How to improve the WNBA’s salary cap to spur league growth


The lead-in to tipoff of the 2022 WNBA season started as it had the past few years with news of big names and recent draftees being waived ahead of first games.

Two-time Seattle Storm champion Breanna Stewart was one of many to sound off on the issue, calling for a soft salary cap or the addition of practice players.

“We need to be developing young talent and taking advantage of the momentum newly drafted players bring from the college game,” she wrote, which is a bridge WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, NCAA women’s basketball personal and players have said needs remedied to grow fandom.

Her Hoops Stats writer Jacob Mox looked at what adding practice players might look like with specific parameters that mirror the NBA G League.

“My biggest takeaway is that looking at the alternative to practice players, which would be just pure rostered players, that almost can’t happen without an increase in the salary cap,” Mox told Yahoo Sports. “Because then you just run into a more exaggerated version to what we’re seeing right now. So increased roster sizes would have to come with an increased salary cap. … An option is to avoid the CBA entirely and go the practice player route.”

His proposal is for up to five practice players at a maximum total cost of $144,282 in 2022 — that’s less than a maximum contract and about 11% of the approximately $1.38 million salary cap. He said it was important in this hypothetical that it be at-will for both sides.

The WNBA is at a critical point with some deep-pocketed team owners wanting to go all in and invest while others can’t afford the upfront costs of that. This would allow team owners, like Mark Davis in Las Vegas or Joseph Tsai in New York, to make their teams better without forcing it on everyone else. But it would create a competitive disadvantage the collective bargaining agreement has worked to avoid in cases like chartered flights.

“You have to kind of sway some teams that, hey, you can not spend this money if you want, but you’re going to have a disadvantage,” Mox said. “That could be a stumbling block for some owners.”

When the CBA was agreed to in January 2020, max salaries went up 82% ($117,500 to $215,00) while the cap only grew 30% ($996,100 to $1.3 million), forcing general managers to be creative in building rosters. Ten of the 12 teams are carrying the minimum 11 to fit under that cap, but the talent pool continues to grow around them.

“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,” Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller said on May 3. “And that is two different statements.”

Engelbert is focused on league expansion before roster expansion, though players like Candace Parker feel the opposite. Something has to give to keep elevating the league.

Undrafted rookies make early marks near campus

Forward Sam Thomas made the Phoenix Mercury roster as an undrafted WNBA rookie after paying at Arizona. (Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Forward Sam Thomas made the Phoenix Mercury roster as an undrafted WNBA rookie after paying…

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Read More: How to improve the WNBA’s salary cap to spur league growth 2022-05-13 19:24:57

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