'Hectic business': WNBA trade a learning curve for Jade Melbourne

Kane Pitman previews the 2024 WNBA season (4:23)

Nothing But Net's Kane Pitman previews the upcoming WNBA season, and the Aussie imports looking to make their mark. (4:23)

On Sunday, Jade Melbourne was on court preparing for Seattle Storm's WNBA opener against Minnesota Lynx.

Fast forward 48 hours and the Australian guard is in another time zone fresh from her first training session with Washington after being traded to the Mystics on the eve of the new season.

A new city, new teammates and a new role await the 21-year-old who in her second campaign remains the youngest player in the WNBA.

She told ESPN she was working out at Seattle headquarters when she was called into the office.

"The General Manager and Associate GM were sitting there and I thought 'oh this looks like bad news' and I was told I'd been traded to Washington, they were super nice about it, I got out of the meeting, Washington called and said they'd booked me on a flight the next morning.

"I packed up all my stuff, got up the next morning and went to the airport, arrived in Washington, was picked up and had a workout with the coaches that night, got my new car and new apartment and now I'm a Mystic."

"It's been hectic but I'm happy to be here."

It's been an eye-opener about the cut-throat industry for Melbourne who, after four WNBL seasons under her belt with Canberra, the first as an 18-year-old, was drafted to Seattle with pick 33 in 2022.

She debuted last season, averaging 2.6 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists off the bench, and was sent to Washington at the weekend in exchange for a 2025 third round selection.

"I always understood the WNBA was a business and now I've seen it for myself," Melbourne says.

"It was nothing I did, it maybe wasn't ultimately what Seattle wanted to do but the whole business side of things with salary caps - it's amazing how things can change. It's been hectic and I don't wish it upon anyone to be honest. I find myself very grateful that I'm still on a team, still playing on opening night and I have a great opportunity here at Washington.

"I think there's a mixture of guards and bigs, a really good balance. I don't know what my role will look like yet, I think I'll gradually work my way into the team. I've only been on court with the team once and I'm learning the terminology and plays very quickly.

"It's very different to the situation I would have been in in Seattle, there's a very established point guard in Sky (Skylar Diggins-Smith, great guards in Jewell (Loyd), Sami (Whitcomb) and Jordan (Horston) so I think it's a different opportunity and I'm excited for the challenge and what it might present."

The swift move has been made smoother thanks to a reunion with former Capitals teammate and 2021-22 Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Sykes and familiar faces in past WNBL imports Karlie Samuelson (Townsville, 2022-23) and Didi Richards (Sydney, 2023-24).

"Being reunited with Slim (Skyes) was great, she spotted me up in the weight room and we ran up to each other and had a big hug. Didi and Karlie are great humans. They're a great group and I feel right at home," Melbourne said.

"Having a familiar face to ask what you might feel is a dumb question like 'where's the nearest grocery store' is nice, they're so willing to help and having some people I feel comfortable around is making this a lot easier."

Another familiar face awaits on opening night when the Mystics face New York with Opals coach Sandy Brondello at the helm of the Liberty for a third season.

Melbourne won't have to wait long to face her former team, which features Australians Ezi Magbegor and Sami Whitcomb, with the Storm away to Washington on Monday [AEST].

It's been an offseason of movement for other members of the Aussie contingent with Bec Allen (traded by Connecticut) the latest in a long, rich history of Australians to represent the Phoenix Mercury and Alanna Smith finding a new home at the Lynx, after a breakout 2023 with Chicago Sky, for what will be her sixth season in the league.

After recovering from knee issues which sidelined her for much of the WNBL season with Melbourne Boomers, Kristy Wallace will suit up for Indianna where the Fever have exercised her fourth-year team option. She's not the only Aussie at the franchise with Beijing Olympian, 2006 World Cup and 2004 WNBA champion Tully Bevilaqua part of the coaching group.

World Cup All-Star Five member Steph Talbot makes her return to the W after recovering from a ruptured ACL and takes her place on the Los Angeles Sparks team. She will call Aari McDonald, who took the WNBL by storm for Perth Lynx last season, and 2019-20 league MVP and Canberra championship player Kia Nurse team mates.

Opals assistant coach and two-time WNBL championship coach Paul Goriss continues his coaching journey with the Atlanta Dream who acquired 2023-24 WNBL MVP Jordin Canada in the offseason.

Sharpshooter Amy Atwell and 2024 draft selection Jaz Shelley were both waived by Phoenix at the weekend.