Heading into the 2015 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile, the title is as up for grabs as ever. Each of the eight contenders can state their case for why they will take home the trophy come October. With that in mind, WNBA.com is profiling all eight one-by-one as the Sept. 17 tip-off approaches.
Brian Agler’s first season as the head coach in Los Angeles has been a wild ride.
First the team welcomed back Nneka Ogwumike. Then they welcomed back guard Kristi Toliver. And then they welcomed back two-time MVP Candace Parker.
All the while, the journey to the No. 4 spot in the West has shaped them into an intriguing contender, despite their seeding.
They played extremely well down the stretch and are looking to use that momentum to their advantage in the postseason.
Here’s three reasons why the Los Angeles Sparks will win the WNBA championship.
Candace Parker may have missed the first half of the WNBA season, but she hasn’t missed a beat since her return. Parker has put up averages that would have her in serious contention for WNBA MVP had she played the entire season.
When she’s at her best, the Los Angeles Sparks are a dangerous team. Their first-round matchup against the Minnesota Lynx will provide a true test, pitting Parker against last year’s MVP in Maya Moore.
It’s not often that a No.1 versus No. 4 playoff matchup could be sold as the most “must-see” series, but this matchup has that feeling. One thing is certain: With Parker in the fold, Los Angeles has every chance in the world to knock off the Western Conference leaders.
Candace Parker may be the most talked-about player on the roster, but the reason they’ve been so good doesn’t stop with her. Agler’s roster features plenty of star power, and it’s most heavily noticed in the frontcourt.
Nneka Ogwumike continues to impress in her fourth year as a pro and is posting a career-best 16.5 points per game. Her dominant play after returning from an injury was enough to earn her a third-consecutive All-Star nod.
And she’s been joined in the frontcourt by Jantel Lavender, who earned her first All-Star nod. There’s an argument to be made for Lavender when it comes to the Most Improved Player conversation, and those improvements were vital to the Sparks’ success this season.
She’s averaging a career bests in points per game (14.5), rebounds per game (8.3) and blocks per game (1.2).
That depth in the frontcourt will help be beneficial in the playoffs – and especially in the first round against Sylvia Fowles.
Head coach Brian Agler knew all along that this season’s Sparks journey would be a bit of a waiting game. Without Parker, Toliver or Ogwumike to start the season, Los Angeles had to weather quite the storm.
But they endured, just like Agler hoped they would, and now they’re poised to compete in the WNBA Western Conference Semifinals. Now, they must endure a little bit more if they’re going to take home the ultimate prize.
And if there’s any calm, steady voice on the sidelines that can keep the players focused on and off the court, it’s Agler.