In this July 17, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry shoots over Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas during the first half of a WNBA basketball game, in Uncasville, Conn. McCoughtry, a two-time WNBA scoring champion, is testing free agency for the first time in her career.
Photo: Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File
Photo: Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP, File

Angel McCoughtry is leaving Atlanta. What does that mean for Dream?

Two-time Olympian Angel McCoughtry is no longer a member of the Atlanta Dream. 

McCoughtry, 33, has signed with the Las Vegas Aces, ending a WNBA career in Atlanta that began in 2009, when the Dream selected her with No. 1 overall draft pick.

In Las Vegas, she will play alongside A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Marietta native Dearica Hamby and be coached by Bill Laimbeer.

“Angel was a primary target for us during free agency” Laimbeer said in a statement. “She is an elite level scorer who loves to attack the basket, and is also one of the best defenders in the league. When she steps on the court, we immediately become a stronger team on both ends of the floor out on the perimeter.

McCoughtry, a two-time WNBA scoring champion, led Atlanta to multiple league finals and conference championships, where she also set scoring records. She was the 2009 WNBA Rookie of the Year and consistent selection for All-WNBA, All-Defensive and All-Star teams throughout her career. 

“Viva Las Vegas, baby!” McCoughtry said in a statement. “I am truly honored for the opportunity to continue my career and make my return to the WNBA with the Las Vegas Aces. I can’t wait to get to know the fans and the community, and bond with my new teammates. It is truly a blessing to continue playing the game that I love and to help make history in this amazing organization.”

McCoughtry spent 11 seasons with the Dream and played nine of them. She sat out the 2017 WNBA season, citing exhaustion due playing year round to earn a larger paycheck, and missed the 2019 season due to an injury she suffered on Aug. 7, 2018 , against the Las Vegas Aces. She’s spent the offseason playing in Russia for Dynamo Kursk and competed for Team USA in its Feb. 2 exhibition vs. Louisville.

It seemed inevitable that the Dream and McCoughtry would part ways after their relationship proved shaky during the 2019 season. McCoughtry told The Athletic that she didn’t feel supported by the organization following her injury and surgery. She detailed that further with High Post Hoops. She announced on Instagram that she would be playing in the team’s season finale, before the team clarified that she wasn’t physically cleared to play basketball yet. McCoughtry said she’ll be in a Dream jersey “one more time,” before editing the caption to note she meant before the season ended. 

The clearest sign that McCoughtry wouldn’t return to the Dream in 2020 came ahead of free agency negotiations, when the team announced that they would not retain her rights, by “coring” her, and allow her to pursue her options as an unrestricted free agent. 

In 2018, before she was injured, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she wanted to bring a championship to the city. 

Now she’ll be chasing a title in Vegas. In the 2019 WNBA playoffs, the Aces fell to the eventual champion Washington Mystics in the semifinals.

The sign of her impact on the court was clear with her absence in 2019. The team finished 8-26 and desperately needed someone with the confidence to create their own offense when the game is on the line. Atlanta led going into the fourth quarter five straight games during the team’s 12-game losing streak.

“As much as I felt like we were built to sustain not having Angel, if you look back at 2018, we had at least four games that were where we struggled to score early,” Collen previously told the AJC, “and Angel just carried us, not necessarily for four quarters, but maybe for a quarter and a half.”

Tiffany Hayes, 2018 selection for All-WNBA first team, will need to remain healthy. Following the season finale, Hayes detailed the many injuries she suffered during the 2019 campaign, which spanned the length of her body.

The team is also likely to sign a player with McCoughtry-level confidence and scoring ability as well as a long-range shooter, who can open the lane for Hayes, and has already proven that they can hit from 3-point range.

The team has already traded Brittney Sykes and Marie Gulich to Los Angeles for center Kalani Brown.

Stay tuned for more Atlanta Dream updates throughout the WNBA’s Free Agency period.

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