The WNBA has always been a global league and the movement of several key Australian players this offseason could shape the title race.
The Jonquel Jones trade raised eyebrows around the league and set the tone early in the WNBA offseason. It also relocated Aussie Bec Allen who will play in Connecticut for the 2023 season. Allen is one of a number of Australian players who changed teams this offseason and will be looking to make a big impact this WNBA season.
With the Sun, Allen can provide spacing, IQ and experience alongside Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, two toolsy forwards who thrive with reliable pieces around them. Insert Allen’s shooting next to Natisha Heideman and they have a similar make-up to last year’s team with more length in the backcourt.
Brionna Jones has recently re-upped with the team after being cored following the departure of Jonquel. Brionna’s inside presence allows Connecticut to dictate the game from the inside out and Bec Allen should fit right into what they’re trying to do in the Mohegan Sun Arena.
WNBA Free Agency: Kristy Wallace to the Indiana Fever
Making her way from Atlanta to Indiana, Kristy Wallace is looking to establish herself in the WNBA after a serviceable 2022 campaign with the Dream. Wally provided minutes when called upon during the basketball World Cup en route to a bronze medal. During the Cup, her defense and grit were on full display. It’s as if Wally is eternally waiting for a loose ball to dive on.
As for her play in the WNBL, she’s currently putting up 17-5-6 on great efficiency, including 42 percent from 3 for a top three-placed Melbourne Boomers. Her appearances for Melbourne also feature her picking up opposition lead guards full court, making their life hell.
Cayla George to the Las Vegas Aces
Staying with the Boomers, teammate Cayla George is re-entering the WNBA after a four-year hiatus to play with the Las Vegas Aces. George is an extremely versatile big who can play at the 4 or the 5 and can fit alongside either A’ja Wilson and Candace Parker. With the departure of Ilana Rupert and the re-routing of Amanda Zahui Bazoukou there will be minutes to fill in the frontcourt for an Aces team who desperately needed them last season.
Following her signing with Vegas, George put up 27 points on 11-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-6 from deep, against Bendigo in a statement game. Add in eight rebounds and five assists and Cayla showed the world they needed to be ready for her. Her personality should see her become a fan favorite pretty quickly.
Steph Talbot to the Los Angeles Sparks
Shifting our focus away from LV and towards LA, Steph Talbot has been acquired by the Sparks via trade. Talbot earned All-Star Five honors for her play in the World Cup and would have provided an important role for Los Angeles if not for an ACL injury that will keep her sidelined for the 2023 WNBA season as well as the remainder of the WNBL season.
Her toughness and defense would have worked in symbiosis with the firepower the Sparks have to offer. There were also prospects of lining up with Dearica Hamby to drain the life out of their opponents’ offensive game plan. Hopefully, 2024 sees a similar LA roster and a healthy Steph Talbot.
Sami Whitcomb, Jade Melbourne and Ezi Magbegor with the Seattle Storm
As for the Storm, Sami Whitcomb is back and Jade Melbourne has signed a rookie scale deal, both joining a recently re-signed Ezi Magbegor. With a history of Aussie flavor on the roster (I recall some player named Lauren who spent a bit of time in the northwest), Whitcomb will provide lights-out shooting and space for a roster looking to find their identity after the departure of Breanna Stewart and the retirement of Sue Bird. Sami could provide mentorship for Ezi and Jade and allow her to finally burst through and realize her potential after being on the precipice of breaking out over the past few seasons.
Seattle should be looking patiently toward their near future and a new point guard should benefit from this time. Jade Melbourne is part of the future of Australian basketball and her toughness and steadiness at the 1 should see her in a starting role for the Opals over the next two decades.
No one will ever replace Sue Bird, it’s unfair to think they will, but Melbourne will have an incredible opportunity to grow into the person she needs to become in Seattle.
Anneli Maley to the Chicago Sky
While we’re on the future of basketball in Australia, Anneli Maley signed a training camp contract with the Chicago Sky. After a puzzling roster construction that focused heavily on the backcourt, Maley is coming in as a wing with plenty of hope for a full-time gig come the start of the season. Her selflessness, competitiveness, basketball IQ, game sense, shooting and innate ability to make winning plays would fit well with Kahleah Copper and Courtney Williams. Add in her remarkable rebounding and she can support bigs on the glass for extra possessions or force opponents into one and done’s.
She also joins a recently signed Alanna Smith in Chicago who has been providing spot minutes for the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury over the past four seasons. Smith will be sure to see a boost in minutes with Chicago’s frontcourt in dire need.
Australian basketball is only getting better and its representation in the WNBA further supports that. With multiple features of Aussie talent throughout the league each week, it’ll be hard to go a day without seeing one check into a game.