Tina Charles in charge: A possible sisters reunion?

Joe Scarnici

Note from October 29, 2013:

Last week, we saw a tweet from Charles about "living in LA." There probably isn't too much you can decipher from it, especially with no CBA in place, but it's something that only fuels speculation. So feel free to recomment on it here.

*I write this on an off day and less than 24 hours after the Denver Broncos looked like Super Bowl XLVIII champs on national TV, so there may be too much "wishful thinking" involved. Bear with me.

Tina Charles is one of the best young players in the world. She won a WNBA MVP in 2012--three months before her 24th birthday--for leading the Connecticut Sun to a 25-9 regular season record (#1 in East) and for leading the league in double doubles and in rebounding. Last year's Sun team came within one game of reaching the WNBA Finals for the third time in franchise history, but they would ultimately lose to a short-handed Indiana Fever team (who would go on to win the 2012 WNBA Championship).

Fast-forward almost a year, and Connecticut's sitting at the bottom of the league, not just the East. Let's briefly recap the major Sun personnel changes during the 2012-13 offseason:

  • Sun fire head coach Mike Thibault, hire Anne Donovan as his replacement. Thibault was snatched up by the Washington Mystics, who are 2-0 against the Sun going into tonight's game.
  • F Asjha Jones decides not to play for the Sun in 2013, citing multiple injury issues/overuse. She was replaced by Kelsey Griffin (adequate at best) and Kayla Pedersen (not even adequate at this point)
  • G Danielle McCray tore her Achilles tendon while playing in Italy last Spring, which led to the acquisition of less-than-desirable fill-ins (the latest being Izi Castro Marques).
  • Sun draft Kelly Faris from UConn with 11th overall pick (ahead of likely All-Rookie team member Alex Bentley).

Each change seems to have hurt the Sun in some way. But what has hurt the Sun even more is the play of the reigning MVP. Although Charles' raw numbers look fine, her FG% is hovering around 40% and her +/- resembles that of a deep bench player, not that of an MVP. At times, she's looked disinterested in playing in the league, let alone being a member of the Sun. She's also dropped hints on more than one occasion that she might have her eyes set on being elsewhere in 2014. Knowing that--and knowing that she's a restricted free agent coming up soon (we'll have to see how the CBA affects free agency this year)--here is my trade proposal:

The Los Angeles Sparks receive Tina Charles from a sign-and-trade agreement from the Connecticut Sun and Danielle McCray in exchange for Nneka Ogwumike, Jenna O'Hea, and a pick.

Why Connecticut would agree to this trade: If Donovan is going to return in 2014, then Charles is even more likely to demand her way out of CT. What better way to get value for your young MVP (and former #1 overall pick) than to receive another recent #1 overall pick? And if Connecticut wins the draft lottery, they will be able to pair Nneka up with her sister, Chiney (who is currently the #1-ranked prospect in 2014). That would give the Sun a pair of dynamic young posts. O'Hea gives them a decent bench SF who can stretch the floor.

Why Connecticut wouldn't make the trade: What happens if you don't get the #1 pick (or #4 pick)? A one-for-one post-for-post trade would still leave CT thin inside.

Why LA would agree to this trade: If you're going to trade Nneka away to allow Candace to move back to the 4, you're going to want to replace her with a talented young center. That's Charles all day. A Parker/Charles 4-5 pairing would be scary for the rest of the league.

Moving Candace back to her natural 4 would take away from the speed advantage she has at the 5 (she plays better when she's in the paint, but keep in mind that Charles has a face-up game--so it wouldn't be much of an issue for Parker to play on the low block at times), but it would also cut down on the turnstile she's creating defensively at that spot. Charles has a more refined offensive skill set than does Ogwumike, and she's a better defender when she actually cares, so there's upside to this move. McCray would be another bench guard option, assuming she heals well.

Why LA wouldn't make the trade: Nneka is a finisher who is at her best when she's on the move to the basket, whether that's in transition or off a designed cut. She's also more athletic than Charles and does not demand the ball nearly as much as Charles would. This allows greater team harmony, as Parker, Toliver, and Harding all have a scorer's mentality while Nneka just "gets in where she fits in".

You can't do this with Charles. LA would have to feature her heavily within the offense (which would require a new offense or an actual offense, whichever you prefer) to make sure she's getting enough touches to be fully engaged. With two ball-dominant perimeter players, that'd be hard to manage. It's possible that acquiring Charles would signal the end of Toliver or Harding in LA, but that's not such a bad thing--especially if LA doesn't win the WNBA title this year.