Fantasy women's basketball: What to expect from new-look Los Angeles Sparks

ByEric Moody ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Sparks missed out on the playoffs in 2022 and with 23 losses they endured their second-worst season in franchise history. In fact, over the past two years, only the Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream have had worse records than the Sparks.

The team was plagued with problems last season, including the unexpected exit of star player Liz Cambage and the in-season firing of head coach and general manager Derek Fisher.

The Sparks are preparing for a fresh start in 2023 with a slew of new players joining their roster. This shakeup is welcomed since the team had a tough time on offense last season, particularly from long-range shooting.

The Sparks ranked 10th in points per game last season and were last in both 3-point field goals made per game and 3FG%. To give perspective, the Sparks were the only team to make less than 200 3-point field goals in the entirety of 2022.

The Sparks are heading into the season as a completely transformed team with a positive outlook. The hiring of a new coach and general manager reflects a shift in Los Angeles' philosophy. To revamp their performance this year, key players such as Nneka Ogwumike, Azura Stevens, Jasmine Thomas and Dearica Hamby will be integral in driving the Sparks' trajectory towards success.

What to watch

The Sparks will be almost unrecognizable this season, with several key players departing, including Cambage, Brittney Sykes, Kristi Toliver, Amanda Zahui B., Jasmine Walker and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The changes could make for an exciting and unpredictable season for the team.

Nneka Ogwumike has remained a steadfast member of the Sparks throughout her career, starting from her impressive 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign all the way to the 2016 WNBA championship season. Her 2022 season was particularly noteworthy as she averaged 18.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, her best stats in these categories since 2019.

What made it all the more impressive was the fact that Ogwumike was able to stay on the court for most of the season, having missed only two games after playing a total of 36 games in the previous two seasons. With such a stellar performance, Ogwumike is projected to lead the Sparks in fantasy points.

Meanwhile, Stevens made a big move from the Chicago Sky to the Sparks. In her reserve role with the Sky, she managed to put up 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just 21.9 minutes per game last season, making her a valuable asset.

The Sparks have been in need of someone who can provide offensive versatility, and with Stevens' ability to space the floor and dominate in the post, she fills that gap perfectly. For your fantasy draft, keep an eye out for her in rounds 6 or 7, as she's definitely someone worth targeting.

After suffering a torn ACL in May 2022, Thomas is expected to be available for most of this season. Having eight seasons under her belt with the Connecticut Sun, Thomas averaged 10.6 points, 4.1 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in just under 30 minutes per game in 2021. She's been a force on defense, earning spots on both the WNBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams.

Although she'll face competition from Jordin Canada, Thomas should come out on top. If you're looking for a solid pick in the later rounds of your fantasy draft, keep an eye on Thomas.

Last September, Hamby announced her pregnancy, leaving her availability for the 2023 season uncertain. However, she was involved in a blockbuster trade between the Sparks and Las Vegas Aces, and upon her return, she'll likely have a significant role with the Los Angeles team.

With Katie Lou Samuelson (pregnancy) and Stephanie Talbot (torn ACL) out this season, Hamby's experience and skill could prove invaluable to the team. Last season, she started 32 of 34 games, and earned her second All-Star nod while averaging 9.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. If you're willing to wait until she returns, Hamby could be an excellent late-round draft pick for your team.

If you're in search of a sleeper pick for your fantasy basketball team, Chiney Ogwumike is someone to keep on your radar. With both Samuelson and Talbot sidelined, she's poised to rebound from last season's limited role. If she can see around 20 minutes of playtime with the Sparks, Ogwumike has the potential to contribute significant points, rebounds, and steals to your team.

Sparks team profile

2022 record: 11-25

Coach: Curt Miller

Key additions: Dearica Hamby, Jasmine Thomas, Azura Stevens

Key losses: Liz Cambage, Brittney Sykes, Kristi Toliver, Amanda Zahui B., Jasmine Walker, Olivia Nelson-Ododa

2022 Offensive efficiency: 99.6 (10th)

2022 Defensive efficiency: 108.6 (11th)

2022 Pace: 79.5 possessions per 48 minutes (3rd)

What to expect in 2023: The Sparks are looking to get back on track with two-time Coach of the Year Curt Miller leading the way. They have several new players on board, and Miller has the potential to unlock their full potential. With the core players of Ogwumike, Stevens, Thomas and Hamby, the Sparks could make the playoffs as teams like Chicago and Seattle are rebuilding. Although they may not have the same fantasy appeal as the Aces or Liberty, the Sparks will have a numerous players selected in the later rounds of drafts who could outperform expectations.

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