WNBA

Sparks can Re-sign Free Agents to Affirm Core

on

Each week over the first three months of the offseason, we will look at what each team has in store for free agency. We will look at pending free agents and then consider who may be a logical target for them to bring in. This series will start in standings order for the teams that missed the postseason and then go in order of elimination when it comes to playoff teams. We have looked at the Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever. Today we move on to the Los Angeles Sparks.

In the first year of transition for the Sparks, finding their identity was the biggest challenge. Candace Parker, Riquna Williams and Chelsea Gray all left in free agency. Nneka Ogwumike was back, but injuries almost entirely derailed her season. Given that, LA still found a way to build one of the best defensive units in the league. Now they enter free agency with a chance to bring in talent to augment the hustle.

Pending Free Agents

While the first two teams we have reviewed have had plenty of free agents to consider, the Sparks are a little more secure. Nia Coffey is the only unrestricted free agent on the team. Te’a Cooper, Lauren Cox, Marianna Tolo and Maria Vadeeva round out the reserved list. The rest of the roster is in place.

Coffey endeared herself well to fans in her first season with the team. She was a 3-point sniper (41.7 percent on 3.8 attempts per game) while tying with Amanda Zahui B.for most blocks on the team. Cooper felt primed for a breakout this season, but with more responsibility and usage her efficiency dipped. The potential is still clear, however, so bringing her back feels likely.

Cox was one of the ideal fliers a team could take last season. The Fever waived the former number three overall pick after just 25 games over two seasons, leading to a rebuilding team taking a chance on talent. While she was just okay statistically, Cox played with a level of comfort that proved to those on the outside that she does deserve a place in the league. Tolo has not played in the league since 2015, winning championships in the WNBL instead. Vadeeva last played in the W in 2019, and has been playing overseas since.

The Plan Forward

Entering free agency the Sparks only have $157,417 in cap room, per HerHoopStats. That can immediately be sapped by re-signing even one of the aforementioned three players. For this roster to change in any sort of way, trades will have to happen. The Sparks do not have their first-round pick this season, making any sort of maneuverability slightly more difficult.

The issue with how veteran-heavy the roster is comes with the salary cap ramifications. With seven of the nine players under contract making at least $113,300, moving around the margins will be essential. Predicting trades is even tougher than trying to figure out free agency and the draft, so relying on Derek Fisher to make the right moves is the path forward. Praising Fisher, coincidentally, transitions perfectly into our closing thoughts for the week.

Parting Thoughts

It was certainly commonplace to bash Fisher as a coach after the three-seeded Los Angeles Sparks lost their first playoff game in the bubble, ending their run for a title early. Then, as a General Manager, Fisher watched key players Parker, Williams and Gray leave to pursue a title elsewhere, relegating the Sparks to the periphery of the postseason instead of fighting for a double-bye in the first round. And yet, Fisher deserves plenty of credit for the season that was.

Reestablishing a franchise culture amidst such a drastic roster overturn is not a small feat. Combine that challenge with the injuries across the roster and it becomes nearly impossible. Chiney Ogwumike was limited to just seven games. Nneka Ogwumike missed 14 games due to injury. Losing such a fulcrum on both ends of the court should lead to a disastrous season. Add in injuries to Kristi Toliver and rookie Jasmine Walker, and Vadeeva not joining the team, and it had the makings of a bottom two finish and a disheartened team.

Instead, the Sparks became one of the most dominant defensive teams in the league. Despite being the worst rebounding team, they finished third in defensive rating. They were second in steals per game (8.3) and fifth in blocks (4.2). Brittney Sykes finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and was a stalwart for the team. Fisher has created a culture that prized defense, and with reasonable health next season, returning to the postseason feels like a feasible goal.

About Corey Rausch

Recommended for you

Powered by themekiller.com