The Chicago Sky are pursuing Emma Meesseman in free agency, and believe they may even have a “50 percent chance” at getting her to play for them, according to assistant coach Ann Wauters, in an interview on “De Afspraak,” a news program on VRT, a Belgian Dutch language public television network. Meesseman is an unrestricted free agent and last played for the Washington Mystics from 2013-2020.
How did this report happen?
Wauters was hired by the Sky last Tuesday to be an assistant on Head Coach James Wade’s staff. She is a long-time professional player who is best known in the WNBA as the No. 1 pick in 2000 and the first European player to be drafted that high. Wauters, who is Belgian and was part of the Cats’ 2020 Olympic team, like Meesseman, had a successful professional career in Europe, winning four EuroLeague titles and is considered to be one of the greats in the women’s professional game.
While Wauters was a WNBA All-Star in 2005, was Becky Hammon’s key partner in 2008 for the San Antonio Silver Stars’ 2008 Finals appearance and won a championship in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks, her career stateside was a bust. It wasn’t because of a lack of talent. Rather, it’s because Wauters simply didn’t play much stateside during her prime and missed many summers for international play or rest. Coincidentally. Meesseman seems to be going through a similar phase of her career as well.
Soon after Wauters was hired by the Sky, she went on VRT and made her comments regarding Meesseman.
To be clear, Wauters also mentioned that it’s possible that all 12 WNBA teams, including the Mystics would pursue her too. And she mentioned that Meesseman has been loyal to Washington regarding her WNBA career. But if there’s another team that could have Meesseman’s ear, it could very well be Chicago, in part because Wauters was one of Meesseman’s Belgian Cats teammates and mentors.
What other connections do the Sky have with Meesseman?
Besides Wauters, the Sky have a lot of connections to Meesseman compared to other teams. Wade was an assistant coach for UMMC Ekaterinburg, Meesseman’s current team in the past, including in 2018 when they won the EuroLeague Women title. Chicago’s starting backcourt of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley are also on UMMC’s current team.
Have the Sky cleared cap space for Meesseman (or anyone else)?
Connections can help. But given that Meesseman signed a veteran max contract of $215,000 in 2020, her last WNBA season, she’s likely going to want another contract in that range. The Sky appear to have the cap room to get Meesseman if they want to, but it will still be difficult to get her without lowering the salaries of other key veterans from last season’s championship team.
According to Her Hoop Stats, the Sky have only $335,000 in committed salaries for the 2022 season and about $908,000 in free cap space under a hard cap of about $1.379 million. That said, this does not include the cap hits that Kahleah Copper (cored), Vandersloot (unrestricted) and Quigley (unrestricted) would take. Furthermore, center Stefanie Dolson (who coincidentally played with Meesseman from 2014-16 in Washington) has reportedly decided to play for either the Seattle Storm or New York Liberty. This move would certainly help the Sky in any pitch to Meesseman.
Unrestricted free agent Stef Dolson has narrowed her choices to New York and Seattle after eliminating Chicago, Vegas and Atlanta as landing spots, per league source.— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) January 27, 2022
If Meesseman were to sign with the Sky, she could only sign for a maximum of $196,267. But she could always (and practically speaking, she will probably have to) take less than that. And for the Sky to have a full roster, they’d likely need Vandersloot, Quigley and Copper to take a bit less under their maximums too.
What about the Mystics’ cap situation?
You can never say never. But it’s difficult for Washington to sign Meesseman at a near max salary given their lack of cap room. The Mystics, even without Meesseman, had $456,900 in cap space entering free agency. Furthermore, this is before taking Myisha Hines-Allen’s sophomore contract into account. And I didn’t even get to Tina Charles yet!
Unless Washington changes direction all of a sudden and trades some combination of Elena Delle Donne ($227,900), Natasha Cloud ($185.000), Alysha Clark ($183,000) or Ariel Atkins ($170,000) for cap relief, I just don’t see Washington being able to sign Meesseman to a near max or max deal. And more importantly, it’s hard to see the Mystics letting any of their four highest paid players go.
And ultimately, will Meesseman play in the WNBA this season?
The 2019 WNBA Finals MVP will certainly be a coveted target by teams if she wants to play stateside this season. The ball is in Meesseman’s court in that respect. That said, it’s difficult to see her in a Mystics uniform barring cap clearing trades. And seeing her in a Sky uniform will require some salary cap gymnastics with their existing free agents.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.