Under first-year head coach Derek Fisher, the Los Angeles Sparks secured the No. 3 seed in the WNBA Playoffs after finishing the regular season with a 22-12 record. Earning a First Round bye, the Sparks beat the Storm in Round 2 to advance to the Semifinals, where they were defeated by the Connecticut Sun (3-0).
Considering this, let’s take a look back at the Sparks’ 2019 campaign.
Leaders: Points (N. Ogwumike, 16.1); Rebounds (N. Ogwumike, 8.8); Assists (Gray, 5.9); Steals (N. Ogwumike, 1.9); Blocks (Parker, 0.8)
In November of 2018, Brian Agler surprised the WNBA world when he announced his resignation as head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks after four years at the helm. During his time in Los Angeles, the Sparks made two consecutive WNBA Finals appearances and won their third title in franchise history in 2016. Less than a month after announcing his resignation, Agler inked a deal to become the next head coach of the Dallas Wings. The Sparks moved swiftly in their coaching search and named longtime Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher head coach on Dec. 5, 2018. Fisher was making his first return to coaching after serving as the New York Knicks head coach from 2014-2016. In his first season as a head coach in the WNBA, Fisher helped lead the Sparks to a 22-12 record, good enough to secure the No. 3 seed in the WNBA Playoffs. After defeating the Seattle Storm in a single-elimination Round 2 matchup, the Sparks were swept by the Sun in the Semifinals. A year removed from a 19-win season that ended in a second-round exit, Fisher brought the Sparks to the Semifinals in just his first season. Although their season was cut short, Fisher’s first season set a sturdy foundation to build on moving forward.
First Team Chelsea
Hands down one of the top point guards in the league, Chelsea Gray appears to be getting better with age. At 27 years old and in her fifth season, Gray averaged 14.5 points per game while also recording career-highs in assists (5.9) and rebounds (3.8) per game. As a result of her stellar play, Gray made her third-straight WNBA All-Star appearance and was All-WNBA First Team for the first time in her career. Over the past few seasons, Gray has established herself as a dynamic threat with elite scoring and facilitating abilities. Based on the way she’s currently trending, don’t be surprised if Gray’s production increases even more in 2020 as she appears to just be hitting her prime.
Candace Parker’s Injury
For one of the biggest names in the WNBA and the face of the Sparks for over a decade, 2019 was a disappointing year on the court for Candace Parker. After suffering a left hamstring injury in a preseason game, Candace Parker did not make her 2019 debut until June 18th. Once she returned to the court, it was clear that Parker’s minutes were limited and that she was trying to adjust to game action after being sidelined for more than a month. In the end, Parker played in 22 games during the 2019 season and averaged career-lows in points (11.2) and rebounds (6.4) per game. On the bright side, Parker is on track to be fully healthy and ready to hit the ground running in 2020, which will be a big boost for a team that was already one of the best in the league even without her at full strength.
With a star-studded roster containing the likes of Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike, the Sparks are a favorite for title contention in 2020. Along with the return of a fully healthy Parker, Chiney Ogwumike is a player to keep an eye on in 2020. A star during her time with the Connecticut Sun, Chiney Ogwumike started 14 of 32 games and averaged career-lows in both points (9.6) and rebounds (5.8) per game. With no first-round pick this upcoming offseason due to the trade, the Sparks will depend heavily on Chiney Ogwumike getting more accustomed to the system and playing a bigger role in 2020.