Skylar Diggins-Smith traded to the Phoenix Mercury: Analysis from every angle

After much speculation, the Skylar Diggins-Smith trade finally happened as Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan told the world.

The Trade:

Dallas traded Skylar Diggins-Smith to Phoenix for the 5th and 7th picks in the 2020 draft and Phoenix’s 2021 first-round pick. Then, Dallas traded Phoenix’s 2021 first to Chicago for Astou Ndour. 

The trade was actually two sign-and-trades. First and most importantly, Diggins-Smith signed a reported four-year supermax contract with Dallas (#GettheEntireBag) then got moved for three first-round picks. The Wings cored Skylar to retain her exclusive negotiating rights, but the plan was always to get her approval on a trade and move her before the season starts in May.

The path of the picks involved in this trade is interesting. Phoenix earned the 5th pick in the 2020 draft with an underwhelming, injury-riddled 2019 season. They acquired the 7th pick from Connecticut along with the 11th pick and CT’s 2021 first rounder for DeWanna Bonner. Connecticut acquired the 7th pick from Seattle for Morgan Tuck and the 11th overall pick.

Connecticut’s return for Tuck didn’t make sense for a contender, until they used it to get Bonner. Similarly, the draft picks that Phoenix got for Bonner didn’t help the team contend in the twlight of Diana Taurasi’s career. Until they turned them into Skylar Diggins-Smith.

The Wings then got Astou Ndour from Chicago for Phoenix’s 2021 first. Ndour had signed a three-year offer sheet with Atlanta, which Chicago matched within 30 minutes likely with this trade in the works. The offer sheet was for her maximum salary, starting at $185k in 2020. Ndour had to agree to the trade.


WNBA Free Agency: Day 2 Instant Analysis

Welcome to Day 2 of WNBA Free Agency. Winsidr will be bringing you all the breaking news over on twitter, on the free agency tracker, and all over the website. Check out all our analysis from Day 1 here. Let’s get analyzing.

The Biggest Deals

DeWanna Bonner sign-and-traded to Connecticut

DeWanna Bonner is off to Connecticut. The superstar agreed to a sign-and-trade from Phoenix to Connecticut, per a release from the Sun. Phoenix is receiving three first-round pick (7th and 11th in 2020, CT’s 2021 first).

We can safely assume that Bonner is getting the four-year supermax contract because she went the sign-and-trade route, rather than merely signing with Connecticut. A player can only get the supermax by agreeing to a contract with her previous team. The deal likely starts at $215,000 in 2020 and could be worth up to $899,480 over four years. #GettheEntireBag DeWanna!

There was a feeling that the Sun had something up their sleeve when they let Layshia Clarendon go and traded Morgan Tuck with the 11th pick in 2020 for the 7th pick (that they just traded). Bonner to Connecticut was a rumor that kept popping up yesterday. According to Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan, Bonner’s decision came down to Dallas and Connecticut. I’m guessing Bonner for Skylar Diggins-Smith was discussed but it fell through as DeWanna decided she wanted to go Connecticut.

On the court, do I need to explain to you how great this move is for Connecticut? DeWanna Bonner has gone from sixth women of the year for 3 years straight (2009-2011) to a full blown superstar making the All-Star team in the previous two seasons.

She can do a little bit of everything for this team with her speed and length. Bonner will slot into Sheekina Stricklen’s spot in the starting lineup as Stricklen is likely on the way out. Subbing Bonner for Stricklen makes this Connecticut defense stronger, even though Bonner isn’t necessarily a stopper. She can switch and won’t need to be hidden on a shooter like Stricklen.

Bonner is excellent both on and off ball, especially as a spot up threat. I’m slightly concerned about the the Sun’s spacing as Bonner struggles from three-point range. But Jonquel Jones can help the spacing (and save her body a bit) by moving out to the three-point line. At the very least, Bonner is a willing shooter and that makes defenses pay attention to her.

The cap situation for Connecticut now becomes very interesting. With cap holds, the Sun currently have $230,500 in cap space. Assuming Courtney Williams gets the max, Connecticut’s cap space dwindles to $113,500 with 8 players under contract and minimum cap holds for Bria Holmes and Rachel Banham.

