The Los Angeles Sparks are quietly crushing free agency.
All eyes have been on the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces – rightfully so – as they put together All-Star rosters. But the Sparks are creating their own strong squad.
The new-look Los Angeles team may not lead to the instant titles New York and Las Vegas fans are anticipating. Still, after missing the playoffs the last two seasons, the Sparks are getting back on track.
A historic WNBA franchise with three titles, LA has not been the same since the 2021 offseason. Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray left during free agency, and then a series of bad decisions by former coach Derek Fisher plagued the team.
But in 2023, things are looking up.
New coach Curt Miller has signed impactful free agents and traded for an All-Star, and he is expected to re-sign two other top players.
The first headline-grabbing move Miller made was bringing 12-year veteran guard Jasmine Thomas with him from Connecticut to LA. Thomas missed most of last season for the Sun with an ACL injury, but now that she’s healthy, the 33-year-old makes a great addition to the Sparks roster.
Thomas had been consistent over the last few seasons prior to her injury, and she’s a high IQ guard that makes good decisions on both ends of the court. In 2021, the Duke product averaged 10.6 points, 4.1 assists and 1.3 steals for the Sun.
📍 𝐋𝐨𝐬 𝐀𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐬 is the place to be #LetsGoSparks pic.twitter.com/sRZkaUbCEj— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 3, 2023
📍 𝐋𝐨𝐬 𝐀𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐬 is the place to be #LetsGoSparks pic.twitter.com/sRZkaUbCEj
Then came the biggest move for the Sparks: The Dearica Hamby trade. The deal was overshadowed by controversy regarding the Aces’ treatment of Hamby, who claims she was traded because she was pregnant.
But strictly from a personnel basis, this was a win for LA. Hamby is a two-time All-Star and two-time sixth player of the year. She’s versatile and played a variety of roles during her time with Las Vegas. Now Hamby says she’s looking forward to stepping out of that “sixth player” box and contributing in bigger ways. Hamby averaged 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 assists last season as she helped the Aces to a title.
The Sparks also signed Azurá Stevens, a player poised for stardom. The 27-year-old forward spent the last three seasons playing for a stacked Chicago Sky team. Even while sharing minutes with the likes of Candace Parker and Emma Meesseman, Stevens was a major contributor. Last season she averaged 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
itssss officiallll 💛💛 soooo excited for this new chapter in my career 😊 what’s uppppppp LA 💜🤪 pic.twitter.com/u0yaljUsRC— azurá b. stevens (@stevens_azura) February 3, 2023
itssss officiallll 💛💛 soooo excited for this new chapter in my career 😊 what’s uppppppp LA 💜🤪 pic.twitter.com/u0yaljUsRC
And while Miller is making it a priority to bring in new talent, he’s also not neglecting who LA already has: Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.
Nneka was the brightest spot in a dim season for LA in 2022, averaging 18.1 points (the third most of her 11-year career), 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 assists in her first All-Star season since 2019.
Chiney was a key contributor off the bench for LA last season, putting up 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Just a year earlier, the 30-year-old had back-to-back injuries: a microfracture in her right knee and a torn left Achilles. A healthy Chiney is capable of being much more than a role player, as the former rookie of the year averaged 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game before being hampered by injuries and missing nearly three full seasons.
The Ogwumike are free agents this offseasons, but both have made their intentions to re-sign with the Sparks clear.