Gabby Williams' status is completely up in the air due to the prioritization rules and a large part of last season's supporting cast is in their mid-30s.
Stewart's presence would help attract other free agents (again, they need Vandersloot in a package deal more than any other team in the mix), and her partnership with Loyd alone would be more than most teams could claim. But if we're just considering the rosters as they stand, the Storm have too many holes right now .
The Lynx's 11-season playoff streak came to an end last season, and on top of that legendary center Sylvia Fowles retired after 14 seasons. Maya Moore, who hadn't played since 2018, officially called an end to her career this offseason as well. Head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve is the only key figure remaining from the Lynx's dynastic run, and now faces the prospect of starting a brand new era of Lynx basketball. One perhaps centered around Stewart?
Minnesota may have been a surprise addition to Stewart's list, but it is one of the premier organizations in the history of the league, the city has a rabid fanbase and Reeve, whom Stewart has played for on the international level with Team USA, is a future Hall of Fame coach.
In addition to those intangibles, the Lynx have a budding young star in Napheesa Collier, who could be a franchise player in her own right and played with Stewart at UConn. But outside of Collier and veteran wings Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers, there are a lot of question marks about this Lynx roster, in particular at the guard spot.
Let's have fun
This is perhaps the easiest call of this entire exercise. The Liberty were already one of the most entertaining offenses in the league last season with Ionescu and Johannes running the show, and now they've added Jones, one of the most athletic and dominant bigs in the world to the mix. If Stewart comes along too, the offensive firepower and versatility would be off the charts. There would be non-stop ball movement, shooting across the floor and plenty of creativity.
The Storm may only have two players on the roster at the moment, but one of them is Loyd and we know exactly how exciting the Stewart-Loyd partnership has been over the years. While the hypothetical partnerships Stewart could form elsewhere are fun to think about, there's something to be said for the one we've actually seen succeed.
Stewart and Loyd know how to play together. "She gives me confidence to take shots and I have the same confidence in her," Loyd said last season. "I appreciate her friendship and us being teammates. It's a privilege."
We most often think of fun from an offensive standpoint, and for good reason. But watching an elite defense can be just as enjoyable, and the Mystics with Stewart would be darn near impossible to score against. Just imagine Stewart roaming around on the backline as a help defender while Cloud and Atkins cause total havoc on the perimeter. You could put the Mystics down in sharpie for the best defense in the league again.
No disrespect to the Lynx, but they are a distant fourth here. It would be interesting to see what Stewart could do playing alongside Collier and McBride in the Lynx's infrastructure, but it doesn't exactly scream fun -- not without some other changes to the roster.
Teamwork makes the dream work
1. Liberty: Jonquel Jones
Jones, who won MVP in 2021, had what many considered a down season in 2022 and still made the All-Star Game, All-WNBA Second Team and All-Defensive Second Team. She is the clear third-best player in the world behind Stewart and A'ja Wilson, and on her day can outplay either of them. Stewart and Jones have played together overseas for UMMC Ekaterinburg, and it would be incredible to see the combination stateside.
2. Mystics: Elena Delle Donne
Delle Donne sat out in 2020 and only played three games in 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns and multiple back surgeries. Finally, after extensive rehab, she was able to return to the floor last season and looked largely like her old self, even if she did engage in some pretty heavy load management to make it through unscathed. Stewart has never played with a big of Delle Donne's caliber in the WNBA, and it would be one of the most talented frontcourt pairings of all-time. The shooting and offensive versatility would be ridiculous.
3. Storm: Jewell Loyd
We don't need to go into too much detail here. The duo were back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and along with Sue Bird formed a dynamite big three that won two titles together. Stewart loves playing with Loyd, and vice versa. Getting to continue playing with Loyd, a perennial All-Star and one of the best shot creators in the league, could ultimately be what keeps Stewart in Seattle for another few years.
4. Lynx: Napheesa Collier
Collier missed most of last season while recovering from her pregnancy, but in her first three seasons in the league she won Rookie of the Year, made two All-Star Games, one All-WNBA appearance and one All-Defensive appearance. Her versatility on both ends of the floor would make her a perfect fit next to Stewart, and the two already have plenty of experience playing together from their days at UConn.