Basically, the Sun have a few options. They can have 12 players on roster and use their final 4 roster spots on young players close to the $57,000 minimum. The Sun could also have 11 players on roster and use the final 3 roster spots on either one large contract (near $100k) with two vet minimum deals or just three players making near $80,000. Those last few roster spots may not seem too important, but the Sun really needed some of their end of the bench talent last year.  Plus, Connecticut having to go with just 11 players eliminates one player from the WNBA. A sad side effect of superteams and salary growth outpacing cap growth in the new CBA.

Obviously, this is a huge bummer for the Phoenix Mercury. With Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, they are in win-now mode especially with Taurasi getting up there in age. They did well to get a lot of draft assets leaving anyways, but rookies don’t typically help win playoff games. I imagine they will try to flip those picks in a trade for a veteran that can help.


WNBA Free Agency: Day 1 instant analysis

The day has finally arrived. WNBA free agents can officially sign with teams starting today. Winsidr will be bringing you all the breaking news over on twitter, on the free agency tracker, and all over the website. Here is where I will be breaking down my instant (or as close to instant as possible) reactions of each and every move. We expect a wild day of news today, so come with me and freak out about this stuff together!

The Biggest deals

Angel McCoughtry signs with the Las Vegas Aces

Angel McCoughtry is going to Las Vegas! McCoughtry will be signing for two years at the max ($185,000 in 2020, $190,500 in 2021) and her salary is fully protected, according to sources.

The decision came down to Los Angeles or Las Vegas as Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan reported earlier today. Sources told Winsidr that the Sparks did not feel strongly enough about bringing McCoughtry on to fully protect her salary. The Aces apparently did. Angel is coming off an ACL injury and missed all of last year, so the teams had to make a tough decision on the protection.

Angel keeps getting better and better on Team USA and Dynamo Kursk. She still needs time to get back to her old form, but she is showing signs of progress. We haven’t seen a ton of Angel in the past three years so I’d caution everyone to reserve judgement until we see her on the court.

But I am a bit concerned about the fit on the court. Bill Laimbeer loves his bigs and his points in the paint. Angel can certainly bring more points in the paint as one of the best slashers in WNBA history. However, spacing was already tight with Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson, and Dearica Hamby banging heads in the post. Angel will find it hard to work down there.

It also worries me that Angel could take time away from Hamby or that Laimbeer will run them together with diminishing returns for both. But Bill figured it out last season when many brought up similar concerns. The Aces may not be done wheeling and dealing either. Also, this move likely cements Kelsey Plum as the starting point guard over Jackie Young because of Plum’s shooting which is a positive to me. But really these are all minor concerns when the headline is “we got one of the league’s best players ever.”


The changes to the WNBA CBA affecting top 2020 free agents

The WNBA released the full text of its new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the WNBA Players Association. The entire 350-page document can be found here. The agreement will drastically change the WNBA landscape in every aspect and, hopefully, usher in greater investment in the league. A crucial piece of increasing the league’s footprint will be increasing interest in WNBA Free Agency. 

The NBA has found success, at least in terms of buzz, by promoting and encouraging player movement. The new CBA tries to push the WNBA in that direction. Players will get paid more, will hit unrestricted free agency sooner, and generally face less restrictions on their movement between teams. 

These changes will affect the 2021 and 2022 offseasons more than 2020 because all of the changes to free agency go into effect by 2022. For now, I’d like to focus on how the new CBA affects the top players of this year’s class. Several WNBA superstars, including Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner, and Angel McCoughtry, are unrestricted free agents and they will all likely benefit from the new system. 

Read full article here

Sorting through the new WNBA CBA


WNBAPA President Nneka Ogwumike and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced the new CBA on Good Morning America. It was a great moment for the league and the details that they shared made it clear that the WNBA is betting on women. Let’s sort through what we know and what it means.


