Who are the 15 best WNBA free agents for 2024?

ByKevin Pelton ESPN logo
Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Who are the top WNBA players available in free agency this offseason?

Starting Thursday, teams can begin using their core designations and making qualifying offers to eligible restricted and reserved free agents. On Jan. 21, players and teams can begin negotiating contracts, which can be made official starting Feb. 1.

It will be tough for the WNBA to top last year's flurry of activity that created a pair of superteams, the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, who met in the Commissioner's Cup (won by the Liberty) and Finals (won by the Aces in impressive fashion).

Reigning MVP Breanna Stewart, whose move from the Seattle Storm home to New York as an unrestricted free agent was the biggest domino, will likely be made the Liberty's core player. And while that wouldn't prevent Stewart from asking for a trade, she told reporters after the season she's "looking forward to doing it for many years to come" in New York.

Even if Stewart and other top free agents such asPhoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner are probably available to other teams only in theory, there's plenty of talent out there with a chance to make moves that could shift the title race again.

Let's run through the top 15 free agents in terms of my projections for wins above replacement player (WARP) in 2024 (using my player value metric based on performance over the past three seasons and current age).

Note: Players are unrestricted free agents unless otherwise noted. Free agent classifications courtesy of HerHoopStats.com.

1. Breanna Stewart

New York Liberty, forward

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 6.2

Stewart was never made a core player by the Storm, who instead used the designation on teammate Jewell Loyd in 2021. The two-year contract Loyd signed prevented Seattle from making Stewart a core player last offseason. Back then, it seemed likely that Stewart would change teams via sign-and-trade either way to command a supermax salary. Instead, Stewart's decision to play for a discount last season allowed New York to build a superteam without sending Seattle anything in return.

That frees the Liberty to use the core designation on Stewart, as GM Jonathan Kolb told reporters at season's end they would. That would entitle Stewart to a one-year deal at the supermax ($241,984), though she could again opt to take less money.

2. Jonquel Jones

New York Liberty, center

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 4.3

Having been designated as a core player by the Connecticut Sun two years ago, Jones will be unrestricted this time around. She, too, chose New York as her destination via trade last year, but her season was a bit rockier than Stewart's MVP campaign. Still coming back from a stress injury suffered in 2022 and no longer the featured option in the offense, Jones struggled early before playing a key role in the Liberty's second-half surge. She led New York and finished second in the WNBA during the playoffs with 2.4 WARP, showing she remains an elite player heading into her age-30 season.

Jones told reporters at exit interviews she's "definitely trending toward coming back here."

3. Brittney Griner

Phoenix Mercury, center

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 3.8

This time a year ago, there was no way to project how Griner might perform in her return to the court after spending nearly 10 months detained in Russia. Griner's freedom was more important than her level of performance. Consider it a happy bonus, then, that Griner remained one of the league's top contributors amidst a lottery season for Phoenix. She actually improved her scoring on a per-minute basis from 2021.

There's no doubt Griner will re-sign with the Mercury. "Phoenix is home," Griner said after the season. "Me and my wife literally just got a place [here]. This is it."

4. Skylar Diggins-Smith

Phoenix Mercury, guard

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 3.2

The last time we saw Diggins-Smith on the court, she earned All-WNBA first-team honors in 2022 after averaging 19.7 points and 5.5 assists. Diggins-Smith didn't play last season after giving birth to her second child, and she alleged on social media that the Mercury had barred her from their practice facility while on maternity leave. That suggests Diggins-Smith is the most likely of the top free agents to change teams.

5. Brionna Jones

Connecticut Sun, center

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 3.1

Jones, who had the second-best projection of any free agent a year ago when she was the Sun's core player, was averaging career highs in points per game (15.9) and rebounds per game (8.2) as Connecticut's featured post when she suffered a season-ending Achilles rupture in June. Jones is spending the offseason rehabbing the injury as director of player personnel at her alma mater, Maryland.

Given the timing of Jones' injury, the rehab process could linger into the start of the 2024 regular season. If Jones' return is anything like Stewart coming back from an Achilles rupture in 2019 to win Finals MVP the following year, she'll be well worth the wait.

6. Nneka Ogwumike

Los Angeles Sparks, forward

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 3.0

Because these projections are based on performance over the past three seasons, Ogwumike continues to be held back by a down 2021, when she averaged just 14.5 PPG. Since then, Ogwumike has been back at an All-WNBA level. Last season's 19.1 PPG were her most since she won MVP in 2016, and she ranked fourth in the league in WARP. As a result, Ogwumike should beat this projection. Ogwumike has played her entire career for the Sparks, re-signing on one-year deals each of the past two offseasons -- the latter as an unrestricted free agent after her core years were used up.

