Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 MVP of the WNBA and arguably its best player, was traded Monday in a blockbuster deal with two key pieces of context.
First, The New York Times noted, her trade from the Chicago Sky to the Washington Mystics means the most-anticipated offseason in league history begins a bit early.
And, second, it shines a light on the league’s free agent rules, which in the players’ viewpoint, don’t give them a lot of freedom.
The nuts and bolts: Delle Donne, a 6-5 forward/guard, goes to the Mystics, bolstering their high-scoring, perimeter-shooting offense. In return, the Sky get 2015 All-Star center Stefanie Dolson, last season’s No. 7 overall draft pick Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
The backstory: Delle Donne, 27, announced in December she planned to leave the Sky, who drafted her in 2013. She was set to become a restricted free agent, meaning, under the WNBA’s collective-bargaining agreement, Chicago had the right to match any offer she received this offseason. However, Delle Donne said she would consider sitting out the 2017 season to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s where the proverbial asterisk in the league’s free-agent rules comes into play.
The league’s “unrestricted” status isn’t exactly unrestricted. Teams can designate one so-called “core player” each season to prevent her from becoming an unrestricted free agent, and teams can use that label on a player up to four times. The Times: “The rule itself, along with how long it lasts, is a frequent complaint among players when the league’s collective bargaining agreement is discussed.”