WNBA Roster Cuts and the Need for Expansion
All of the recent WNBA news has been about rosters, as they have been finalized for opening night and many people have been cut, especially rookies, Many people have voiced their dislike for the way people are being let go from teams, left and right. Large names that have been dropped from rosters without explanation include Layshia Clarendon and Crystal Dangerfield, both from the Minnesota Lynx. So why is this happening and how can it stop?
The WNBA is heavy on the marketing of the fact that there are 144 players in the league. This is already a very small number for a professional league with twelve teams- for comparison, the NBA has about 530 players across their thirty teams. The league has also not been expanded in a very long time, with the most recent team to join being the Atlanta Dream in 2009. The conclusion people are jumping to is that teams can't fit players within the twelve that they are allowed.
The answer to this problem would be expansion of the league, to open more places on rosters across the country and give players who might have the potential to be the next big-name face of the league a chance to make rosters. While this argument for expansion may be true, it's not the only reason players are being cut- there are teams who made cuts to end with only ten players on the final roster. The number of players currently in the league is closer to 130, not 144. So, why isn't there room?
The problem is the salary cap, or how much money teams are allowed to spend on their players' salaries in total. The WNBA has a hard salary cap, which means teams are not prohibited to exceed it, no matter the circumstances. The current cap is at around $1, 300, 000. To use the Seattle Storm as an example, with two players on supermax salaries ($221, 450 annually), almost half of their salary cap is already full. That does not leave much room to be paying rookies who haven't proven themselves yet. It's disgraceful to see first-round picks with bright futures ahead of them not have the opportunity to play in a professional league because there isn't room for them.
Once again, the solution is expansion. Even one more team soon would provide 12 more spots for deserving players who want to purse their sport.
Even players have spoken out about this. Breanna Stewart, a forward for the Seattle Storm, published a Tweet thread on May 4. She said: "The WNBA needs to adjust ASAP (before the next CBA) to allow teams more flexibility to keep rookies contract players on the roster ... We need to be developing young talent and taking advantage of the momentum newly drafted players bring from the college game" Stewart is one of only seven players on the highest possible salary in the WNBA. Being cut is something that she won't have to worry about, but she's just one example of an established player in the WNBA speaking out about this in efforts to improve the league.
The WNBA will not be hurt by expansion if they have the money to fund it. It will bring professional women's basketball to another market, and therefore impact the popularity of the sport and the league. And it will become a fairer environment for young, talented players to live out their potential. The league has said “We’re going to absolutely expand down the road, but we don’t just expand for expansion’s sake until we get the economic model further along.”
The 26th season of the WNBA tips off May 6, 2022! The first game, Indiana Fever vs Washington Mystics, begins at 7:00 pm EDT, and can be watched on the WNBA League Pass or livestreamed on the WNBA Facebook.
Currently Listed Team Rosters As of the Morning of 5/6/22:
Atlanta Dream (11): Monique Billings, Nia Coffey, Tiffany Hayes, Naz Hillmon, Rhyne Howard, Aari McDonald, Cheyenne Parker, Kia Vaughn, Megan Walker, Kristy Wallace, Erika Wheeler
Chicago Sky (11): Julie Allemand, Kahleah Copper, Dana Evans, Rebekah Gardner, Ruthy Hebard, Emma Meeseman, Candace Parker, Allie Quigley, Azurá Stevens, Courtney Vandersloot, Li Yueru
Connecticut Sun (12): Yvonne Anderson, DeWanna Bonner, DiJonai Carrington, Nia Clouden, Natisha Hiedeman, Joyner Holmes, Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, Ciara Smith, Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas, Courtney Williams
Dallas Wings (13): Veronica Burton, Charli Collier, Jasmine Dickey, Allisha Gray, Tyasha Harris, Isabelle Harrison, Moriah Jefferson, Awak Kuier, Marina Mabrey, Teaira McCowan, Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally, Kayla Thornton
Indiana Fever (12): Alaina Coats, Queen Egbo, Emily Engstler, Bria Hartley, Destanni Henderson, Lexie Hull, Tiffany Mitchell, Kelsey Mitchell, Daniella Robinson, Alanna Smith, NaLyssa Smith, Victoria Vivians
Las Vegas Aces (11): Kierstan Bell, Sydney Colson, Chelsea Gray, Dearica Hamby, Theresa Plaisance, Kelsey Plum, Aisha Sheppard, Kiah Stokes, Riquna Williams, A'ja Wilson, Jackie Young
Los Angeles Sparks (13): Amy Atwell, Lexie Brown, Rae Burrell, Liz Cambage, Jordin Canada, Chennedy Carter, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Katie Lou Samuelson, Brittney Sykes, Kristi Toliver, Jasmine Walker
Minnesota Lynx (10): Natalie Achonwa, Rachel Banham, Bridget Carleton, Damiris Dantas, Sylvia Fowles, Kayla McBride, Angel McCoughtry, Aerial Powers, Jessica Shepard, Odyssey Sims
New York Liberty (14): Rebecca Allen, Lorela Cubaj, Stefanie Dolson, Asia Durr, Natasha Howard, Sabrina Ionescu, Sika Kone, Betnijah Laney, Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards, Nyara Sabally, Sami Whitcomb, Jocelyn Willoughby, Han Xu
Phoenix Mercury (12): Kristine Anigwe, Tina Charles, Sophie Cunningham, Diamond DeShields, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner, Megan Gustafson, Kia Nurse, Shey Peddy, Diana Taurasi, Sam Thomas, Brianna Turner
Seattle Storm (12): Sue Bird, Reshanda Gray, Briann January, Jantel Lavender, Jewell Loyd, Ezi Magbegor, Jade Melbourne, Epiphanny Prince, Mercedes Russell, Brianna Stewart, Stephanie Talbot, Gabby Williams
Washington Mystics (11): Ariel Atkins, Shakira Austin, Katie Benzan, Alysha Clark, Natasha Cloud, Elena Delle Donne, Tianna Hawkins, Myisha Hines-Allen, Rui Machida, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Elizabeth Williams