Storm sign Nneka Ogwumike to pair with Skylar Diggins-Smith: Can Seattle now contend in 2024?


The 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike is the newest member of the Seattle Storm, the team announced Monday.

Ogwumike, an eight-time All-Star, will help reshape a Seattle franchise that went 11-29 last season, its worst record since 2015. In joining the Storm, she will pair with six-time WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith, who signed with the franchise last Thursday, after playing her last seasons with the Phoenix Mercury. The two free-agent acquisitions will also suit up alongside star guard Jewell Loyd, who led the WNBA in scoring last season, and center Ezi Magbegor, who made her first All-Star Game in 2023.

“Nneka is one of the most impactful players in the history of our league, not only her achievements on the court but also as an agent of positive change across the WNBA,” said Storm General Manager Talisa Rhea in a statement. “I know Seattle and our community share our enthusiasm that Nneka is coming to the Storm.”

On Jan. 24, Ogwumike made clear she was leaving the Los Angeles Sparks, the lone franchise she had played with since being picked No. 1 in the 2012 WNBA Draft. She had been the last remaining member of the L.A. team that made back-to-back Finals appearances in 2016-17 and won the title in 2016.

“I have SO much. So much love for this city that unconditionally embraced this Stanford kid 12 years ago,” Ogwumike posted on social media when announcing her decision to leave the Sparks. “So much pride in being only a small piece of the legacy that is Championship City.”

Ogwumike also reportedly met with the Chicago Sky and New York Liberty in free agency. While in New York, she attended a Brooklyn Nets game and received a warm ovation from those in attendance. The Chicago Sun-Times was first to report that she was not signing with Chicago and instead was nearing a deal with Seattle.

“Every part of me is grateful and ready for this opportunity to continue to be great and sustain legacy,” Ogwumike said in a statement. “You can’t calm this Storm.”

Last season, Ogwumike averaged 19.1 points per game, the second-most in her 12-year career, and added 8.8 rebounds. She was named to the WNBA All-Defensive second team and the All-WNBA second team, marking the fifth time she’s received the latter honor.

The signings of the two All-Stars come after a busy free agency period for Seattle. Last week, the Storm traded the No. 4 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft and guard Kia Nurse to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for a 2026 first-round pick. Seattle’s decision to trade Nurse, without receiving a player in return, cleared up $142,000 from its upcoming salary cap, according to salary information provided by HerHoopStats.com, and provided the Storm with enough cap to sign two players to max-level contracts and fill their roster out from there. 

Seattle gets the job done

The Storm went for broke, sending away a 2024 lottery pick to clear cap space to sign two stars, and the plan has come to fruition. With DeWanna Bonner reportedly returning to Connecticut, Ogwumike was the last star available as an unrestricted free agent. Had she chosen to sign elsewhere, Seattle could have been good, but not a contender. Now, the Storm have a starting lineup that can compete with any five in the league, including the ones in Las Vegas and New York. — Sabreena Merchant, women’s basketball staff writer

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

With signing of Skylar Diggins-Smith, Seattle Storm are building a super-team

What comes next?

The Storm are a little thin behind their four All-Stars, with Sami Whitcomb as the only other reliable veteran in the rotation. Mercedes Russell had a down year in 2023 after missing most of 2022 for health reasons, and Seattle might be incentivized to trade her, converting her $140,000 into two minimum players.

Beyond those two, the Storm have a trio of sophomores in their rotation — Jordan Horston, Jade Melbourne and Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu — all of whom had flashes in 2023, but might not be ready for the playoff crucible. The free-agent market is pretty barren at this point in the offseason, but Rhea, the Storm GM, should try to go after Jocelyn Willoughby to shore up the team’s wing depth. — Merchant

Required reading

(Photo: Juan Ocampo / Getty Images)





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