The Storm jumped into the new year with a bang, trading All-Star Swin Cash, top reserve Le’coe Willingham and a second-round draft pick on Monday to Chicago in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA draft.
The move is a tough one because Cash, the team’s second-leading scorer (13.3) and leading rebounder (6.9) last summer, is one of the most under-appreciated players in the league. She’s a warrior on the court and constantly improves her game to make teams successful. Willingham, who started eight games when Lauren Jackson underwent hip surgery in 2011, has veteran experience in helping two teams win WNBA titles. She averaged 6.4 points and 4.2 boards in 2011, but shot 27.3 percent from the field during the postseason run against Phoenix.
Yet, the Storm needed to get younger and better after a sixth first-round exit in 2011, winning its second title overall in 2010. Coach Brian Agler, who’s also the organization’s general manager, was forced to make the trade — especially to clear cap salary cap space to retain top free agents Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright and fill out the bench. And don’t figure this to be the last move as Seattle already has to plan for the absence of Jackson, a three-time WNBA MVP, for at the opening half of the season. Jackson, a native Australian, will compete for her country in the London Games this summer.
The No. 2 pick is Seattle’s first in the lottery since drafting Jackson (2001) and Bird (2002) in back-to-back seasons. Now that the NCAA talent-pool has depth, the Storm can’t pass on selecting a talented rookie to sustain its future as a perennial playoff team.
Players from Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson (Tennessee) to Ohio State PG Samantha Prahalis are suddenly available for Seattle. Coincidentally, Agler was in his native Ohio watching the Buckeyes play Iowa on Monday. (Here’s a mock draft before the trade).
“We’ve spent a lot of time analyzing our current needs and what it will take to win another championship. We believe this trade positions us for short- and long-term success by adding a lottery pick and creating a substantial amount of salary cap space for free agency,” said Agler in a released statement. “We are very thankful for Swin and Le’coe’s contributions to the success of the Storm, including the critical roles they played in helping us win the 2010 championship.”
For Chicago, the move is a no-brainer. The Sky, which is has yet to advance to the postseason, needs a championship mindset and a banger to complement C Sylvia Fowles inside. Cash and Willingham will provide that from day one. Cash, who’s currently playing in China, has already stated via Twitter her excitement to join the team. She’ll also be closer to the base of her Cash for Kids foundation, making it easier for her to do more community work in her native McKeesport, Penn.
She’ll feed just as well off of PG Courtney Vandersloot (Kentwood HS) as Cash did off of Bird.
Cash, 31, was acquired by Seattle via Detroit in 2008 in exchange for the fourth overall pick (Alexis Hornbuckle). Winning her first two WNBA titles for the Shock, she averaged 12.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in four seasons for the Storm and was named MVP of the 2009 and 2011 All-Star showcases. Willingham, 30, signed as a free agent from Phoenix in 2010. She averaged 6.0 points and 4.2 rebounds during two seasons with the Storm.
“To the City of Seattle, teammates, staff,my #Cashforkids girls& #STORMCRAZIES I say thank you for the love&support;!” Cash posted via Twitter on Monday. “Blessed to have helped bring another ring to the Emerald City.”