WNBA teams will reportedly have to cut rosters down before camp for players to get paid

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WNBA teams will reportedly have to make cuts without the benefit of training camp to keep players getting paid. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WNBA teams will reportedly have to make cuts without the benefit of training camp to keep players getting paid. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

WNBA teams will have to make cuts prior to holding training camp in order for players to start getting paid, per a report by Doug Feinberg for the Associated Press.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is optimistic the season, which was scheduled to begin May 15, will still be played this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic that forced its postponement. But in order for players to be paid as scheduled, teams will have to get below the 12-player roster limit by May 26, per the report.

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Report: Teams required to make early cuts

Players were set to get their first paycheck June 1 and Engelbert told the Associated Press last week getting them paid on time was a priority. To do that, teams have until May 26 to get under the roster limit, per the report.

WNBA teams have a roster limit of 15 for training camp that drops to 12 before the season begins. Via the Associated Press:

The league and the players’ union are still working out many details of how often players will get paid and how much. Those negotiations largely depend on the length and start date of the season.

Players who are cut will not get paid, but will have benefits through June 30, per the report. Veterans have year-round benefits and rookies were extended benefits beginning May 1.

Rookies hit hardest by cuts

It is difficult to make a WNBA roster based on the numbers and data. Less than 1 percent of eligible college talent is drafted — a smaller pool than other professional sports — and second- and third-round picks have a hard time making the 144 available roster spots. That number will be even smaller this year due to the salary cap.

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That makes it even tougher for rookies hoping to fight for a spot on the team during camp. They will now no longer get the chance to make their case on the court. The New York Liberty, excited to start a new era at Barclays Center in Brooklyn with No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu, are one of the teams in a tougher spot.

The Liberty have six 2020 draft picks on the 15-player roster right now and are the youngest roster in the league with 10 players who have two years of playing time or less. Their draft class was given high marks and the starting lineup could include a number of rookies depending on how the roster gelled around Ionescu in a system built for her. That now takes a hit.

The Dallas Wings are in a similarly tough situation with their roster, which is at a maximum 15 prior to cuts with up-and-coming talent. Teams with established starting lineups around veterans, such as the reigning champion Washington Mystics and stacked Las Vegas Aces squad, will have an easy time.

There have been a number of players cut from a team their rookie year who go overseas to further develop their game and return to the WNBA in later seasons.

Will WNBA have a season?

The move to whittle teams down to 12 and under the salary cap is strictly to get the players paid on schedule. Engelbert reiterated Friday that the league is looking at different scenarios to play at least part of the scheduled season this summer.

That could include playing at a single site or a small handful or sites. She’s also floated the idea of playing in a city with a large women’s college basketball presence. The regular season schedule had a break in it for much of July and August during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With the games now postponed a year, and another gold for Team USA on hold, it gives the WNBA more room to work with as it develops a plan.

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