2016 Record: 26-8
Key Offseason Moves:
Signed Nneka Ogwumike to Contract Extension
Signed Candace Parker to Contract Extension
Signed Jantel Lavender to Contract Extension
Re-Signed Alana Beard
Re-Signed Essence Carson
Traded for Odyssey Sims
Last Year’s Draft Picks:
2nd Round/15th Overall: Whitney Knight
2nd Round/23rd Overall: Brianna Butler
3rd Round/29th Overall: Talia Walton
This Year’s Draft Picks:
1st Round/11th Overall
3rd Round/35th Overall
The Sparks will return almost everyone from the team that defeated Minnesota in dramatic fashion to capture the WNBA title. The only exception is Kristi Toliver, who could be awfully hard to replace even on a team as stacked as Los Angeles.
When Toliver signed with her hometown Washington Mystics in free agency, the Sparks acted fast by trading for Dallas guard Odyssey Sims. They swapped first-round picks with Dallas and gave up their second-round pick in the trade, leaving L.A. with just one opportunity to draft a player during the first 34 selections. The defending champs don’t have many weaknesses, but drafting 11th overall could land them a difference-maker in their quest to repeat.
One of the many reasons L.A. emerged as an elite team last season was its three-point shooting. A year after ranking second-to-last at 29.7 percent from downtown, the Sparks were No. 1 in the league at 37.5 percent, led by the ultra-efficient 42.4 percent from Toliver. L.A. also led the league in assists and ranked near the bottom in turnovers, due in large part to Toliver’s 2.64 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Sims is a worthy replacement – one of the very best young guards in the league – but she’s not much of a threat from the three-point line and doesn’t have the veteran experience of Toliver. Don’t be surprised if the Sparks try to bolster their backcourt with that 11th pick.
Another area the Sparks could use some help is on the glass. While MVP Nneka Ogwumike and Finals MVP Candace Parker both finished in the top 10 in rebounding, L.A. still ranked second-to-last in both overall rebounding percentage (.477) and second-chance points (8.8 per game). Perhaps the Sparks will look to add a post player to pair with Jantel Lavender in the second unit.