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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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(Updated) 2023 WNBA Free Agency: Sparks add Dearica Hamby, Jasmine Thomas

The Los Angeles Sparks 2022 was an unmitigated disaster. They missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, their coach parted ways with the team early in the season and Liz Camabge went through a contract divorce after a tough loss against the Sparks. The eventual WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces.

The Sparks have rebuilt their front office and now have Karen Bryant as their general manager and Kurt Miller as their head coach. The team has plenty of open roster spots and plenty of cap space as they head into free agency. The question is, what are they going to do with it?

by numbers*

Free agent (type) (2022 average salary)

  • Lexie Brown (Unrestricted) ($72,141)
  • Jordan Canada (Unrestricted) ($98,000)
  • Sugar Ogwumike (Unrestricted) ($116,390)
  • Nneka Ogwumike (Unrestricted) ($196,267)
  • Brittany Sykes (Unrestricted) ($113,300)
  • Christy Tolliver (Unrestricted) ($196,100)

Cap Space: $777,165

Analysis: What’s happened so far

The Sparks have been one of the most active teams in free agency. They started by trading away Jasmine Walker, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Kianna Smith for Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas and the No. 10 pick in the 2023 draft. The trade reunites JT with Kurt Miller, gives the Sparks a first-round pick this year and clears up a couple of roster spots.

Los Angeles made another splash by trading a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 first-round pick for Amanda Zhuhui Bee and Las Vegas Aces forward Dierica Hamby. Hamby has been a great rotation player for the Champion Aces. While WNBPA investigates Las Vegas’ handling of Hamby’s contract, From the point of view of the Sparks, they found a great player. Kurt Miller and company are hoping a new opportunity will bring out the best in the two-time All-Star.

With over $700,000 in cap space and plenty of quality players rumored to be interested in LA, including former Sparks star candace parkerLos Angeles is far from the moves it made this offseason.

Analysis: What we thought could Happen

Priority No. 1 for Kurt Miller and Sparks is to bring back the Ogwumike sisters. Naneka has been the face of the team, she’s been a spark her entire career, and she’s coming off MVP-level seasons. Sugar continues to improve and the two sisters have made it clear that they are a package deal. If Sparks fails to bring them back, that tells me one of two things. Bryant and Miller either did a poor job of convincing Ogwumix of their plan, or they have very drastic reform in mind and want to completely clean even their best players.

According to Rachel Galligan, Sparks led to an eligible proposal for Keanna Smith. So let’s assume Smith is on the team (though just because they make an offer doesn’t mean she’ll be on the roster). For Christy Toliver and Jordan Canada, I hope they go. Toliver is old, expensive and constantly battling injuries and I don’t think Canada will fit Kurt Miller’s offense. Lexie Brown and Brittany Sykes have both expressed their desire to stay in LA and have played very well down the stretch, but I’m unsure how Kurt Miller views them and what offers they may receive from other teams. So, to me, he has a 50/50 chance of returning.

Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

If LA keeps Ogwumikes, Slim and Brown, which leaves them with two roster spots and two second-round draft picks, it means there won’t be much movement for the Sparks this offseason. I doubt that this happens. Chances are some of their quality players will not return and players like Chennedy Carter could be on the move. Yes, he is an explosive offensive player, but he had problems off the court last year in Atlanta and LA, which took him out of the game with several DNP coaches decisions based on his conduct. These kinds of issues seem like something the Sparks want to sidestep during their roster retooling, even considering his talent and how much they gave up on him during the early trade.

So, if the Sparks are a buyer this off-season who should they go after? One name to keep an eye on is Candace Parker. She was a lifelong spark before leaving for her hometown team, the Chicago Sky, and now that Derek Fisher is gone, maybe she’s back in LA? Speaking of Chicago, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley are an interesting pairing. Vanderquig appears to be in motion; Maybe the LA Sunshine can convince them to play another season together? Kia Nurse is another free agent to keep in mind. He is an available guard and I believe a potential upgrade at that position.

Plus, trading is always an option; Skylar Diggin-Smith is one player I will keep an eye on. He had his own issues in Phoenix; A change of scenery and a major role as the focal point of Sparks’ offense could be a good move for all parties involved.

This off season is huge for Los Angeles. This is the first under Miller and Bryant and losing back-to-back is unacceptable. It will be interesting to see how they fix the mess made by the previous regime and it starts now with free agency.

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