Amid a string of roster cuts from teams around the WNBA, star forward Breanna Stewart became the latest high-profile figure to call for change to the league’s current cap structure.
In a Twitter thread posted on Wednesday, the two-time WNBA champion gave her thoughts on how the hard salary cap has contributed to teams waiving young players and 2022 draft picks this week.
“I hate seeing so many great players being cut from WNBA teams,” Stewart began. “Salaries went up, but a very restrictive hard cap has put teams in a bind. We need to soften it to allow [sic] our league to grow.”
The 2018 league MVP continued, arguing that the WNBA needs to step in to protect players on their rookie contracts from getting cut from rosters early on in their careers.
“The WNBA needs to adjust ASAP (before the next CBA) to allow teams more flexibility to keep rookies contract players on the roster,” Stewart continued. “Call them practice players and make sure they don’t hit the cap. We need to be developing young talent and taking advantage of the momentum newly drafted players bring from the college game.”
Stewart ended the thread, saying that the league is at a “tipping point” and could run into further problems if “tweaks” aren’t made to the cap.
Stewart is just the latest figure around the league to comment on this week’s roster cuts with the season set to begin Friday, May 6. On Tuesday, Sun coach Curt Miller spoke about the precarious balance of choosing a roster but squeezing in under the cap.
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“The underrated part is the hard salary cap,” Miller explained, per Lila Bromberg of the Hartford Courant. “And after your six guaranteed contracts, there’s a ton of different combinations of how those other five fit the puzzle pieces of your salary cap. And there was the combinations that didn’t allow you to keep everybody, there was combinations that included [third-year player] Kaila [Charles] that then would prohibit you from keeping other people. And so you had to play into fact all those combinations that either work together or didn’t work together.
“And so what the general public forgets at times, it’s not always about the best 11 players, it’s the best 11 players that fit under your salary cap. And that is two different statements. The best 11 players aren’t always the best 11 that fit under the salary cap. So you have to make tough decisions to fit under a league that has a hard salary cap.”
Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike offered up a possible solution to the events of the last few days, suggesting that the WNBA would benefit from the creation of a developmental league, much like the NBA’s G League.
“I was just looking at some of the names that have been cut … they’re like high draft picks,” the former No. 1 pick said in a Tuesday press conference, per Mirjam Swanson. “In no circumstances should we have a league when high draft picks aren’t on a roster.”
WNBA teams have until the season begins to cut their rosters to 12 players, but some clubs will only end up carrying 11 due to salary-cap space. The Lynx shocked the league yesterday by waiving six players, including 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield and both of their recent draft picks, Kayla Jones and Hannah Sjerven.
The 2022 WNBA season tips off on Friday.
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