When Kristi Toliver departed for the nation’s capital in free agency, the Los Angeles Sparks knew they had a huge void to fill.
Toliver had been with the franchise for seven years, and she was one of the key pieces that drove L.A. to the title this past season. Even with stars Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike still in the fold, Toliver’s absence would be an enormous setback in their quest to repeat as champions.
But the Sparks acted fast, and they did about as well as they possibly could in filling that void by trading for Dallas guard Odyssey Sims. L.A. essentially gave up its No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming draft to get their next point guard. A hefty price, but one the Sparks think Sims is well worth.
At NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, the reigning league MVP and reigning Finals MVP spoke to WNBA.com about their newest teammate.
“She’s going to be a great, young player to nurture,” Ogwumike said. “I think she has a bright future ahead of her.”
“I’ve watched her play ever since she was at Baylor,” Parker said. “I think she’s definitely an emotional leader. She can play, and she’s a good addition to our team. We got what we needed.”
Sims has been one of the league’s best scoring guards since the moment she arrived as the second overall pick in 2014. She’s not a great outside shooter, but the lefty has averaged 15.5 points per game over three seasons thanks to her ability to get to the rim. A former winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award – given to the nation’s top point guard – Sims also has a career mark of four assists per game.
With versatile players like Parker around her, Sims won’t be asked to handle all the point-guard duties.
“I think we’ve always been a good team in terms of adjusting to different types of players,” Ogwumike said. “But we also have a core system, and Odyssey will obviously be a huge part of that. I’m just happy with any addition that will help us continue the culture of the Sparks.”
Sims has yet to find much team success in the WNBA, but she certainly has shown an ability to compete with the best at her position. At the USA Basketball Showcase last summer, she and the USA Select Team nearly beat the USA Olympic Team, with Sims tallying 17 points and six assists.
Matching up with the likes of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen, Sims showed why she could be a candidate for the next Olympic team.
Even so, Sims has big shoes to fill as she steps into Toliver’s old role. Meanwhile, Toliver’s new team – which also added former MVP Elena Delle Donne – might have a chance to join L.A. among the league’s elite next season.
“The thing I’ve learned is, it’s a process,” Parker said. “We’ve looked amazing on paper, the Sparks, and hadn’t gotten it done until last season. And there were some years where we didn’t look amazing, but we were able to rally and have a successful season. I think they’re going to be a great, talented team. I have so much respect for [Mystics coach] Mike Thibault, what he’s been able to do in his career, and his knowledge of the game. I think he’ll be able to fit them all together.”