Los Angeles Sparks
15-19, 5th in the Western Conference
Coming into the draft lottery, the Los Angeles Sparks had the lowest chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick. It didn’t matter. The Sparks defied the odds and won the lottery for the second time in franchise history, the first coming in 2008 when they selected the current face of the franchise, Candace Parker. After a disappointing 15-19 campaign in 2011, the Sparks, under new head coach Carol Ross, are hoping to parlay their fortunes in the lottery into adding another player – all signs point to Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike – that can have an immediate impact on this re-shuffled roster like Parker has had since she arrived.
“Picking number one, we’re going with best available,” said Los Angeles Sparks GM Penny Toler. “So, it’s going to be another dynamic player that’s going to come in here and contribute a lot and hopefully be another player that will be with Candace her whole career.”
Adding a No. 1 overall pick can start to change a team's identity, and it's a bit of a new-look Sparks team this year. Los Angeles said goodbye to veterans Tina Thompson and Ticha Penicheiro, but it had a busy offseason that yielded plenty of replacement talent. Los Angeles added forward-center Nicky Anosike, who came via trade from Washington, reclamation project Alana Beard and sharpshooter Marissa Coleman to the mix. In addition to their offseason haul, the Sparks have four of the first 16 picks in the draft, so they will have a lot of options.
“The number one thing I wanted to do was I wanted my team to be set before we drafted because we wanted to have the freedom to pick whoever we want, regardless of position,” Toler said. “We’re there. We can take whoever we want and we’re going to take best available.”
The reason why Los Angeles has that luxury is because Toler was aggressive in filling out the team. Anosike, who averaged 7.2 rebounds last season for Washington, should help the team on the boards, which finished eleventh in rebounding differential in 2011. The Sparks also finished tenth in blocks per game, so the selection of a post player makes sense for Los Angeles.
Beard and Coleman should give this team some added punch on the offensive end. Beard, who missed the last two seasons with a severe ankle injury, is looking to make a comeback. The four-time WNBA All-Star, if she is able to return to form, should inject some energy into the Sparks attack with her 16.2 career scoring average. Coleman gives the Sparks a perimeter threat as she hit 53 3-pointers last season, 11th in the league, and averaged 8.6 points.
“Our team is basically already in place,” said Toler. “If you were to look at our roster, I think we have a championship team already on the table, so anything we add to is going to be like the cherry on top.”
With four high value picks -- and the flexibility to use those picks in any way they want -- the Sparks are one of the more intriguing teams entering the draft. With a new coach, a reshaped roster and a new No. 1 pick, a new era in L.A. is beginning.
-- Anthony Oliva, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
5. Jantel Lavender|
29. Elina Babkina
8. Andrea Riley|
12. Bianca Thomas
20. Angel Robinson
32. Rashidat Junaid
13. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton|
22. Ashley Paris
35. Britney Jordan