The 2018 WNBA season was one of the league's most entertaining seasons ever. The playoff race was nail-biting until the very end, both playoff semifinals went five games, and although the Seattle Storm swept the Washington Mystics, the WNBA Finals still left us with a new face of the league — MVP and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart — and provided a defining moment for one of the legends of the game, Sue Bird.
But now that a few days have passed and the Storm's championship celebration is in the rearview mirror, it's time to look ahead to the offseason.
1. Possible star player moves
The WNBA isn't known for star movement the way the NBA is, but this offseason there are a lot of question marks surrounding some of the biggest names in the game.
Let's start with Tina Charles. Charles was drafted first overall by the Connecticut Sun in 2010 and has been with the New York Liberty since 2014. But considering the Liberty are currently in disarray (and that's putting it kindly), there are a lot of question marks surrounding Charles' future. There isn't a path forward for a championship in the near future with the Liberty, the Liberty's current owners clearly are not invested in the team, and Charles' contract with the Liberty was only through 2018. That's an equation for Charles to make a huge splash in free agency.
Other big-time free agents to keep an eye on? Well, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx both need new contracts, but I'd assume that Cheryl Reeve will get them re-signed swiftly. Guards Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky are both free agents, and while my hunch says the Sky will re-sign them both, it's hard to know considering the Sky are searching for a new head coach and general manager.
The most likely free agent moves would be Candice Dupree of the Indiana Fever and DeWanna Bonner of the Phoenix Mercury. Both players were cored by their respective teams last season but have been very open about their desire to play for the same team — and for good reason. Dupree and Bonner are married, and Bonner gave birth to their twins in 2017. They've both talked about how tough this season was on their family. Dupree used to play for the Mercury before being traded to the Fever two seasons ago. Could she possibly take a pay cut to return to the Mercury in a limited role, even though she's still a starting-caliber forward at the age of 34? (Depending on what the Mercury decide to do with Sancho Lyttle, who started for the Mercury before tearing her ACL in July, Dupree's role might not even be that limited.)
We could see some big trades this offseason, too. The Las Vegas Aces have an overflow at the guard position, so the 2017 first overall draft pick, Kelsey Plum, could be an attractive trade option for a team looking to add some pieces. And the Connecticut Sun have a logjam of elite centers, thanks to the excellence of Chiney Ogwumike and Jonquel Jones. I'm sure keeping both of these stars is Plan A for the Sun, but I would expect there to be some trade rumblings, especially for Ogwumike.
2. Possible retirements
The most likely star player to retire over the offseason is Rebekkah Brunson, the five-time WNBA champion and the league's all-time leading rebounder. Brunson will be 37 next year, and she suffered a bad concussion toward the end of the 2018 season, which kept her out of the Lynx's playoff push and only playoff game this year. All signs point toward at least one more year for the legend, but injury woes could always change that. Similarly, Brunson's teammate Augustus could surprise the world with a retirement announcement, but that's much more of a long shot.
Cappie Pondexter says she's playing one more year in the WNBA, but it's hard to know exactly what to expect from the 35-year-old point guard. She started this season with the Los Angeles Sparks but was cut a few weeks into the season and picked up by the Indiana Fever.
Sue Bird confirmed at the Seattle Storm championship celebration that she will be coming back for the 2019 season, but considering she'll be 38 years old next summer, it would not surprise anyone if she announces that as her swan song. (Of course, given how great Bird looked this season, she could have 2020 on her mind! Who knows?)
Diana Taurasi is never retiring, and I won't entertain any notions to the contrary.
3. International question marks
Center Liz Cambage of the Dallas Wings is, as always, one of the biggest international question marks. The WNBA scorer leader in 2018 said midway through the season that it was unlikely she'd be back next year, since playing in the World Cup for Australia and playing a full schedule overseas would prevent her from having any rest for about a year straight. However, after the Wings made it to the playoffs, she seemed to have changed her tone and suggested that she wanted to come back, after all. She has to take care of her body first and foremost, but the WNBA is much more fun when Cambage is at the center of it.
Meanwhile, the Washington Mystics made the WNBA Finals this season without their All-Star forward/center, Emma Meesseman, who couldn't play in the league because of Belgian National Team commitments. There has been no indication that Meesseman won't come back to the Mystics next summer, but the franchise certainly will be holding its breath until she makes it official.
4. Two teams that need to aggressively change before 2019
Out of the four teams that missed the playoffs this year — the Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky, New York Liberty and Indiana Fever — the Liberty and Fever are the two that need to undergo serious renovations if there's any hope of contending next year.
The New York Liberty (7-27) have to figure out how to bring in more shooters around Charles, if they are able to go forward with Charles on their team. In 2018, Charles averaged 19.7 points per game, and nobody else on the team averaged in double digits. They were 10th in the league in defensive rating and 11th in offensive rating. The second overall draft pick will help.
The only team worse than them in both categories? The Indiana Fever (6-28). The Fever had two promising rookies in 2018, Victoria Vivians and Kelsey Mitchell, but the decision to have Pondexter take away minutes from Mitchell was puzzling at best. Natalie Achonowa was definitely improved at center this season but is far away from being an elite piece. And their bench needs a complete overhaul.
5. Two teams in a good position headed into 2019
Let's face it: The Seattle Storm are set up to be the next great WNBA dynasty, with Stewart, Bird, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard holding it down. And Jordin Canada's promise at point guard has the team ready for life after Bird, whenever that may be.
The Phoenix Mercury proved during the playoffs that they're the closest team to the Storm right now. If this team can add some youth and athleticism to its bench, bring in another reliable post player — preferably an aggressive rebounder — to complement Brittney Griner, they could be hoisting the trophy next year.