June 19, 2019 Atlanta - Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams (1) blocks a shot by Indiana Fever forward Kennedy Burke (25) during the first half of WNBA basketball game at State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Atlanta Dream won 88-78 over the Indiana Fever. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

WNBA free agency: What to expect from the Dream

It’s no surprise that the Dream want to win more games in 2020 than they did in 2019.

How they do that depends on the players the team acquires – or lets go of – during the WNBA’s free-agency period, which begins Monday.

So, what kind of moves will the Dream make during free agency?

“There’s versatility, and quite frankly, we’ve said it before, we want to draft players that can shoot. Basically, sign free agents who can shoot. We want to trade for players who can shoot,” she said. “Because the way the analytics are going in this game, it’s hard to compete and be consistently successful if you can’t shoot the basketball from three and really stretch the floor and create great spacing.”

Last season, the team finished last in the league in wins, points per game and field-goal percentage. And while Dream coach Nicki Collen said every player on the team won’t need to shoot 3-point shots, playing faster and shooting more effectively are goals. 

“Ultimately, we have to be a better offensive team,” she said.

The Dream has only two free agents, both unrestricted: Guard Alex Bentley and two-time Olympian Angel McCoughtry. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Collen if she planned to sign the two free agents for the 2020 season.

“That’s still kinda to be determined,” Collen said. “That’s one of those things that, because they are unrestricted, it’s up to them. When they’re restricted, they have the ability to match, when they’re unrestricted they can sign with anyone. I think they’re just seeing what’s out there and seeing what’s best for them.”

General manager Chris Sienko had a similar response when asked late last year.

The team previously announced that it would not “core” McCoughtry, which has allowed her to speak to other teams freely during the negotiation period that began Jan. 28. Under the current CBA, this season she could have been “cored” once more, which means the team could have designated her a franchise player and retained her rights. She’s only played for the Dream in the WNBA.

McCoughtry told the AJC that it “feels good to explore the water.” This offseason, she’s been playing in Russia for Dynamo Kursk and competed for Team USA in its Feb. 2 exhibition vs. Louisville.

“I’m excited about the process and everything that comes with it,” she said. “I’m ready to give as (many) positive reinforcements as I can to help a franchise reach its goal on and off the court.”

The team’s salary cap is now $1.3 million, under the new CBA. Without McCoughtry and Bentley under contract going into free agency, the Dream has a little more than half a million dollars of cap space, according to High Post Hoops’ WNBA salary database.

The Dream have the space to sign two players to guaranteed, full-protection contracts.

Tiffany Hayes, Elizabeth Williams, Renee Montgomery and Jessica Breland are returning on guaranteed contracts while Monique Billings, Maite Carzola, Nia Coffey, Brittney Sykes and Marie Gülich are still on their rookie contracts. Alaina Coates was signed to a contract through the end of the season.

The team has the No. 4 pick in the WNBA draft, which is set for April 17. The team opens its 2020 season May 15 at Indiana.

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