The big question coming into the CBA negotiations was whether the players would start getting paid properly for their services. The new CBA is an absolutely massive step in the right direction. Go read the WNBA and WNBAPA’s statement for all the details. Here are the highlights for me:

  • 53% increase in compensation for players
  • Top players will be able to earn over $500,000 in total cash compensation
  • Average player compensation will be $130,000, hitting six figures for the first time
  • 50-50 revenue sharing between players and owners
  • Minimum of $1.6 million in off-season league and team marketing agreements
  • Maximum base salary will be at $250,000 (before bonuses and what not)
  • The WNBA will work with its affiliated leagues, teams and sponsors to provide off-season job opportunities designed to prepare players for their post-playing careers and will advance diversity in coaching initiatives for veteran players interested in coaching careers.

That’s all fantastic. Players will now make a salary that they can be proud of, as Commish Englebert said on a conference call earlier today. They can make enough money to stay here full-time and grow the game in the US. It’s such a huge step in the right direction.

But notice that the term “cash compensation” is used far more than salary. That likely means that much of extra money will be coming in from bonuses. That is slightly scary since much of the conversation around the WNBA was about how it’s not bringing in money. Tying compensation to bonuses and “revenue goals” seems like it could lead to that compensation disappearing when revenue goes down or when the league needs to save money.

However, the league seems to be betting on women rather than giving into demands. The Commissioner said that this model is a more holistic view of compensation rather than just guaranteed salaries. At this point, we should believe the league and the players when they say that this deal will actually make playing in the WNBA worth it for all players.

The last part is important for players like Kristi Toliver who coaches for the NBA’s Washington Wizards in the offseason. In fact, the provision was called the “Toliver Provision” on the conference call. It will remove the barriers to her getting properly paid for her work. Hopefully, it will cultivate more women coaches in the NBA and allow players to grow the game in that aspect.

Read full article here

Why We Love FCS: Citadel-Furman was ugly and perfect, BLOOD WEEK, and Herky the Hornet

Published on Underdog Dynasty on October 23, 2019

Furman and the Citadel had played each other 98 times before last Saturday’s matchup of Southern Conference rivals. The rivalry exemplifies so much of what we hold dear in College Football, but the vast majority of those matchups lacked one crucial component: BEER. After the Citadel decided to allow beer in Johnson Hagood Stadium in 2017, Furman finally followed suit and opened the Champions Grove Beer Garden on Saturday. Not a moment too soon for Paladian fans, who could use a tall one to wash away a 27-10 upset loss by #8 Furman at the hand of the Bulldogs.

I can’t imagine a more perfect game to start this series. First, Furman and the Citadel are perfect rivals. The South Carolina schools obviously have bad blood on the football field. But they also just dislike each other generally. 

The Citadel looks at Furman as a school for the upper class, who waste time on frivolous thought experiments over more practical pursuits. Furman fans sometimes call the Cadets of the Citadel “bellhops” because of their uniforms and because they view the Cadets as West Point rejects. 

Obviously, neither stereotype is true or even honestly believed in. But the barbs between the schools show just how different they are. The military academy hyper-focused on discipline contrasted with the tiny liberal arts school with strict, academic standards. While Furman is trying to distance itself from its slavery-riddled past, the Citadel has a webpage celebrating its Confederate roots in the “War between the States.” 

The game also had some big stakes beyond the rivalry. Furman came into the game undefeated in the SoCon. The Paladins were also poised to get a top-8 seed in the playoffs after reaching their highest ranking since 2006. Despite beating Georgia Tech earlier this year, the Citadel, with two conference losses, desperately needed a win to stay alive in the conference. 

Then, the game itself was just perfect college football (to me, at least). Misty, consistent rain pelted the players and fans in Greenville. Luckily, the teams wouldn’t have to adjust too much for the rain as they both run the triple option, something that would only happen in FCS. 

It was gloriously gross. Furman and Citadel combined for 532 rushing yards in the mud. There were more rushing attempts (100) than passing yards (76). The rain contributed to the three fumbles as players just couldn’t hold on to the ball. It also contributed to one of the worst passes I’ve ever seen, which was intercepted by Furman.

I question the logic of having a wide receiver on a triple option team throw the ball deep downfield in a driving rainstorm. But the Citadel was probably practicing that play all year and, damnit, they were going to use it against their arch-rival come hell or high water. 

It wasn’t about the win necessarily, it was about the weight of pride at stake in this game. And that’s why this game is perfect FCS football. Two perfect rivals, running ancient offenses, making silly mistakes, and overcoming them to ruin the other’s season.

