The WNBA Saw A Wave Of Roster Cuts Ahead Of The May 26 Deadline

This holiday weekend, WNBA teams around the league have been working to cut down their rosters to 12 ahead of the May 26 deadline so players can start getting paid on June 1. Teams usually have until the beginning of the regular season to finalize their rosters and they can further evauluate players at training camp in the weeks before tip-off.

This year, the 2020 WNBA season was postponed in early April due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, before training camp had commenced. As the league is still mulling its options over how it can hold a season this summer, the roster deadline was consequently pushed back to May 26 — and how teams make those final roster decisions looks a little different this year.

As Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press wrote, “Teams typically would be able to evaluate players by their on-the-court actions. Now it’s more based on how quickly they pick things up on Zoom conference calls or how well they understand plays online.” And a majority of the league’s 12 teams, including the Phoenix Mercury, New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky still need to slim down their rosters.

Players who are waived will not get paid but they will continue to receive benefits through June 30, the Associated Press reported.

On Friday, the Dallas Wings waived Morgan Bertsch after waiving Kaela Davis last month as the team continues to whittle down its roster. Over the weekend, the Atlanta Dream waived Elina Babkina and suspended Spanish international Maite Cazorla, who will remain in Spain, and Mikayla Pivec. Additionally, as Ben Dull and Kurtis Zimmerman pointed out on Twitter, draftee Kobi Thornton never actually signed a contract with the Dream so the team is at the league-maximum 12 roster spots. Although the U.S. government announced that it will allow foreign athletes who play in American sports leagues to enter the country, some WNBA players overseas like Cazorla have opted to sit out the season — by suspending them, teams can free up a roster spot and give themselves more salary flexibility.

On Monday, the Connecticut Sun waived four players: Juicy Landrum, Jazmon Gwathmey, Jacki Gemelos and Megan Huf. Gwathmey, Gamelos and Huf were all signed to training camp contracts while Landrum was drafted last month with the 35th overall pick. The Lynx likewise waived two players, Linnae Harper and Erica Ogwumike, in an effort to get closer to that 12-woman roster max. Harper was on a training camp deal, while Ogwumike was acquired in a draft night trade with New York for Stephanie Talbot.

The Washington Mystics waived Jaylyn Agnew and Alecia “Sug” Sutton to narrow its roster down to 11 players while Rachel Galligan reported that the Sky waived Japreece Dean, a guard out of UCLA who was selected on draft night with the 30th overall pick. On deadline day, the Sky got their roster down to 11 after waiving Alexis Prince and suspending draftee Kiah Gillespie, according to Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Seattle Storm announced that they have waived two of their draftees, Joyner Holmes and Haley Gorecki, while Latvia international Kitija Laksa, Seattle’s 11th overall pick last month, will sit out the season at home.

According to their online team rosters and Across the Timeline’s transaction tracker, the Indiana Fever — following the reported suspension of Stephanie Mavunga — Las Vegas Aces, Storm, Mystics, Dream, Sun and Liberty have successfully adhered to the roster maximum rules. The Liberty announced Tuesday that they’ve waived Reshanda Gray while China international Han Xu and France’s Marine Johannès will remain at home overseas, meaning their roster is now at 12 players. The Minnesota Lynx are currently just one player north of the maximum 12, while the Mercury have a roster of 15 players. The Wings have 14 players and the Sparks are at 13. As the Tuesday deadline quickly approaches, a few more player decisions are expected to be announced.