WNBA Confidential: Which city would be the best option for expansion? GMs share anonymous survey | ET REALITY

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The first part of our anonymous survey of WNBA general managers focused on questions related to players and coaches in and around the league. But general managers are also forced to understand much more than just the makeup of their own team. Part 2 of our survey delves into a number of topics affecting the entire league, including expansion, rule changes and a possible new collective bargaining agreement.

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The Athletic surveyed the league’s general managers, who are typically their teams’ top basketball executives, to get their opinions on various issues. All 12 CEOs were asked to participate in the exercise while maintaining anonymity so they could speak freely, and nine participated. Of those, some declined to answer specific questions, but this is still a comprehensive look at how the league’s top decision-makers think about the present and future of the WNBA.

When exactly the WNBA will expand to more than 12 markets is still in question, but there was some consensus that the league should expand to another market on the West Coast. (The Athletic I asked this question before reporting that the Golden State Warriors are close to bringing a WNBA franchise to the Bay Area.)

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It should be noted that CEOs were asked about one city, but some mentioned up to three in their response. One of the general managers who mentioned several cities noted that it would be important for the league to add another East Coast and West Coast team “to keep our conferences even.”

bay area

“It would be an automatic fan base from day 1.”

“They’re all in.”

portland

“That city supports women’s basketball and the natural rivalry between Portland and Seattle would be fantastic.”

“The infrastructure is there and the fan base is there; they’ve been begging, give us a team.”

toronto

“I’m very intrigued by Toronto, having all of Canada supporting that team.”

Philadelphia

“Great media market. Basketball city for a long time. “I think that would be a great place for our people.”

This was one of the questions in our GM survey that we also asked players throughout the season. Although the answers are not mutually exclusive (there is no reason that league expansion cannot come with an increase in rosters), most general managers, like most players, expected to see an increase in the campuses.

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“I think our time would be better spent expanding the size of the roster in the most immediate time, simply because fiscally, it doesn’t have that big of an impact on the entire league. … We just have this pool of talent that we already have in the system that we can draw from, even if someone gets the flu and you know it’s not going to be very long-term, but you just have them at your fingertips. I think that would be the most fruitful.”

“Maybe those last two, if the rosters expand from 12 to 14 players, will be unique in that we only travel with 12. Those are developing players. Some are inside, some are outside. But we have some reinforcements there so we don’t have to grab someone when someone gets hurt.”

“I think having 11 players is sometimes difficult. … The hardest thing is that you have the team for four or five months, then you try to establish a culture and suddenly you lose two or three players and you have to sign someone for that. And those players are only there to practice, not most of them to play. So it affects the culture. … I think the quality goes down.”

Expansion

“I think to continue to grow our league and have a national presence, we need to be in more markets and be more relevant to more people locally.”

“I just think we need to be able to grow the eyes of this league to be able to get all these things that we all want for the players.”

Both

“The WNBA needs at least two more teams. The world and the country of women’s basketball are ready for more. It would reinforce the excitement that the W is creating right now. More roster spots would be welcome, even if two (or) three players are allowed as practice/reserve players. That way, when injuries occur, you will have players who know the system and can step in without problems.”

“Both have value, apples and oranges. “A portion of the expansion fees should be distributed to teams to expand rosters, (and the) cap to address IR difficulties (and) issues and also allow for investment in player development and younger talent.”

What should be prioritized in the next collective agreement negotiations

As people whose work is most directly affected by the collective bargaining agreement, it made sense to ask general managers what they would like to see updated in the next document. The current collective agreement runs until 2027, but there is the possibility of an early exit in 2025, so negotiations could be on the horizon in the next two years. According to WNBPA First Vice President Kelsey Plum, the players association is already surveying its constituents to learn their priorities in the next deal.

Travel

The general managers had a broad set of ideas about what should be addressed during the next round of negotiations, but the only topic that emerged from four people was travel and the issue of charter flights. The league currently prohibits teams from flying on private charter flights, but with a 40-game season on the agenda in 2024 during an Olympic year, there will be a bigger boost to travel conditions. As one general manager put it: “This is going to be pretty unpleasant for us next year with the Olympics and having a condensed schedule, but prioritizing player health and travel.” Another general manager expressed a similar sentiment regarding player safety when it comes to travel and other issues, saying the goal of the next collective bargaining agreement should be to “strengthen the health and safety of players as a safety measure.” “. he primary lens through which all policies and guidelines are filtered.”

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soft cap

Another element of interest in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement that two executives mentioned was moving to a soft cap instead of the current hard cap, giving teams greater financial flexibility and freedom to spend. This would facilitate trades during the regular season. With most teams at or above the cap at the trade deadline, one general manager proposed changing the trade rules so that teams could trade players whose contracts were between 10 and 20 percent up. difference from each other rather than an exact match.

Exceptions for maternity, visibility, expansion of lists

Expanding the size of the list and refining the nuances of hardship and maternity exceptions were also mentioned. Finally, two general managers prioritized the WNBA’s visibility on national platforms. “At the top of my list is visibility, television visibility,” said one. “There needs to be one or two WNBA games every night, like in college.” Another echoed the importance of visibility being the first step to achieving greater progress. “Getting the exposure our players deserve on a national scale, with more television games,” the general manager said. “I think that’s the most important thing and everything else will come later.”

What rule needs to be changed or re-evaluated before next season?

Challenge Rule/Revisions

Five general managers interviewed for this survey expect to see changes to the league’s challenge rule or official review protocols. One of them, who struggled to separate the two, noted that the overall hope is to help encourage accuracy with referees’ decisions at the end of games. Several GMs want more challenges. “Why don’t you get one for half?” a general manager asked. Another suggested that a team should retain a timeout if they win a challenge, and a third general manager floated the idea of ​​setting a time limit regarding official reviews. Several coaches, for what it’s worth, also have strong opinions on these types of situations and expect changes to the challenge rule.

Card Rules/Roster Boosts

One general manager hoped the charter rules would be changed, and that team owners, specifically, would have the option to fly their team’s charter if they wanted to pay for it. Another suggested expanding the size of the workforce, echoing some of the reasons mentioned above.

Editor’s note: The WNBA Confidential series is part of a partnership with Michelob ULTRA. The Athletic maintains total editorial independence. Partners have no control or input over the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Horizons and Cathy Engelbert Photos: Sarah Stier/Getty Images; iStock)

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