Los Angeles Sparks Draft Preview
First 3 Selections in 2013
Last 3 First Round Picks (Pick, Year)
Areas of Improvement
Perhaps one of the most emotional moments in the WNBA last season, Candace Parker walked off the court during the playoffs in tears, seeking comfort on the shoulder of her mother.
The Los Angeles Sparks exited the playoffs last season after failing to connect on a buzzer-beating shot -- a gut-wrenching blow for a team that could have conceivably won a WNBA title.
"We're going to take that and let that be a motivational factor as we move into this season," head coach Carol Ross said. "clearly we will use all of our experiences, both good and bad, and try to be a better team moving forward. Those moments break your heart, but you love coaching players that take winning and losing so much to heart."
The Los Angeles Sparks had one of the toughest cores in the league last year with Parker and Rookie of the Year Nneka Ogwumike dominating inside and with clutch shooter Kristi Tolliver burning the nets from the wing. This season, that core is about to get even stronger after the team signed guard Lindsey Harding from the Atlanta Dream. Ross is no stranger to Harding, having coached her during her time with the Dream before she came to Los Angeles.
"She's going to bring some speed to the floor on both ends," Ross said. "She's going to open up shots and make them easier for all of her teammates. She's extroverted - an energy type player - and typically teammates love playing with those kinds of players."
Ross said adding Harding will give the team some much needed depth in their backcourt. Having Harding's speed complements the team's centerpiece offensive strategy of scoring baskets on transition, she said.
"When we're in transition, it's going to be just 'Whomever gets the ball lets go,'" Ross said. "That way we can move faster and have multiple options to kick the play into overdrive."
Los Angeles is set to take the No. 10 pick in this year's WNBA Draft. Being near the bottom rung of the draft ladder makes it tough to prepare in advance since it's often a matter of picking whomever is left, but Ross said she has a wish list of a few players. Whomever the team selects this year, Ross said, will have a much wider safety net to get accustomed to the team compared to Ogwumike last year, who basically was expected to start and produce the moment she stepped on the court.
"The person we draft this time will have some opportunities to learn and grow at a level that's less intense," she said.
Expectations are always high in Los Angeles and the team expects to make a legitimate run for the title once again this season. But the way the landscape will change this season as a result of the influx of such megastar draft picks makes this year a difficult year to predict, Ross said.
"We've got our fair share of talent, a lot of other teams are excited about their teams as well," Ross said. "It's going to be hard to predict. You couldn't predict last year that Indiana was going to win it but they put a run together at the right time. Every team has talent and it's going to be fun to watch it all play out."
2012 (top 3 picks)
1. Nneka Ogwumike
13. Farhiya Abdi
15. Khadijah Rushdan
5. Jantel Lavender
29. Elina Babkina
8. Andrea Riley
20. Angel Robinson
32. Rashidat Junaid
1. Kristi Toliver(17.5)
2. Candace Parker (17.4)
3. Nneka Ogwumike (14.0)
1. Candace Parker (9.7)
2. Nneka Ogwumike (7.5)
3. Delisha Milton-Jones (4.4)
1. Kristi Toliver (4.9)
2. Candace Parker (3.3)
3. Alana Beard (3.3)