Discover more from The Pick and Roll
Everything you need to know as 2022 WNBL free agency opens
Free agency is set to heat up in the WNBL and there are some absolute stars who enter this off-season as free agents.
Photo credit: May Bailey
After Melbourne claimed the 2022 WNBL Championship, they are the team everyone is chasing and making the right moves in the off-season is critical to success when it matters most.
We’ll take a look at the key players who are already signed for season 2022/23 for each team and also the big-name free agents who will attract plenty of attention across the league.
It should be noted that all imports who played in the 2021/22 season are free agents, so they won’t be mentioned below.
Free agents: Alanna Smith, Marena Whittle and Abbey Wehrung
The Lightning have 2021 league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Steph Talbot locked in for season 2022/23, but other key players will enter free agency.
Alanna Smith will be one of the most sought-after free agents and her stock may rise even further if she’s able to find a home with the Fever in Indiana. Currently on a WNBA training camp deal, Smith has survived the cuts so far and looks a likely candidate to make the final roster come opening night.
She proved in her play for Adelaide this past season that she when fully healthy, she’s a problem. Smith averaged a team-high 17.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists, while shooting a very healthy 42% from deep. She earned WNBL All-Star Five Second Team honours and is only going to get better as she finds consistency in her body and spends more time on court.
Marena Whittle and Abbey Wehrung are two role players that any team would love to have. Wehrung started in every game she played this season, highlighting her importance to Adelaide, and finished with averages of 6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Whittle is capable of knocking down big shots and is someone that battles hard on every possession for her team.
Free agents: Maddie Garrick, Tessa Lavey and Megan McKay
Bendigo have the reigning league MVP, Anneli Maley, locked up for next season but will need to make big moves around her. Stars Maddie Garrick and Tessa Lavey are both free agents who will be on the radar of many teams out there.
Garrick unfortunately dealt with injury throughout last season but when she was on the court, Bendigo were a far better team. Despite her shooting percentages not being anything to write home about, she’s still a true offensive threat from the outside and also driving to the bucket, and averaged 14 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 14 games.
Lavey remains one of the league’s best true point guards, highlighted by her averaging 5 assists per game last season. She has been with Bendigo for a couple of seasons now and when she’s on the court she’s relentless, always fighting until the very end, even if things aren’t going the Spirit’s way.
Megan McKay provided a real inside presence for Bendigo last season and is an under-the-radar big to keep an eye on. With averages of 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists per game last season, McKay is the type of frontcourt player that would fit in seamlessly on any team as she just gets to work and does whatever is asked of her.
Free agents: Kelsey Griffin, Kelly Wilson and Brittany Smart
Canberra has a new coach, Kristen Veal, and she will need to get straight to work in shaping her roster with plenty of big names for the Capitals being free agents. Jade Melbourne - who was recently drafted by the Seattle Storm but won’t suit up in the WNBA this season - is the lone key piece that is signed on for next season.
Kelsey Griffin just continues to go about her business and be one of the best forwards in the league. Turning 35 this year, Griffin is showing no signs of slowing down and was named to the 2022 WNBL All-Star Five Second Team after averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
Photo credit: May Bailey
The WNBL games record holder and first player to reach 400 games, Kelly Wilson is another player that is proving age is just a number. At 38 years of age, Wilson was the floor general for the Capitals and averaged strong numbers across the board with 6.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
Every team would love to add another shooter this off-season and that’s exactly what Brittany Smart is. Smart is one of the best perimeter shooters in the league and connected on 38% of her long-range attempts last season. She’s also a player that brings great energy every time she steps on the court.
Free agent: Ezi Magbegor
The Boomers have two of their three Opal stars locked in for season 2022/23, but Ezi Magbegor isn’t one of them. She would be priority number one for Melbourne after another incredible season that saw her gain 2022 WNBL All-Star Five First Team honours.
Every year Magbegor just continues to get better and with another season in Seattle ahead of her before returning to Australia, she will learn from the best surrounded by the likes of Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd.
Magbegor averaged 16 points, 7.7 rebounds and league-best 1.6 blocks per game last season for Melbourne and might just be the biggest free agent of them all.
Free agents: Darcee Garbin, Lauren Scherf and Alex Sharp
Perth fell agonisingly short of a Championship last season and have work to do to re-assemble their roster. Having Whitcomb locked in is massive for the Lynx, but they’ll want to ensure they can re-sign captain Darcee Garbin, Lauren Scherf and Alex Sharp.
Scherf was a double-double machine for the Lynx, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game, and she is someone that can be relied upon to always do the heavy lifting in the paint and never back down from a challenge. She was also one of the best bigs in the league when it came to shooting from deep, showcased by her 39% shooting clip from beyond the arc.
Garbin led from the front all season for the Lynx and her versatility is what every team wants. A 40% three-point shooter, Garbin averaged 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and she’s another player that just continues to get better and add more strings to her bow every year.
Alex Sharp came off the bench for a loaded Perth team, but she was often there in crunch time making big plays. She hit a massive triple in the dying seconds to send a regular season game against Melbourne to overtime, one which Perth would eventually win, and made huge plays in Game 2 of the Grand Final series, almost helping drag the Lynx over the line. She’s a player that would thrive with more minutes and will be a hot commodity this off-season.
Free agent: Kristy Wallace
The Flyers have a good part of their core (Sara Blicavs, Maddi Rocci and Bec Cole) locked in for season 2022/23, but Kristy Wallace – who will be suiting up for the Atlanta Dream this WNBA season – is on the open market.
Wallace made an incredible comeback this past season after battling injuries for years and was rightfully rewarded by being named Sixth Woman of the Year with averages of 8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2 assists per game. Wallace’s signature grit and determination on both ends of the court was on full display for Southside and she also earned herself a call-up to the Opals squad.
Sydney Uni Flames
Free agents: Funda Nakkasoglu and Lauren Mansfield
The Flames need to sign a big free agent this off-season as they desperately lacked star power alongside the likes of Shyla Heal and Keely Froling, both of whom are locked in for next season.
Two key Sydney Uni rotation players that will hit the open market are Funda Nakkasoglu and Lauren Mansfield. Mansfield missed the majority of the season because of injury and she was a massive loss for the Flames. In her seven games for the season she averaged strong stats across the board with 13 points, 4.5 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
Nakkasoglu got going in the second half of last season and proved to be a deadly three-point shooter, just as we’d become accustomed to seeing during her college days at Florida. She shot an incredible 47% from deep and with more a defined role, she could turn out to be one of the best high-volume shooters in the league as time goes on.
Photo credit: May Bailey
Free agent: Nadeen Payne
Townsville have locked in their three key Australian players (Lauren Nicholson, Zitina Aokuso and Steph Reid) but after failing to make the post-season in 2022, need to make further moves to compete against the best of the best next season.
Nadeen Payne is a no-fuss player that gets to work and provided Townsville with some grunt last season. Despite never finding her shooting touch from deep, Payne was strong inside for the Fire and averaged 6.4 points and 5 rebounds per game.