Los Angeles Sparks
13-21, 4th in the Western Conference. Lost in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Just one week into the free-agency period, the Los Angeles Sparks were more active than any other team in the league. Even now as the period heads into its second month, the Sparks are still at the top of the list when it comes to the number of total moves.
Take a deep breath and read this out loud: between re-signing Chanel Mokango, Ticha Penicheiro and Noelle Quinn, signing free agent Ebony Hoffman, trading Andrea Riley and signing Natasha Lacy, Loree Moore, Courtney Paris and LaToya Pringle to training camp contracts, it has been anything but a slow offseason. (Exhale) And yet, on top of all that, the Sparks are presented with an opportunity to add even more talent to the pool when they pick fifth overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft.
“As you can see our roster now has a lot of post and a lot of guards as well, and I think we’re a well-balanced team as of now," said Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom. "But that pick, it will be a nice pick, so whichever way we decide to go, I think we have that option.”
If you look back on Los Angeles’ picks in the 2010 Draft, the team ultimately managed to secure Oklahoma State’s Riley at the No. 8 spot and later signed Chanel Mokango, drafted ninth overall by the Dream, as a free agent in early June. Riley has since been dealt to Tulsa in exchange for a second-round pick in 2012, following up a season in which she averaged 3.4 points in a limited 7.7 minutes per game. Mokango, who averaged just over three minutes per game, will join the ranks of players fighting for a spot in camp.
But Mokango won’t be the only one. Whichever player is selected by L.A. will have a lot of work to do if they want to join the likes of Candace Parker and Tina Thompson.
“That fifth pick will be tough,” said Gillom. “Whoever that fifth pick is, they’re really going to have to come in here and work hard because it’s going to be a tough camp. Really tough.”
Gillom admits it takes time for a player to develop, but also suggests that some teams might not be in a position in which they can afford to spend that time.
Since the league trimmed rosters back from 13 to a total of 11 players to start the 2009 season, general managers and coaches have faced a bit of a predicament: do you take a chance on a younger, undeveloped player in the draft, or do you sign a savvy vet?
“When there’s veteran players available who have been there that are really good players, that’s hard to pass up on,” she said. “That’s why it’s unfortunate that we had to move Riley, and we still have Chanel, but it’s difficult for them.”
Consider it a budget, although we’re not talking money here. Each player on paper takes up the same amount: one spot. The goal is to not only meet budget, but to also make the best selection for the investment with the hopes that it pays off big in the end with a championship win.
As the level of competition in women’s basketball continues to grow, the competition for a starting role on a WNBA team, or even a roster spot for that matter, will become all the more challenging.
But where there’s a challenge to be met, there’s also a reward to be had. And if Gillom and the Sparks are aiming for one thing in 2011, it’s the hopes of raising that trophy high over their heads come October.
-- Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
|8. Andrea Riley||13. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton||1. Candace Parker|
|12. Bianca Thomas||22. Ashley Paris||15. Shannon Bobbitt|
|20. Angel Robinson||35. Britney Jordan||29. Sharnee’ Zoll|
|32. Rashidat Junaid|