The defending WNBA champion Storm continued to remake its roster in a series of offseason moves, including Wednesday’s four-team blockbuster trade that sent All-Star Natasha Howard to the New York Liberty for two first-round picks, including the No. 1 overall pick in 2021, as well as a second-round pick in 2022.
Seattle then dealt the 2022 first-round pick, which New York acquired in a swap with Phoenix, to Minnesota for first-year forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.
The Storm also shipped reserve sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb to the Liberty for the rights to sign three-year veteran Stephanie Talbot.
And in a separate move, Seattle dealt the 2021 No. 1 overall pick to Dallas for second-year forward Katie Lou Samuelson and its 2022 second-round pick.
Whew. Got all of that?
It was a flurry of activity, which began Monday when the Storm signed unrestricted free agent Candice Dupree to a one-year, $170,000 deal. Earlier that day, 13-year veteran Crystal Langhorne announced her retirement and accepted a front-office position with the team.
In 72 hours, the Storm lost a quartet of accomplished stars in Howard, Clark, Whitcomb and Langhorne who helped the team win two titles in the past three seasons and essentially landed a potential Hall of Famer in Dupree and three young forwards who had been backups with their previous teams.
The 23-year-old Samuelson, the 2019 WNBA No. 4 overall draft pick from the University of Connecticut, is perhaps the most intriguing addition among the Storm’s acquisitions on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-3 forward had a rough start in Chicago as a rookie where she averaged just 2.4 points and 7.7 minutes in 20 games. She missed four weeks due to a hand injury and was traded after the season to Dallas.
Last year, Samuelson averaged 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 20.0 minutes while starting four of 20 games for the Wings, which finished 8-14 and just missed the playoffs.
“I can’t even explain how excited I am to be coming to Seattle to play for such a great organization and with so many great players,” Samuelson tweeted. “Can’t wait to get to work.”
The 22-year-old Herbert Harrigan, who is nicknamed ‘Kiki,’ was selected No. 6 overall in the 2020 WNBA draft out of South Carolina. The 6-2 forward had a solid rookie campaign while averaging 3.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 11.1 minutes while playing all but one game and shooting 42.4% on three-pointers.
“As we told Kiki, we still believe in her,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “This move has nothing to do with what she did. This is about what happened in free agency, which triggered some of these movements.
“We think she’ll do well. It will be a good situation for her. Free agency led us down a different path. As I told her, I don’t want her buried on our bench.”
Talbot, a 26-year-old and 6-2 forward from Australia, spent her first two years (2017 and 2018) in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury. In 2019, she played in Minnesota where she averaged 5.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 17 minutes off the bench.
Last year, Talbot remained in Australia with the Adelaide Lightning of the WNBL.
Wednesday’s trades were the latest in a series of offseason moves for the Storm, which began Jan. 15 when the Storm designated Howard its core player and tendered her to a one-year, supermax deal worth $221,450 next season.
However, it was going to be difficult for Seattle to re-sign Howard considering the team had about $364,000 remaining in salary-cap space and is committed to bringing back 11-time All-Star Sue Bird, who is expected to receive a $200,000 deal next season.
The 29-year-old Howard received a four-year, $889,000 contract from New York that will pay her $215,000 next season, according to Winsidr.com. It’s believed to be the fourth richest contract in WNBA history behind the $899,480 contracts received by Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins-Smith and DeWanna Bonner last year.
The Storm acquired Howard in a 2018 trade with Minnesota that sent the Lynx its 2018 second-round pick and the right to swap first-round picks in 2019.
In her first year in Seattle, Howard averaged 13.2 points, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals to win the league’s Most Improved Player Award. She was also named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive first team.
While Breanna Stewart missed the 2019 season due to an Achilles injury, Howard led the Storm in points (18.1), rebounds (8.2), steals (2.2) and blocks (1.7). She led Seattle to an 18-16 record and the second round of the playoffs.
Howard won the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award and collected her first All-Star invitation in 2019.
That year, Howard filed for divorce from her wife, Jacqueline Howard. The couple made allegations of domestic violence against each other, and at the time a WNBA spokesman said the league was investigating the claims.
Howard returned to the Storm during a 2020 season shortened by COVID-19 that was played in a bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and helped Seattle to its fourth league championship.
However, Howard admittedly was out of shape at the start of the season and was mired by a prolonged scoring slump while averaging 9.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 21.0 minutes.
“The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said in a statement released by the team. “She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for and earned everything that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams.”
Meanwhile, Whitcomb scored a major payday with the New York Liberty after averaging 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and shooting 38.1% on three-pointers — all career highs — last season.
The 32-year-old former Washington Huskies star, who played her entire four-year WNBA career with the Storm, received a two-year, $300,700 deal, according to HerHoopStats.com.
Whitcomb’s $150,350 salary next season more than doubles the $68,000 she received from the Storm last year.