With the Atlanta Dream Expansion Draft less than a week away, WNBA.com's story yesterday on how the draft is going to work was revealing.
As has been true in the past, each team will be able to protect six players. The key difference from when we did this two years ago with the Chicago Sky is this:
Atlanta may choose one player from each club and may do so without regard to
current contract status provided that the Dream selects no more than one
unrestricted free agent. In the event that Atlanta selects an unrestricted free
agent, they would have the right to designate that player as a "core" player –
gaining exclusive negotiating rights in exchange for an offer of a one-year,
fully guaranteed contract at the maximum salary.
The Sky was not able to select unrestricted free agents. What makes this so important for the Dream is not necessarily the ability to pick and core an unrestricted free agent - I wouldn't even be certain they will opt to do so instead of favoring younger players and more cap flexibility - but the threat of being able to pick UFAs. What that means is that teams must protect their unrestricted free agents who would have the ability to command maximum salaries on the free market to avoid the possibility of having those players selected by Atlanta.
The end result should be that the Dream and Head Coach/GM Marynell Meadors have a slightly deeper pool of players available to them.
As a reminder, here's the contract status for the Storm.
Under contract: Iziane Castro Marques, Katie Gearlds, Lauren Jackson, Tanisha Wright
Reserved (can negotiate only with Storm): Shyra Ely
Restricted free agents: Doneeka Lewis, Ashley Robinson
Unrestricted free agents: Sue Bird, Janell Burse, Betty Lennox, Astou Ndiaye-Diatta, Wendy Palmer