WNBA free-agency winners and losers

A two-time WNBA champion in Minnesota, guard Renee Montgomery -- the most coveted unrestricted free agent this offseason -- signed with Atlanta in February. David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

With the NCAA tournament in the books, it's time to start looking ahead to the WNBA draft on April 12 (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).

But first, let's break down the free-agency period to see where each team stands heading into a draft that multiple general managers said has nine potential impact players.

By analyzing free-agency signings, trades, coaching changes and all the offseason moves, we've picked our winners and losers ... and the teams that fall in between.

Biggest winner

Atlanta Dream: First-year coach Nicki Collen and general manager Chris Sienko didn't waste time making a splash in free agency, signing Renee Montgomery away from the Minnesota Lynx on the first day. As the most coveted unrestricted free agent, Montgomery brings championship experience along with her 35 percent 3-point shooting. She should help shore up Atlanta's outside shooting, which ranked last in the league in 2017 at 29 percent.

The Dream also signed unrestricted free agent Jessica Breland, who shot a career-high 38 percent on 3-pointers in 2017. She'll fill the defensive and rebounding void left by Sancho Lyttle's departure to Phoenix.

In addition to signing two of the top unrestricted targets, the cherry on top was extending and bringing back Angel McCoughtry, giving Atlanta the top-tier talent needed to win in the playoffs.

Other winners

Phoenix Mercury: The Mercury are in "win now" mode. With Diana Taurasi's retirement in sight, trading the eighth pick in this year's deep draft for Briann January was a worthwhile gamble. The Mercury need someone to guard the likes of Los Angeles' Chelsea Gray and Minnesota's Maya Moore in the playoffs, and January is up to the task. She also brings 37 percent career 3-point shooting. Coupled with the return of DeWanna Bonner, it will be much more difficult for teams to double-team Brittney Griner.

Although Sancho Lyttle's skill set is somewhat redundant to that of Camille Little, she is a talent whom several teams were looking to sign, and Lyttle should improve a Phoenix defense that was sixth in defensive rating last year, per Basketball Reference.

Los Angeles Sparks: On Feb. 14, the Sparks announced the signing of 35-year-old Cappie Pondexter, a surprising move given their cap situation. They made room for her by signing Odyssey Sims to a one-year, unguaranteed contract that was well below market value ($65,000 versus the $113,000 max salary), according to several coaches and general managers.

Although Pondexter averaged a career-low 9.6 points per game and posted a career-low 9.1 player efficiency rating (PER) last year, she has averaged double digits in scoring every other season of her 12-year career. The Sparks were lacking guard play off the bench in the 2017 WNBA Finals, and Pondexter's ability to get to the basket could be the difference in a close playoff game.

Indiana Fever: The Fever are rebuilding, so coach and general manager Pokey Chatman did well to land the eighth pick in the draft in the trade with Phoenix. As much as January meant to the organization, the Fever now have the second and eighth picks -- and both should land impact players.

The Fever also added center Kayla Alexander in a trade with the Las Vegas Aces. She had a career year in 2017 with a 61 percent true shooting percentage, and is a worthwhile flier for Indiana as it gave up just a second-round pick in the deal.

Dallas Wings: The Wings were 11th in defensive rating in 2017 in a league where the likes of Brittney Griner, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles, Jonquel Jones, Nneka Ogwumike and several others will make you pay if you can't defend inside. Although one player alone won't be enough to fix their defense, bringing back Australian center Liz Cambage addresses their biggest weakness: rim protection.

Cambage last played in the WNBA in 2013, when she averaged 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 25 minutes per game. She posted a PER of 29.9 that year, a number that would have been second in the WNBA in 2017 behind Sylvia Fowles at 30.8. It's no sure bet Cambage will return at that level, but she brings an element the Wings were lacking, and gives Skylar Diggins-Smith a much-needed pick-and-roll partner.


Minnesota Lynx: Let's be clear: As long as the Lynx are coached by Cheryl Reeve and have Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson, they are still contenders. But losing Renee Montgomery (signed to the Dream), Natasha Howard (traded to the Seattle Storm), Jia Perkins (retired) and Plenette Pierson (retired) is not insignificant. That leaves second-year guard Alexis Jones as the only returning member of the second unit from the 2017 championship team.

The Lynx responded by filling their bench with Danielle Robinson, Tanisha Wright and Lynetta Kizer, but not without a price. The Lynx gave up their first-round pick in the deal for Robinson, bringing in a player who has never made a 3-pointer in her six-year WNBA career and posted an 11.7 PER last year (league average is 15). Kizer missed significant time last season due to injuries, and Wright hasn't played in the WNBA since 2016.

Las Vegas Aces: Coach and general manager Bill Laimbeer immediately put his stamp on the Aces, signing center Carolyn Swords, trading for center Kelsey Bone and signing Tamera Young to play small forward.

The problem: Swords posted a 6.5 PER in 2017, Bone a 3.2 and Young a 5.5. Not only is it unclear if these are the right veterans to bring in from a basketball standpoint, two general managers questioned whether some of these players bring positive locker room presences.

On top of that, the trio could take away minutes from young players such as Isabelle Harrison, Dearica Hamby, Nia Coffey and A'ja Wilson, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick.

New York Liberty: Most of the chatter around the Liberty this offseason was the attempted sale of the team by owner James Dolan, as well as getting pushed out of Madison Square Garden and into Westchester County. Although New York returns everyone to a team that finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak and as the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, the Liberty didn't address their eighth-ranked offense, which prevented them from going deeper in the playoffs.

Between the offseason turmoil, a coaching change and the improvements other teams made by comparison, New York might be fighting just to make the playoffs.

But what about ...?

The following teams made cosmetic changes in the free-agency period:

Seattle Storm: By adding Courtney Paris and Natasha Howard, the Storm will have a better bench and more rebounding than last year, but Paris won't fix a defense that was ninth in defensive rating in 2017. Much of their offseason will depend on what they do in the draft, and what style of coaching Dan Hughes brings to Seattle in his first year.

Washington Mystics: Even though Emma Meesseman will miss the 2018 season to rest and prepare to lead Belgium in the 2018 FIBA World Cup this fall, the Mystics played some of their best basketball of 2017 when she was out, going 8-3 in those games. Her absence allowed Elena Delle Donne to play power forward, and her versatility created a matchup nightmare for opponents. The Mystics hopefully will have Tayler Hill -- who was part of the 8-3 run -- back for most of the season as well.

The Mystics also added Monique Currie, an underrated signing and someone whose scoring will come in handy in the playoffs.

Connecticut Sun: The Sun broke out in 2017, finishing fourth in the league and unleashing Jonquel Jones as a star. Connecticut took care of business in re-signing unrestricted free agent Shekinna Stricklen and restricted free agent Alyssa Thomas, as well as trading for Cayla George. They bring back Chiney Ogwumike, who missed 2017 with an injury, which sets up a fascinating frontcourt logjam of Ogwumike, Jones and Thomas.

Chicago Sky: The Sky didn't need to do too much in the free-agency period as they have the third and fourth picks in April's draft and signed last year's second overall pick, Alaina Coates. Adding Alex Montgomery gives them some needed wing depth. In moving on from Pondexter and Breland, they'll free up minutes for their young players as they enter a different era under second-year coach/GM Amber Stocks.