7. DeWanna Bonner

Connecticut Sun, forward/guard

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 2.8

Despite being one of the five oldest players in the WNBA last season, Bonner looked revitalized in an expanded role following Jonquel Jones' trade and Brionna Jones' injury. Her 17.4 PPG were Bonner's most since 2020, her first season with Connecticut, and helped keep the Sun among the WNBA's top three teams. Given Bonner's engagement to teammate Alyssa Thomas, who is under contract for 2024, it's hard to imagine her playing anywhere else.

8. Satou Sabally

Dallas Wings, forward (Restricted)

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 2.4

Far and away the top restricted free agent on the market -- next up is former Oregon teammate Ruthy Hebard at 0.9 projected WARP -- Sabally smashed her projection a year ago with good health. Limited to a combined 28 of 68 possible games in 2021 and 2022 by injuries, Sabally hadn't yet reached her potential in the WNBA. (She had already been a dominant EuroLeague star.) That changed with Sabally playing 38 of 40 games last season, averaging career highs in points (18.6), rebounds (8.1), assists (4.4) and steals (1.8) en route to the Most Improved Player award and a spot on the All-WNBA first team.

Just coming into her prime at age 25, Sabally will surely be coveted as a free agent. Because she's restricted, Dallas will have the ability to match any offer sheet.

9. Candace Parker

Las Vegas Aces, forward/center

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.9

Since Parker missed the second half of the Aces' championship season and the playoffs after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured bone in her left foot, it's easy to forget how important an addition she'd been for Las Vegas. The Aces went 16-2 with Parker, beating opponents by a historic 14.2 PPG in that span. Parker, who will turn 38 in April, told The Associated Press in November she plans to return for a 17th WNBA season if healthy.

10. Elena Delle Donne

Washington Mystics, forward

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.6

Health remains the biggest variable for Delle Donne. The two-time MVP averaged 16.7 points on strong .583 true shooting percentage last season, but was limited to 23 games by injury. Over the past three seasons, Delle Donne has played just 51 total games out of a possible 108, limiting her projection. Remarkably, she has never been her team's core player, having re-signed a four-year deal with the Mystics in 2020 as an unrestricted free agent.

11. Alanna Smith

Chicago Sky, forward/center

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.5

Smith had started just one game in four nondescript WNBA seasons before becoming Chicago's starting power forward last season and thriving. Smith's modest per-game averages (9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds) don't tell the whole story. She made 63% of her 2-point attempts, leading the league, and ranked in the top 10 with 1.3 blocks per game. As a result, Smith ranked 20th in the league in WARP -- seventh among this year's free agents. Based on Smith's limited track record she's forecast for regression, but she still comes out ahead of bigger names.

12. Courtney Williams

Chicago Sky, guard

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.2

After not cracking the top 15 free agents a year ago, Williams improved her outlook by demonstrating she can capably play point guard. Williams' 6.3 APG ranked fourth in the WNBA and were more than 50% better on a per-minute basis than her previous career high. Given the number of teams with needs at the point, Williams could be an attractive option.

13. Jordin Canada

Los Angeles Sparks, guard

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.2

The runner-up to Sabally in Most Improved Player voting, Canada transformed her game by adding shooting range. Canada made more 3-pointers last year (41) than during her first five WNBA seasons combined (29), forcing defenses to respect her beyond the arc. Canada was able to leverage that threat into the highest per-minute scoring (14.7 per 36) of her career. Always a strong defender, Canada led the WNBA with 2.3 steals per game.

14. Natasha Cloud

Washington Mystics, guard

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.2

Cloud rounds out the group of likely starting point guards available this offseason. Based on how well her game fits alongside star players, Cloud might have the biggest market of the group. The WNBA leader with 7.0 APG in 2022 before dipping to 6.2 last season, when injuries around her forced her to create more of her own offense (a career-high 12.7 PPG), Cloud is also a versatile defender who earned All-Defensive first-team honors in 2022.

15. Kalani Brown

Dallas Wings, center

Age as of Feb. 1:

Projected WARP: 1.2

It will be fascinating to see what the market is for Brown, another player who broke out in 2023 after playing just 11 total WNBA games over the previous three seasons -- none in 2022. Thriving in a post-centric Wings system designed around similar starter Teaira McCowan, the 6-foot-7 Brown averaged 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 63% from the field and 80% at the line.

As well as Brown played in Dallas, there might not be a role for her this season with McCowan under contract and the Wings potentially adding 2023 No. 4 overall pick Stephanie Soares, who sat out last season following an ACL tear in college.