DALLAS — The Dallas Wings have finalized their roster ahead of Saturday’s season opener, but some standout draft picks didn’t make the cut. And as other teams across the WNBA are making similar decisions, the calls for league expansion, accessibility and investments have grown exponentially louder this season.
There are only 12 WNBA teams and 144 roster spots available – limiting each team’s roster at 12 players. It’s inevitable that standout college players, who are bound to bring in a new fan base for the WNBA, won’t make a roster.
A prime example: the Wings announced earlier in the week that their 2023 first round draft pick at number 11, Abby Meyers, had been waived.
Meyers played a pivotal role as co-captain at the University of Maryland and averaged 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell spoke of Meyers’ ability to score when she was drafted.
Then on Wednesday, the Wings announced they had waived two centers: Baylor alum Kalani Brown and former University of Texas star Charli Collier.
Brown was a first-round draft pick in 2019, playing three years in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Sparks before leaving to play overseas this past year. Collier was drafted number one overall to the Wings in 2021. But, Collier played very little in her first season under former head coach Vickie Johnson.
Last week, the Wings suspended the WNBA player contract of one of its newest additions – Kitija “Kit” Laksa. In a statement, the Wings said Laksa will be remaining in Europe this summer “to fulfill overseas commitments,” but that Dallas would retain Laksa’s playing rights.
The Wings also said 2023 first-round pick Lou Lopez Senechal, who made this year’s roster, will be out at least six-to-eight weeks after undergoing knee surgery, and newly-acquired Diamond DeShields, who was expected to start in the guard position, will be sidelined after suffering a knee injury.
"The team will provide medical updates on both players when appropriate," the Wings said in a news release.
But Wings star guard Arike Ogunbowale, newly-acquired forward and 10-year vet Natasha Howard, Satou Sabally, and two of last year's biggest standouts Teaira McCowan and Veronica Burton are ready to make a hopeful championship run.
Here's some players to watch: rookie and first-round 2023 draft pick Maddy Siegrist and newly-acquired guard Crystal Dangerfield.
At the helm for the Wings will be Trammell, who is making her WNBA debut as head coach for the squad.
During a press conference Thursday, Trammell spoke about the heaviness of making roster changes over the last few days, but said her team was focused and there was a lighter energy once the decisions were made. Now, she's working on making tweaks and watching film ahead of Saturday's home opener.
"With 10 out of the 12 [players available]. You know, everyone says you're down to your 12, but only 10 can play, and it's chemistry..." Trammell said.
"I mean, it's just taking it up another notch and relying on these young ladies being prepared and bringing their competitive spirit on Saturday.”
Here's a look at the full 12-player roster:
The Wings are entering their eighth season in DFW and play all of their home games at College Park Arena in Arlington. The team is hoping you'll "Pack the Park" for their season opener at noon on Saturday, May 20 against the Atlanta Dream.
Here's a look at their full 2023 schedule and how to purchase single game tickets. For all of our Wings content, click here.
Expansion talks after notable cuts
Not only are the jobs just not there as the talent pool continues to grow from college to the professional stage, the average salary and accessibility of league apparel and games have been lacking.
According to spotrac.com, the 2023 maximum cap total for each WNBA team is $1,420,500 versus the NBA, which is $134,000,000 with a luxury tax threshold of $162,000,000. The average salary for a WNBA player for this season is $102,750 while NBA players took home at least $9.37 million this past season.
So, with the salary caps and teams only able to take 12 players with some staying at 11, there have been a plethora of notable roster cuts.
Notable 2023 draft picks that have been waived across the WNBA in recent days include former national champion LSU guard Alexis Morris (Connecticut Sun), former South Carolina star Brea Beal (Minnesota Lynx), and former Iowa center Monica Czinano (Los Angeles Sparks).
Only 15 of the 36 picks from the 2023 WNBA Draft made rosters to start the season -- totaling 42%.
Also, second-year WNBA players Indiana Fever’s Destanni Henderson and Baylor alum Didi Richards (New York Liberty) have been waived, too.
During a post-practice interview this week, Coach Trammel said roster cuts are something she hates, and she wishes there was a WNBA developmental league for players – similar to the NBA’s G-League.
“I think that is needed. We had a basketball operations meeting yesterday with the league, and I know players across this league were asking about increased roster spots expansion, and they did receive answers,” Coach Trammel said. “And so, I don't like it. I know it's part of the business, but there's a lot of great players out there that hopefully will be picked up soon.”
The WNBA’s first game ever in Canada only highlighted the need for expansion too. The Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx played in front of a sold-out crowd at Scotiabank Arena – which totaled nearly 20,000 people.
A lot of WNBA players, coaches and fans have taken to social media to express both encouragement and sadness over the roster transactions.
In a tweet, now former Wings player Collier said she was told if not for injuries in other spots on the team, she would’ve have made the roster which was “a hard thing to hear.”
She went on to say she was ready for her next opportunity.
Washing Mystics star Natasha Cloud tweeted, “We need more teams. These players deserve to be on a roster. It really kills me.”
Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year and former WNBA star, South Carolina's Dawn Staley took to Twitter after two of her former players were waived, Beal and Henderson.
Current Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) vice president and Phoenix Mercury's Brianna Turner had a word for fans:
In the meantime, players may turn to playing overseas or joining other leagues FIBA 3x3 or the newest addition Athletes Unlimited to hone their skills – awaiting another chance to play in the WNBA.