WNBA trade grades: Dream, Sun, Mercury complete three-team deal involving four players, two draft picks
Courtney Williams heads to Atlanta; Briann January is off to Connecticut; Jessica Breland and Nia Coffey are Phoenix-bound
The WNBA offseason took another wild twist on Wednesday when the Atlanta Dream, Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury reached an agreement on a blockbuster three-team trade involving four players and two picks.
In the deal, the Sun sent Courtney Williams to Atlanta, the Dream moved Jessica Breland and Nia Coffey to the Mercury and the Mercury dealt Briann January to the Sun. In addition, the Mercury traded a 2020 second-round pick to the Dream, and a 2021 second-round pick to the Sun.
Williams has been a crucial part of the Sun's core over the past few seasons, but according to head coach and general manager Curt Miller, she wanted out of Connecticut.
"We realize Courtney was a fan-favorite and we wish her the best in Atlanta," Miller said. "Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and all the loyalty and support we've shown Courtney over the last four seasons, it became clear she no longer wanted to return to Connecticut."
Now, the Georgia native will return to her home state, and the Dream couldn't be more thrilled.
"Today is an exciting day for the Atlanta Dream," head coach Nicki Collen said. "The addition of Courtney Williams brings us a dynamic scorer who thrives in the big moment. Courtney is arguably the best mid-range scorer in the WNBA but has also become a very efficient 3-point shooter which will keep defenses honest. While one of the smaller players in the league, she attacks the boards at both ends of the floor fearlessly and effectively."
As for the Mercury, they were stacked at point guard after the additions of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley in free agency, so moving January for two frontcourt players will help bolster their depth.
We're excited to add two highly skilled, high character players in Jessica and Nia," Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said. "We know they will make individual contributions this year, but we are even more excited about what their addition means for our overall roster."
Now that the deal has been locked in, let's grade the trade.
Dream trade grade: A
- Courtney Williams
- No. 17 overall pick in 2020 draft (via Mercury)
After finishing in last place last season with an 8-26 record that was the second-worst mark in franchise history, the Dream started out their offseason by losing franchise icon Angel McCoughtry to the Las Vegas Aces in free agency. That was about as rock bottom as it gets, but since then they've put together a really solid offseason, and this trade is their best move so far.
The Dream had all sorts of problems last season, but the main one was that they couldn't score. Like, their offense was historically bad. They shot 37.1 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point land, both of which were last in the league, and only six teams in WNBA history have recorded lower true-shooting percentages than their 46.2 percent mark. Their 89.8 offensive rating, meanwhile, was the worst the league has seen since 2015, and the fourth-worst this decade. You get the point.
While Williams won't do much to solve their 3-point shooting problems -- she only took one per game last season -- her explosiveness and ability to create her own shot will do wonders for their offense. Her and Tiffany Hayes together in the same backcourt is about explosive as it gets. Along with scoring over 13 points per game last season, which was 20th in the league, Williams is also a tremendous rebounder for a guard, and a solid playmaker as well.
Even acknowledging she can be inconsistent at times, this is a tremendous deal for the Dream.
Sun trade grade: B-
- Briann January
- 2021 second-round pick (via Mercury)
The Sun have had an interesting offseason. They started off on fire, re-signing MVP candidate Jonquel Jones and trading for All-Star forward DeWanna Bonner, but those moves have had a domino effect. They weren't able to re-sign their best 3-point shooter, Shekinna Stricklen, and now have been forced to trade Williams after she made it clear she wanted out.
When you're the team trading a 25-year-old guard with Williams' ability, you're never going to win the deal. But considering the circumstances, the Sun didn't do half bad to acquire January. She's 33, and considering the earlier addition of the 32-year-old Bonner, that shortens their window considerably. But the veteran guard is still a helpful player.
Along with Bonner, she brings more championship experience to the locker room, and has always been regarded as strong leader and floor general. A six-time All-Defensive Team player, she'll help them maintain their status as one of the better defensive teams in the league. On the offensive side of the ball, she's a strong 3-point shooter -- 37.8 percent last season -- and will help space the floor for Bonner and Jones, while also replacing some of Stricklen's production.
She's clearly on the downside of her career, but she's a steady presence who can still help the Sun win.
Mercury trade grade: A-
- Jessica Breland
- Nia Coffey
Like many teams, the Mercury have been making all sorts of big moves this winter, and this deal is no exception. So far, they've traded Bonner to the Sun, re-signed Brittney Griner, lost Sancho Lyttle to retirement and Leilani Mitchell to the Washington Mystics, traded for Skylar Diggins-Smith and signed Bria Hartley. Those latter two moves left them with a deep point guard rotation, and while giving Hartley so much money was perhaps a questionable decision, it made sense to trade January once they did so.
Now 33 years old, January is still a solid player, but there was going to be little playing time for her in Phoenix, and the Mercury needed to upgrade their frontcourt. They did just that but acquiring Breland and Coffey from the Dream, a move that can help them in both the short and long term.
The veteran Breland isn't much of an offensive presence, but they don't need scoring with Diana Taurasi, Griner and Diggins-Smith leading the way. What she does bring, however, is a versatile defensive presence in the frontcourt that they were lacking with Bonner's departure. Breland has always been a strong rebounder, and last season was one of just four players to average at least one block and one steal per game. She'll slot right in at the power forward spot, and along with Griner will form one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league.
As for Coffey, the fourth-year forward will offer some depth in the frontcourt, and if her 3-point shooting is real -- 37.9 percent on over two attempts per game last season -- she could develop into a solid role player for this team for years to come.
By giving up a point guard and two second-round picks they weren't going to use, the Mercury greatly improved their depth and defense in the frontcourt.
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