Read full story here

What makes the Washington Mystics offense so special? It goes beyond basketball

Published on Winsidr on September 6, 2019

All year, the Washington Mystics have generated one of the best offenses in WNBA history. They rank first in offensive rating (112.7 points per 100 possessions) and lead the league by a staggering 11.4 points in that statistic. No team in WNBA history has ever led the league in offensive rating by more than 4 points per 100 possessions or finished with an offensive rating of over 109.

While the stats show the team’s offensive dominance, the Mystics have something special that goes beyond the quantifiable. Something that I was not truly able to pin point until I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover (which is excellent and you should listen to it right now).

At the end of the last song, Swift tells someone in the studio that “I want to be defined by the things that I love, not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of, not the things that haunt me in the middle of night.” That is the ethos of Lover and, unexpectedly, it’s the ethos of the 2019 Washington Mystics.

After getting brutally swept in the Finals last year, Washington could have chosen to be defined by the things they hated and haunted them in the middle of the night. The series against Seattle last year was a nightmare, one that could have made any team look inward and develop a gruff, unfeeling drive to avenge their loss. But the Mystics refused to let that loss define them. Much like Taylor Swift, they chose to be defined by what they love: beautiful basketball and each other.

Read full article here

Eight Craziest Nights of the 2019 WNBA Season

As Hanukkah comes to a close, I wanted to celebrate the Festival of Lights by counting down the Eight Craziest Nights of the WNBA season. Even though Adam Sadler’s song inspired the theme of this article and I celebrate Christmas, the story of Hanukkah as told in a Disney Channel Original Movie helped inspire my love of basketball. 

In November 2003, my basketball fandom was at a low point as the Miami Sol had folded the year before, the Heat had just finished 2002 at the bottom of NBA, and Dwyane Wade’s first year with the Heat started off atrociously. Then, Disney Channel debuted the DCOM Full Court Miracle

The movie tells the true-ish story of Lamont Carr coaching the Philadelphia Hebrew School basketball team to success after a long losing streak. It’s an absurd movie. At one point, the team does a dance to a “rap” song about basketball and Hanukkah. 

Watch this movie. I promise that you will be entertained. Despite its flaws, the movie taught me about Hanukkah and the power of basketball to bring people together. More importantly to 10-year old me, the Heat started to turn it around after I watched Full Court Miracle. They went 39-29 the rest of the season and won a playoff series. 

The Heat’s resurgence in 2003 sparked my lifelong love of the game and it all started with this very silly movie about Hanukkah and basketball. The movie didn’t bring back the Miami Sol though, but one miracle at a time I guess…

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Why We Love FCS: Rivalry Smack Talk in Virginia and Austin Peay’s rise out of the sinkhole

Published on Underdog Dynasty on November 20, 2019

#2 JMU squashes the Ticks

James Madison won its fourth CAA conference title in five years on Saturday by beating Richmond 48-6. Ben DiNucci, JMU’s quarterback, gave us the perfect summary of this game (and this rivalry’s recent history) with his team up 31-6 late in the 3rd quarter:

The bulldozing of a defender when you’re up by 24 is reckless, as JMU Head Coach Curt Cignetti pointed out after the game. But it was a great image of the Dukes’ dominance of Richmond. The Dukes have won six of the last seven meetings, including the last four. They have won by 35 or more points in three of those games. Richmond has not led the Dukes since the 2nd quarter of their matchup in 2017. 

The Dukes just ran over the Spiders, both literally and figuratively. But they did so not with the sort of animosity you would expect from a heated rivalry. They did so like DiNucci ran over that Spider defender: recklessly, definitively and without feeling. 

Not that Richmond didn’t have a chance. Early in the first quarter, the Spiders drove 87 yards to JMU’s nine-yard line and looked poised to take a lead. Here’s what happened on the next three plays: 

(1) Joe Mancuso, Richmond’s redshirt junior QB, found Charlie Fessler in the middle of the field. Fessler turned up field, broke a tackle, and dove for the goal line. But JMU corner Wesley McCormick poked the ball free and JMU recovered in the endzone.

