It appears Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker are feeling out a multitude of ways they can change the WNBA as we know it, and maybe, indirectly, coax each other's decisions.
The 2020 and 2021 WNBA champions, each at different points in their career but still on top of the basketball world, are undoubtedly the two best players in free agency, and will lift whichever team they land on into contention.
The question is if either will really take it there.
Stewart released her list of four teams she's taking meetings with, including: the Liberty, Storm, Mystics and Lynx. In Minnesota, Stewart could play for one of the league's best-ever coaches next to another UConn star in Napheesa Collier; in Washington, she can team up with another MVP in Elena Delle Donne; in Seattle she can continue her legacy alongside Jewell Loyd; and then there's New York...
The Liberty made a seismic move to open pre-free agency, dealing Rebecca Allen, Crystal Dangerfield and Natasha Howard in a three-team trade to add 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones.
Jones will pair with All-Star point guard Sabrina Ionescu — and in a potential supermegaultrateam — with Stewart and All-Star Courtney Vandersloot too, who ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported is interested in teaming up with Stewart. (Vandersloot is also meeting with the Sky, Storm and Lynx.)
In this swing of moves, New York would likely have to part ways with Betnijah Laney, a two-way star, but with Vandersloot, Ionescu, Jones and Stewart, it shouldn't be hard to find veterans to want to ring-chase and fill in the remaining slots.
Possible starting lineup:
PG — Courtney Vandersloot,
SG — Sabrina Ionescu,
SF — Marine Johannes,
PF — Breanna Stewart,
C — Jonquel Jones
And yes, this somehow means them becoming even better than they were a few months ago.
The Aces made a controversial decision dealing All-Star Dearica Hamby in a shocking trade just four months after she announced her pregnancy. The move brought back Amanda Zahui B and also freed up cap space — which could be used to sign Candace Parker (All is made even easier should Parker take a pay cut). Per Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times, Parker is, at the least, entertaining a meeting.
Unlike Stewart's potential superteam, Parker's is coming off a convincing WNBA championship run and all four of its best players still have their best days ahead of them. Chelsea Gray may be the best point guard in the world, A'ja Wilson is the reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Kelsey Plum is the league's Most Improved Player, and Jackie Young dazzled for a breakout season.
The league's best team with the best regular season record and the championship belt could come back armored with CANDACE PARKER. Her and Gray also know a thing or two about winning at this point.
Possible starting lineup:
PG — Chelsea Gray,
SG — Kelsey Plum,
SF — Jackie Young,
PF — Candace Parker,
C — A'ja Wilson
That's the big question, and can be broken down into a bunch of different categories.
Will Stewart and Parker choose location? If so, that could mean Stewart's decision is made based off the Liberty's proximity to where she grew up, in Syracuse, New York. For Parker, that'd mean staying put in Chicago, close to Naperville.
Will they choose the best team to win a championship? For Stewart, that might not mean Seattle anymore with Sue Bird retired — unless Vandersloot wants to make the move out west (where she's from). The Liberty did just load up with her former EuroLeague teammate, Jones, too. For Parker, the Aces are undoubtedly the best chance to see her win a third ring.
Will they choose franchise loyalty? Stewart was drafted by the Storm in 2016, and Parker with the Sparks in 2008. Stewie could stay put and become the franchise's next big Storm-for-lifer behind Bird and Lauren Jackson. Parker is two years removed from the Sparks, which has entire changed its chemistry from the front office to the coaching staff to its roster.
With a week left until players can officially sign, both Parker and Stewart could drag this out a bit longer — to both make the right decisions for themselves, and also feel out how scorched Earth either wants to take this league.
Once again, women's basketball is in Candace Parker and Breanna Stewart's hands.