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Season In Review: Los Angeles Sparks

As the end of 2021 draws near, WNBA.com is wrapping up this 25th season by recapping each team’s season. Take a look back at notable contributors and season highlights with the 2021 Season In Review. Next up is the Los Angeles Sparks.

Overview:

 

With only three players from the 2020 squad returning, the Los Angeles Sparks were faced with a rebuild in the off-season. The team brought in some veteran experience with Erica Wheeler, Amanda Zahui B., and Nia Coffey during free agency. In addition to drafting Jasmine Walker and Arella Guirantes at No.7 and No.22.

 

Head Coach, Derek Fisher’s goal to remake this team’s identity was halted as they battled with injuries all season long, with four players (including LA’s centerpiece Nneka Ogwumike) missing 72% of possible games.

 

Despite this, the team’s gritty defense (No. 3 in the league) and offensive power came from the new addition of Erica Wheeler as she was second in points behind Ogwumike. This allowed the Sparks to still have a chance to clinch the eighth Playoff seed. Unfortunately, the team lost by three points to the Dallas Wings and missed the Playoffs. The Sparks finished the season, 12-20.

 

Considering all of the Sparks’ injuries, it will be interesting to see how Derek Fisher can rebuild next season with the majority of the team projected to be healthy.

 

Top Contributors:

 

Nneka Ogwumike

Nneka Ogwumike battled with a knee injury this season missing a good portion of games. Despite this, when Ogwumike was on the floor she fueled the team’s offense, leading them to a four-game win streak. Additionally, the 2016 MVP led the team in scoring (14.5) and hit big shots for the Sparks when they desperately needed them. On Aug. 20th vs. Atlanta Dream, with 0.1 seconds remaining, she put up the game-winning put-back that gave the team a 66-64 win.

 

Erica Wheeler

After not playing in 2020 due to being in WNBA Medical Protocol for the whole season, Erica Wheeler returned to the WNBA this season now on a new team and better than ever. With ease, the 2019 All-Star MVP stepped in as the new point guard for the Sparks. She averaged a career-high 13.7 points per game and finished 5th in clutch points in the WNBA. The 5-7 guard’s nasty crossover not only broke many ankles this season but showed her ability to score on teams’ top defenders. Erica Wheeler dropped a season-high 22 points (tied two other times during the season) and dished out five assists against Chicago to help lift LA to victory.

 

Brittney Sykes

In her second season with the Sparks, Sykes established herself as one of the top defensive threats in the league. The 5-9 guard tied for first in the WNBA for steals per game (1.8) and led the league with 58 total steals. Even with all of the injuries, she held it down for the team, leading them to the third-highest defensive efficiency in the league this season. Her impressive defense earned her First Team All-Defensive honors. On June 20, she recorded a career-high seven steals vs. the New York Liberty.

Season Highlights:

Nneka Ogwumike Named the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award Recipient 

Nneka Ogwumike was named the 2021 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award recipient for the third consecutive year.

Four-Game Win Streak

From August 15-22nd the Sparks went on a four-game win streak, defeating the Indiana Fever Fever, the Atlanta Dream twice, and the New York Liberty.

 

Ogwumike & Augustus Named to the W25 List

2016 MVP Nneka Ogwumike and assistant coach (4x WNBA Champion) Seimone Augustus were named to the WNBA’s Top 25 greatest and most influential players of all-time list, the W25.