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WNBA Free Agency 2021: Natasha Cloud re-signs with the Mystics for three years. Where do things stand now?

She will earn near supermax money over the next three years and be part of the team’s long-term future with Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins through 2023.

Las Vegas Aces v Washington Mystics - Game One
Natasha Cloud will be back with the Mystics through the 2023 WNBA season.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

UPDATE at 12:20 p.m. ET: The Mystics have made it official: Cloud is back!

In a statement, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault said the following:

Signing Natasha to a multi-year contract is an important day for our team. As the point guard, she is the engine that drives us – our pace on offense, the start of our defense, the energy at practice on a daily basis. Her constant quest to improve herself and our team was manifested in our march to a championship. Her passion for the game, as well as her passion for community leadership and social justice off the court, has made her an integral part of the Mystics connection with the fans and city of Washington, DC. We can’t wait to get started.

Cloud also added the following:

D.C. has been a second home to me for the last six years,. Monumental Sports & Entertainment, this city and this community took a chance on a small mid-major kid and never looked back. I have grown up here as a person, as a player and as an activist. D.C., I love y’all. There is no one else I’d rather rock with. I REP THE DISTRICT.

Again, I’m really happy to see Cloud return to Washington. The original post and analysis of the signing are below.

On Tuesday evening, Natasha Cloud re-signed a three-year contract with the Washington Mystics, according to Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV. The contract will pay her $190,000 in 2021, $185,000 in 2022 and $190,000 in 2023.

Kareem Copeland of The Washington Post also reported it, but noted that the official paperwork hasn’t been done yet. So an official announcement will come after that happens.

Williams also reported that Cloud will also earn some marketing money. This may be coming from a $100,000 annual budget each team has to entice star players to stay in the United States during the winter as well as a $1.6 million league-wide budget to improve marketing efforts. These amounts are not part of Cloud’s cap hit and it’s unclear how much she will get from marketing budgets. That said, the most she could earn from the WNBA’s league-wide marketing budget is $250,000 given league rules.

What does this mean for Cloud?

Cloud comes out as a big winner monetarily and this is also the team she wanted to play for anyway. She re-signs for multiple seasons and will be there as long as Elena Delle Donne is. She may be earning $300,000 or more in 2021, once marketing money is included.

What does the extension mean for the Mystics?

From an anecdotal sense, the Mystics will be building around a core of Delle Donne, Cloud, Ariel Atkins and Alysha Clark for the next two seasons. And since Cloud’s contract ends at the same time as Delle Donne’s and Atkins’, we can conclude that they are the team’s long-term franchise cornerstones. I’ll also include the yet-to-be-re-signed Myisha Hines-Allen as well. This will be one of the WNBA’s stronger core groups as well.

From a cap sense, I went over a hypothetical Cloud re-signing yesterday. So let’s re-adjust the Mystics’ 2021 cap situation based on what Cloud actually signed for.

The Mystics had $248,260 in cap room left to sign two or three players, including LaToya Sanders’ $117,000, according to Her Hoop Stats as of Tuesday. Since Sanders retired and her cap hit will not count for this season, Washington would now have $364,260 in cap space.

After Cloud’s extension, Washington now has $174,260 in cap space to re-sign two to three players since they would have nine players under non-training camp contracts. They can now sign Theresa Plaisance to a contract of $70,040 (veteran’s minimum given her experience) along with one of Jacki Gemelos, Sug Sutton or Stella Johnson at $58,710 (the veteran minimum given their experience).

If they sign Plaisance and one more of their training camp players, it gives the Mystics $45,510 in cap room to sign Emma Meesseman, their remaining unsigned key player from the 2020 team or another player midseason with a rest-of-season contract. Also, with an 11 player roster to start the season, they could sign Meesseman without cutting anyone since the roster would be at 12, the league maximum.

Now that we know what Cloud’s salary is for 2021-23, we can see where things stand for Washington as well in the 2022 season. They had $652,159 in cap space to sign six to seven players before Cloud’s extension. Now, that figure drops to $467,159 to sign five to six players. Myisha Hines-Allen would be Washington’s top priority to re-sign at that point and she could get a salary comparable to Atkins ($170,000). That would likely mean that Tina Charles and Leilani Mitchell, who are unrestricted free agents next year, would have to sign at a lower salary or go elsewhere.

And for 2023, The Mystics will have $821,150 to sign eight to nine players since the only ones under contract are Cloud, Delle Donne and Atkins.

In short, Washington will have some tough decisions to make next year just like they did this past month.

What does this mean for Emma Meesseman?

Cloud’s long-term extension means that Meesseman won’t be part of the Mystics’ long-term future due to their lack of cap space. Meesseman’s international commitments to Belgium and Hines-Allen’s breakout 2020 season are also other reasons. It’s sad to see her time in Washington end this way, but that’s another article for another day.

Sure, Meesseman could still come back to the Mystics this season after the Olympics. And she could resume her role as a Sixth Woman extraordinaire who wins a second WNBA Finals MVP award this fall. I’d love to see it.

That said, if Meesseman returns, it won’t be for very long given their cap situation next year.