A new era in LA

Seattle Storm v Los Angeles Sparks
Lexie Brown signed a two-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Sparks. | Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sparks will be without Nneka Ogwumike or an equivalent star for the first time in franchise history, forcing LA to enter a new era in their storied history.

It’s a new day in Los Angeles. The sun is still shining, but the Storm got the best of the Sparks, with Nneka Ogwumike taking her talents to Seattle and leaving the City of Angels star-less.

She’s not the only key player leaving the Sparks. Katie Lou and Karlie Samuelson also have exited the team, while Atlanta acquired Jordin Canada and the the No. 12 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft in a trade that sent guard Aari McDonald and the No. 8 pick back to the Sparks.

The trade indicates that the team is rebuilding and focusing on getting as many picks as possible in this year’s draft, and given the pool of players the might be available, that’s not such a bad idea. Los Angeles now has three first-round picks, two of which are in the lottery.

On social media, the team highlighted those picks, along with an image of Azurá Stevens and Zia Cooke, to signal the exciting future of the franchise. Nevertheless, Ogwumike is irreplaceable.

New faces in LA

The Sparks did make some good moves, signing Lexie Brown to a two-year contract extension, re-signing Rae Burrell and Layshia Clarendon, bringing in new players Kia Nurse, Aari McDonald, Monique Billings and offering training camp contracts to Virág Kiss and Taylor Mikesell.

Nurse averaged 5.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game last season for Seattle. For the Dream, McDonald averaged 7.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 2023, while Billings averaged 4.8 points, 5.0 assists and 0.8 assists per game.

All three were introduced as the newest members of the Sparks on Wednesday.

A focus on the future

In a WNBA that features super teams in the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces, the Sparks have focused on retooling and rebuilding, rather than trying to fight fire with fire against the top-tier teams in the league.

It’s a surprising move by a franchise that’s won three titles and is suffering its longest playoff drought, missing the playoffs for three years and counting. However, the market is the market. As disappointing as it is to not be vying for a title, this path very well may be the fastest way back to long-term success, even if it’s frustrating in the short term.

The WNBA Draft is now the most important upcoming event for Sparks fans. They have the No. 2, 4, 8 picks in the first round and No. 24 in the third round. We’re still a ways away from knowing the players who will declare, but fans need to keep their eyes on mock drafts and NCAAW action to see who Los Angeles should select as they enter this new era of Sparks basketball.

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