(2) DiNucci threw an absolutely beautiful ball to a streaking, wide open Brandon Polk for an 80-yard touchdown. 

(3) Richmond fumbled the ensuing kickoff and JMU kicker Camden Wise scooped it up to set up a Duke FG. 

The three-play sequence didn’t decide the game, but it certainly defined it. Richmond kept making mistakes and James Madison kept making them pay. A Spider personal foul led to a Dukes TD four plays later. A sack and illegal formation forced Richmond to settle for a FG, then JMU marched down for a TD to make it 24-3. Right before the half, the Spiders were within two yards of a touchdown. Mancuso missed a wide open tight end on the goal line and got sacked so Richmond settled for a field goal. 

The game really encapsulated where this rivalry is right now. JMU is so good that Richmond needs to be perfect to beat them and, unfortunately, the Spiders are far from perfect. 

The separation between the teams seems to have chilled the rivalry a bit. I asked redshirt senior DB Rashad Robinson about the rivalry after the game. Robinson is one of just three Dukes to experience a loss to Richmond in his career and went to high school 15 minutes away from Richmond. 

“Well, I mean, it’s an in-state rival. At the beginning of the year, we always want to win the state. Richmond has always been a rival here,” said Robinson. “You don’t want to lose to your rival. No matter what their record is, it’s always a rivalry, so it’s going to be a big game regardless.” 

That’s it? Robinson’s sterile answer made me think of what rivalries actually mean to players. As Robinson began to speak, DiNucci, who transferred from Pitt last year, whispers off mic to Polk, a transfer from Penn State, that he “can’t answer that.” Both of them have been in Harrisonburg just a year after all. 

To the Dukes’ players, Richmond is just another opponent to crush, just another obstacle on the way to the ultimate goal. JMU doesn’t need the extra motivation or hate. They just need to go about their business and they’ll probably win.

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Why We Love FCS: Pat League’s unlikely leader and CFB’s 6th man of the Year

Published on Underdog Dynasty on November 14, 2019

One of my favorite quotes comes from Jake the Dog on the animated series Adventure Time. He tells a downtrodden Finn the Human that “sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.” It’s excellent advice and, apparently, the 2019 Lafayette Leopards took that advice to heart in a big way. 

Lafayette lost its first SEVEN games of the season. But they now lead the Patriot League after beating the best team in the conference, Holy Cross, 23-20 on the road. The Leopards have won three straight conference games for the first time since 2009. Improbably, they control their destiny in the Pat League and could get to an auto-bid to the playoffs with a losing record (a feat last accomplished by 2017 Lehigh.) 

How did Lafayette go from zero to hero? First, their schedule got easier. Lafayette’s first six opponents, which included ranked Monmouth and Princeton, have an average SP+ ranking of 41.8 out of 127 teams (Note: FCS SP+ is still in beta form). Their Pat League opponents have an average ranking of 85th. 

The Leopards also got healthy on the defensive line. The return of 2018 Pat League Rookie of the Year Malik Hamm and DT Ian Grayson has coincided with Lafayette giving up just 304 yards a game in the Pat League. Freshman QB Keegan Shoemaker has provided a steady force as he ranks first in the conference for passing yards, completion percentage, and total offense. 

But the bigger question might be what Lafayette’s rise means for the Patriot League. The conference has suffered since allowing its teams to award athletic scholarships in 2012. The PL has fallen way behind their biggest competition, the Ivy League (did someone just scoff loudly?), and the Northeast and Southern have caught up to it. If you want a more extensive discussion of the Pat League’s issues, check out this great post by an unidentified Georgetown blogger

Regardless, Lafayette (or the “Yettes” if you listen to the Solid Verbal) just needs to win next week to set up a de facto Pat League Championship game in The Rivalry against Lehigh. That’s great for the Leopards considering where they were earlier in the year. 

Not so great for Lafayette is the reasoning for their nickname. According to the New York Times of October 23, 1924, Lafayette wanted an animal nickname like Yale, Pitt, Columbia, and Bucknell. They went with the Leopards for the alliteration, but also because of leopards’ cunning, physical strength, and “the fact that it is irresistible when aroused.” I know the words probably had a slightly different meaning back then, but it still sounds gross.

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