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Seattle Storm trade Natasha Howard, Sami Whitcomb in flurry of deals

Natasha Howard was named the WNBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. (Getty)

NEW YORK (AP) — In a flurry of WNBA trades, the New York Liberty acquired All-Star Natasha Howard from the defending champion Seattle Storm while the No. 1 pick in this year’s upcoming draft ended up in Dallas.

Also this week: Seattle Storm add All-Star Dupree; Langhorne retires

The Liberty acquired Howard as part of a three-team deal with the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday. The three-time WNBA champion provides a solid interior player for New York to pair with last season’s No. 1 draft pick, Sabrina Ionescu. As a designated core player for Seattle, Howard had to approve the trade to New York.

New York sent the No. 1 pick in the draft this year and the Mercury’s first-round pick next year to the Storm. The Liberty acquired that pick from Phoenix by sending Kia Nurse and Megan Walker to the Mercury for the sixth pick this year and their first-round choice next year.

The No. 1 pick didn’t stay in Seattle long as the Storm traded it to Dallas for Katie Lou Samuelson and the Wings’ second-round pick in 2022. The Wings become the first team in WNBA history to hold the first and second overall picks in the same draft. In addition, Dallas also holds the fifth, seventh and 13th selections in 2021.

“The opportunity to acquire the top pick in a draft does not present itself very often,” Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb said. “By securing this pick, we will ensure our ability to draft the player at the top of our draft list while having additional draft assets at our disposal to further improve our team.”

It’s only the third time in the league’s history that the top pick in the draft has been traded. It moved in 2010 when Minnesota sent it to Connecticut as part of a deal for hometown star Lindsay Whalen.

The No. 1 selection was also traded on draft night in 2007 by Phoenix to Minnesota.

There is a lot of uncertainty around this season’s draft over who will be available to be picked. The NCAA granted every player an extra year of eligibility, meaning top seniors like Dana Evans of Louisville and Michaela Onyenwere of UCLA could return to college next year.

Also on Wednesday, in a separate trade with Seattle, the Liberty got guard Sami Whitcomb for the rights to Stephanie Talbot.

“We have the privilege of welcoming multiple-time WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb to Brooklyn,” general manager Jonathan Kolb said. “The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated. She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for and earned everything that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams, and who will fit seamlessly into Walt Hopkins’ system.”

Howard won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019. The 29-year-old forward won titles in Minnesota in 2017 and Seattle in 2018 and last season.

“I am very excited to be a part of the New York Liberty organization,” she said. “I’m also excited to meet my new teammates and the fans. I’m so pumped about the 2021 season.”

Howard averaged 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds last season while shooting 53% from the field.

Whitcomb was a key member of the Storm’s franchise the last few years. The 32-year-old is a solid 3-point shooter.

Nurse, the Liberty’s 10th overall selection in the 2018 WNBA Draft, averaged 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game over 89 contests (59 starts) during her three-year tenure with New York.

She led the team in scoring the past two seasons. Walker was drafted ninth by New York last season and averaged 3.3 points and 1.5 rebounds while playing in 18 games.

“I would like to thank Kia Nurse and Megan Walker for their contributions to our organization,” added Kolb. “The unfortunate part of transactions such as these is that you have to say goodbye to people who have contributed to the team in so many ways. ”

Finally the Minnesota Lynx traded forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan to the Storm for the 2022 first-round pick they had acquired from Phoenix through New York.