2021 WNBA Free Agency: Atlanta Dream

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream
Betnijah Laney averaged 17.2 points per game in 2020. | Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Dream have three big-name players who are free agents in 2021: Betnijah Laney, Renee Montgomery and Glory Johnson. They likely won’t keep all of them.

The Atlanta Dream have four very good players returning to College Park: Courtney Williams, Shekinna Stricklen, Tiffany Hayes and Elizabeth Williams. The franchise likely wants to build around that core, plus last year’s No. 3 overall draft pick Chennedy Carter and rising star Betnijah Laney.

Can Hayes finally become the “Batman” for a WNBA team? Can Carter become the prolific scorer she seems destined to be? And can the team hold onto Laney, an unrestricted free agent who showed in 2020 that she is as much of an offensive threat as she is one on defense? These are pressing questions for the Dream, who finished 7-15 in the 2020 Bradenton bubble and missed out on the playoffs.

Atlanta struggled in many categories, but defense is the greater concern for the Dream considering the offensive potential they are hoping to unleash.

Here’s a look at where Atlanta stands heading into free agency:


By the numbers

Free agents (type) (average salary):

  • Glory Johnson (unrestricted) ($165,000)
  • Renee Montgomery (suspended-contract expired) ($107,000)
  • Betnijah Laney (unrestricted) ($91,350)
  • Blake Dietrick (restricted) ($68,000)
  • Jaylyn Agnew (reserved) ($59,750)
  • Kaela Davis (restricted) ($57,000)

Total average salary of free agents: $548,100

Total team salary (not including above players): $980,337

Cap space: $358,663

Analysis

Las Vegas Aces v Atlanta Dream Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Renee Montgomery, who opted out of the 2020 season, was one of the leading social justice activists among WNBA players.

The Dream’s top priority should be re-signing Betnijah Laney, who, after her accomplishments last year, is now deserving of more money than the average salary of $91,350 on her last contract. How much the Dream pay Laney will dictate their ability to keep Renee Montgomery and Glory Johnson.

There is a scenario where Atlanta could keep all three players, but it may require Laney to agree to less money and the team to forego signing draft picks beyond their No. 3 overall pick. It would also mean cutting Mikayla Pivec (which the Dream may do anyway because of roster constraints) and either Brittany Brewer or Maite Cazorla, the latter of whom showed promise in 2019 before sitting out 2020 due to personal reasons.

Laney was the Dream’s second-leading scorer last year (behind Carter) and named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team. She has all the skills needed to become a big star. The only question mark is whether last year’s offense was a bit of a fluke after Laney spent a few years making a name for herself on defense. A look to her career at Rutgers shows her big numbers are likely no fluke at all. She averaged 14 points and 13.9 rebounds as a senior.

As for the more established veterans, Johnson is a better all-around talent than Montgomery and, at age 30, four years younger. However, she underachieved in 2020, and is far more expensive than Montgomery ($165,000 compared to $107,000). Keeping Montgomery, a guard, may be a higher priority than keeping Johnson, a forward, especially when the team did fine in the rebounding department and struggled in assists.

Offensive rebounding was the Dream’s best statistical category in 2020. They finished third in the league thanks to Monique Billings (2.6 per game), Elizabeth Williams (2.2) and Courtney Williams (1.9). Johnson averaged just 3.7 total boards and just 15.1 minutes.

Parting ways with Blake Dietrick, Jaylyn Agnew (who recently tore her ACL overseas) and Kaela Davis should be easy decisions.

Davis was a late addition to the 2020 team in August, while Agnew made the roster due to opt outs and Dietrick got a legitimate shot at being a heavy rotation player because of those opt outs. Dietrick held her own for sure, but with Tiffany Hayes returning and Chennedy Carter growing, the Dream’s backcourt should be fine.

They will also likely have a shot at getting Arella Guirantes, Dana Evans or Aari McDonald — all high-ceiling guards — at No. 3 in this year’s draft.

The Dream also have the No. 15 and No. 27 picks.


All WNBA salary information courtesy of Her Hoop Stats and spotrac and current as of Jan. 12, 2021.