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The WNBA should expand its rosters before its geographic footprint

I don’t see the point in expanding the league until each team has a sufficient number of players.

WNBA exhibition game: Atlanta Dream at Washington Wizards
The Washington Mystics only have 11 players on their roster. The league as a whole should have more per roster.
Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The WNBA has become more popular among basketball fans, especially over the last five or so years. Ratings have gone up significantly from last year.

And there is increasing talk about expanding the league. Toronto hosted a WNBA preseason game on May 13 between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx, making it the first time any WNBA event happened in Canada. There are many WNBA fans who are hoping the league expands sooner rather than later.

One of the biggest reasons why there are more calls for expansion is because of roster cuts, especially among recent draft picks. Currently WNBA teams can only have 11 or 12 players to fit into a hard salary cap. The Washington Mystics specifically only have 11 players because their cap situation is tight.

I agree that the WNBA needs to expand to new markets. However, I don’t think expanding into new cities with teams of just 11-12 players each is the right call either. It’s better for the league to expand the rosters by two players each to 13-14 players each first.

If every WNBA team had to add two more players on the roster, there would be 24 more players in the league. It’s also effectively an expansion of two teams with 12 players each. If the WNBA had 15 players per roster for each of its 12 teams, that is a three team expansion!

Expanding rosters also allows the current product on the court to improve. Teams can now run full practices. End-of-the-bench players who are getting on 7-day contracts midseason will now spend a full year in the WNBA and be even more acclimated to their teams. That also translates into better team play.

Finally, expanding rosters to 13-14 right now will help ensure that any new expansion team will be owned by a group that can afford it. It’s great to see the WNBA move to Toronto, Louisville, or Florida at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. But there’s already a way to expand and improve the WNBA without expanding into new markets.