Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
The Los Angeles Sparks had a 24-10 season in 2012, which was a nine win improvement over their 2011 campaign. The team made some major moves including hiring Carol Ross as head coach, signing guard Alana Beard in free agency last year, and drafting Nnemkadi Ogwumike of Stanford University as the number one overall pick in the 2012 Draft. All of these moves culminated into a Western Conference Finals appearance. How can the Sparks continue to improve for 2013?
Here are some things that I see with the Sparks:
1. Keep the younger core rotation players together.
The Sparks have two number one picks playing together in the low post with Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. In addition, the team also has guard Kristi Toliver and center Jantel Lavender who provide a strong perimeter and backup post presence for the team.
It should be noted that Toliver is a restricted free agent, and therefore she's able to sign offer sheets with other teams, but in any circumstance, the Sparks definitely need to match any sheet that is signed.
There are two more younger players on the Sparks who are reserved (Jenna O'Hea) or a restricted free agent (Marissa Coleman). It appears to me that O'Hea will be re-signed and will play in LA this season (she can't negotiate with anyone else anyway), and the Sparks will probably let Coleman walk since she hasn't been an efficient scorer for them last year.
2. It would be nice to add another veteran frontcourt player if the Sparks cannot keep DeLisha Milton-Jones.
Milton-Jones is now 38 years old and is an unrestricted free agent. I haven't heard of her retirement being imminent, but when a player hits his or her late 30's, this is always a significant possibility. The Sparks already have another strong, relatively older veteran player in Alana Beard who starts for them, but if Milton Jones doesn't re-sign with LA, her presence will be missed.
3. Consider bringing in another player who can play point guard.
While the trio of Parker, Beard, and Toliver combined for over 11 assists, they also gave away 9 turnovers, and none of these players had above a 1.5 assist to turnover ratio last year. This is one statistic that would support the rationale that some people have in favor of the Sparks signing another point guard in free agency.
Lindsey Harding is an unrestricted free agent for this offseason and would be highly sought after by numerous teams besides the Atlanta Dream where she played last year. Over the last couple seasons she has become a considerably more efficient ball handler while still being able to score when necessary. Should she be with the Sparks in 2013, the offense may be much more efficient and help them win more, in particular for the postseason.
The Los Angeles Sparks have a team that looks to be a contender for 2013. On top of that, they have a core that is made primarily of younger players complemented with savvy older veterans, such as Alana Beard and Delisha Milton-Jones from last season's team. With the right moves made, the Sparks may not only be a contender that could make it back to the Finals, but it also could win it all, perhaps this season, and still be in a good position to make it back to the Finals for the next several years.