Expansion of the WNBA: Not occurring fast enough for the available talent

By Gabby Alfveby

Recently the WNBA announced an expansion team that will be located in the San Francisco Bay Area and begin play in 2025.

Other locations that are expected to add expansion teams in the future are Portland, Oregon and Toronto, Canada.

Expansion is exciting, but one team only adds 12 more roster spots allowed for players. This is simply not enough.

For players like Karlie Samuelson, Crystal Dangerfield and Abby Meyers, this is still a problem even with expansion. 

These may just seem like names to you, but these are vital women’s basketball players with amazing talent for the growth of the WNBA.

All three of these players have experienced unnecessary difficulty with the lack of roster spots in the league. They were all stars for top women’s basketball programs in college for Stanford, UConn and Maryland. 

There is no reason why these players should be struggling and scrambling to find roster spots.

Passed Around the League

Dangerfield is a talented and humble point guard who graduated from UConn in 2020 and was drafted #16 to the Minnesota Lynx. She led her UConn team to three straight Final Fours, but a fourth was never accomplished due to the tournament being cancelled because of COVID-19.

She has been unfairly tossed around from team to team since she has been drafted.

She earned rookie of the year honors in 2020 and at the start of the 2022 season, was among other big names such as Layshia Clarendon who were cut from the Minnesota Lynx roster just three days before the season game opener.

She led the Lynx as a rookie with 16.2 points and 3.6 assists per game where she had an amazing debut season.

Only a few short hours before the Indiana Fevers first game of the season on May 6, they signed Dangerfield to a hardship exception contract.

They signed her just because they needed to fill roster spots since some of their players were still missing from the roster because of overseas play. After five days, she was cut from the Fever when these players returned.

Dangerfield was left in the dust yet again only to fulfill the program’s short-term needs.

A little over a week later, the New York Liberty gave her a new home, but again she was signed to a hardship contract due to team injuries and illnesses. 

Dangerfield became an important member of the team after pouring her work and sweat into the team the entire summer. She proved that she belonged on this team and fit into their culture. 

They ended up offering her a contract for the rest of the season on July 3 of the 2022 season.

That summer the league played toss with Dangerfield, moving her from team to team. 

Her home in New York did not last when she found herself stuck in a three-team trade involving New York, Dallas and Connecticut on Jan. 16, 2023. She was now on the Dallas Wings roster, which was her fourth new WNBA team in such a short time span.

Dangerfield is a big name in women’s basketball and has plenty of skill to be able to compete in the league without having to prove herself, but she found herself having a hard time fitting in due to a lack of roster spots available.

There are only 12 teams in the league with 12 roster spots available on each team, which creates an environment where only 144 of the best women’s basketball players in the world are allowed to showcase their talent.

That number of players is not a lot at all. According to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), there are approximately 450 million basketball players globally. 

This means less than 7% of professional women’s basketball players are able to play in the WNBA in one season.

Obviously all of those players won’t ever be able to play in the WNBA at once, just like it is for the NBA, but key top players in the world like Dangerfield shouldn’t be tossed around the league from team to team and this percentage needs to be much higher.

Karlie Samuelson who is the older sister of Dangerfield’s former college teammate Katie Lou Samuelson has had very similar experiences to Dangerfield.

Roster Spot on the Line

Samuelson graduated from Stanford in 2017 and was undrafted due to an injury during the Final Four tournament in Dallas her senior year of college. 

She was also waived various times in her career, and is a great three-point shooter as a six-foot guard.

Samuelson landed a well-deserved spot on the training camp roster for the Las Angeles Sparks in 2018.

She was waived from the Sparks roster three times; late in the 2018 season, in the 2021 season and again in the 2023 season.

As of July of the 2023 season, she sat at 74%, which was number one in the league for three-point shooting percentage.

A player this talented and who is one of the top three-point shooters in the WNBA shouldn’t be finding herself waived over and over again. 

Samuelson will find herself being faced with the possibility of being waived again in the 2024 season.

Top Point Guard Waived

Meyers graduated from the University of Maryland in 2023 and was drafted as the 11th overall pick in the first round of the WNBA draft to the Dallas Wings.

She was a top point guard in her college class, so how was she waived just 35 days after being drafted?

Meyers found herself in a tough situation when she was only given five minutes of play in the preseason with the Wings before being waived from the team, again being disregarded due to fixable league expansion problems.

On June 20, she was signed to a hardship contract by the Washington Mystics.

Meyers led the Maryland Terrapins in the March Madness tournament to their first Elite Eight since 2015 and was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. 

Unfortunately, much like many other players in the league, Meyers’ hardship contract had an expiration date and her journey with the Mystics officially ended on July 4, 2023.

The Problem and A Solution

Some people may argue that the team expansion for the WNBA has been slow due to the lack of interest and fear that they won’t be able to sell enough tickets and fill stadium seats, but if you don’t give it a chance then you will never know.

Professional sports are businesses and taking risks are a part of owning a business. 

The WNBA is long overdue for expansion — a new team before the announcing of the San Francisco Bay team expansion hasn’t been added to the league since 2008.

Adding just one more team still isn’t enough, as it only adds 12 more roster spots, making room for 156 players opposed to 144.

The WNBA needs to expand into even more cities and fast because players are giving up on their dream of playing basketball and settling for other careers.

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