The Seattle Storm face tough decisions this offseason
While the Storm are the reigning champs, they'll need some salary cap gymnastics to maintain their 2020 roster.
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Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm talks to her teammates during the game against the Las Vegas Aces in Game Three of the WNBA Finals on October 6, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Repeating as a champion in any sport is difficult. Aside from playing the games, the challenges teams face off the court can impact their likelihood of winning back-to-back titles. The Seattle Storm are no exception.
Seattle has their core of Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart, and Jordin Canada under contract through 2021. However, they also have many key expiring contracts. The Storm project to have roughly $550K in cap space, so some hard decisions are likely coming. Let’s look at some of those challenges ahead.
Alysha Clark - Forward - 2020 salary: $85K
Clark seems in-line for a big payday. She’s a part of the WNBA All-Defensive team, a deadeye shooter, and everything else for the Storm. Clark allows Seattle to do so many things on both ends of the floor and keeping her feels required.
What the Storm may have in their favor is her turning 34 next July. This is a good situation where she will likely compete for another championship and have a significant role. Now, Clark would have no problems seeing the court anywhere but would she take less at this stage in her career to remain with this group? We’ll have to see.
Natasha Howard - Forward - 2020 salary: $117,000
Howard, like Clark, enables the Storm to thrive on both ends of the floor. She makes life easier for Stewart, often defending the other team’s center. Her defensive versatility has earned her a Defensive Player of the Year award. Offensively, despite her slow start this season, Howard thrives rolling to the rim and not needing the ball in her hands.
The question with Howard is similar to the question with Clark: would she walk away from this situation for more money or a longer deal? At age 29, this may be Howard’s last chance at a larger and long-term deal. There’s no reason to think she won’t be a WNBA into her 30s but few players improve after their 20s.
Sue Bird - Point Guard - 2020 salary: $215,000
Look, Bird will have a job in Seattle as long she wants one. She’s earned that right. Despite playing half the team’s games, Bird enjoyed one of her most efficient seasons in Year 17. If she returns, she knows the Storm are likely a contender.
Sami Whitcomb - Guard - 2020 salary: $68,000
Whitcomb is another interesting player. We saw everything from terrific outside shooting to driving the lane from Whitcomb in 2020. When Bird missed time with a bone bruise, Whitcomb became the team’s backup point guard behind Canada. She certainly has valuable WNBA skills.
It’s not that replacing Whitcomb is necessarily impossible, but we know she’s a great fit. Seattle may hope the veteran takes another team-friendly deal to bolster the bench.
Epiphanny Prince - Guard - 2020 salary: $115,000
Prince was one of several players who didn’t receive the most playing time but did well remaining ready for when the team needed her. Down the stretch, the Storm needed Prince’s shot-making once Whitcomb left the Wubble and she delivered.
Another veteran, would the Storm look to replace her with a minimum similar to Whitcomb’s last season? Perhaps. Seattle is going to have to get creative but players like Prince are going to have to do what’s best for them too.
Where can Seattle find room?
Doing well this offseason is important because the Storm will need to re-sign Stewart, Loyd, and Canada next offseason. They’ll likely want to maintain flexibility while remaining competitive.
One thing that stands out on Seattle’s payroll is Morgan Tuck and Crystal Langhorne making $234,000 combined in 2021. This is no disrespect to either player, the Storm didn’t use them much this season. The pair played 195 combined minutes and played 10 and 13 games, respectively. Having them off the books next year will help but will need to find a short-term solution.
Bringing back everyone on the same salaries won’t work. Seattle will likely ask players to sacrifice or the team will be forced to look elsewhere.