2020 Reflections and 2021 Forecasts: Atlanta Dream

What is the Dream’s salary cap situation and what might the team look like next year?

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The Atlanta Dream missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, but No. 4 overall pick Chennedy Carter and WNBA Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney gave fans reasons to be optimistic. In the latest installment of our series reflecting on the 2020 season for each WNBA team and looking ahead to 2021, we review the Dream.

By the Numbers

  • 7-15 (0.318), did not qualify for playoffs

  • Points Scored: 81.0 (9th), Points Allowed: 87.6 (11th), Margin Per Game: -6.7 (10th)

  • Offensive Rating: 96.4 (11th), Defensive Rating: 104.7 (10th), Net Rating: -8.4 (10th)

  • Pace: 83.4 (5th)

2020 Synopsis

After losing Angel McCoughtry to the Las Vegas Aces in free agency, veteran guards Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes decided to opt out and point guard Maite Cazorla decided to stay overseas. The Dream’s roster was nearly wiped clean. Forwards Monique Billings and Elizabeth Williams were the only players from 2019 to play for the Dream in the Wubble, but the additions of Courtney Williams, Laney, and Carter made for an exciting changeup to the roster. 

Atlanta had bad luck as soon as the season started. Three positive COVID-19 tests prevented players from joining the team on time, and Carter missed six games with an ankle injury. Carter and Laney put up big numbers, but a 10-game losing streak in August derailed the Dream’s postseason hopes. Nicki Collen’s team pulled together for a run at the eighth seed and beat Chicago and Connecticut in the last week of the season, but were eliminated before the final game because of tiebreaker rules. 

Carter led the team in average scoring and finished tenth in the league. Her 17.4 points and 3.4 assists per game earned her a unanimous spot on the All-Rookie team and two votes for Rookie of the Year. Many expected Carter to make an immediate impact, but Most Improved Player Laney was the biggest surprise. Collen signed Laney for her defensive prowess after the Fever waived her in mid-June. She ended the year averaging 17.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, all career highs. Laney and Elizabeth Williams, who averaged 5.7 rebounds per game and ranked fourth in the league with 1.4 blocks per game, also earned WNBA All-Defensive First Team honors. 

Salary Cap Situation

Unrestricted free agents

Free to sign with any team

Restricted free agents

Current team can match contract signed with another team

Reserved and “Suspended-Contract Expired” players

Can only negotiate with the Dream

2021 Draft Picks

  • Lottery Pick 1-4, $70,040

  • 15th Pick (3rd pick 2nd round)

  • 27th Pick (3rd pick 3rd round)

2021 Roster and Cap Situation Summary

With Tiffany Hayes and Elizabeth Williams still under contracts signed under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement and much of the rest of the roster still young and on affordable deals, Atlanta doesn't have any significant cap issues. They might have to cut one of their deep bench players if they pay Laney and then need space for another maximum contract in free agency, but they will have room to shop for a post upgrade to unrestricted free agent Glory Johnson. Of course, if the Dream decide that Laney's Most Improved Player season in 2020 was something of an outlier, they could also let her walk and have even more money available to use on the free agent market.

Due to the number of ball-handling guards already on the roster, they may simply release Renee Montgomery rather than committing more money to her, even though they currently hold her rights.

Looking to 2021

Now that Chennedy “Hollywood” Carter has proven she can be a prolific scorer at the highest level, Dream fans should be very excited for the future. Her usage rate of 31.4% ranked first in the entire league, and she only had three games where she scored in single digits, including the game in which she got injured. A starting lineup of Carter and Courtney Williams, who averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, in addition to Laney, if she returns, could give a lot of teams trouble.

Atlanta struggled on both sides of the court in 2020, ranking 10th in defensive rating and 11th in offensive rating. The team should have the personnel to improve the offense, but improving the defense could be tougher. Tiffany Hayes, a 2018 All-Defensive player, is presumed to return for the Dream and would help provide a huge boost on defense. The Dream allowed their opponents to shoot 51% from inside the arc, worst in the league, and allowed 0.95 points per play, which ranks tenth in the league. Monique Billings and Elizabeth Williams need help inside, which could come from Kalani Brown or Brittney Brewer, who are both young players under contract for 2021. However, neither averaged more than 6.5 minutes on the court in 2020, so the Dream might look elsewhere in free agency for post help.

The Dream have the talent and scoring power to surprise some people next year, but they will need to improve on the defensive end to get back into the playoffs. 

Want to read about another team? Here are our previously published breakdowns:

Thanks for reading the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter. If you like our work, be sure to check out our stats site, our podcast, and our social media accounts on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. All stats are compiled from Her Hoop Stats, and more information on WNBA free agency can be found here.