Believe it or not, the Sparks have played eleven games, and more than a quarter of the year is done. With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at what the season has been and give out awards. After each quarter mark, doing this will give us a clearer picture of who has consistently been good for the team throughout the year. Let’s start with the MVP award.
MVP Award: Nneka Ogwumike
By every definition conceivable, Nneka Ogwumike is the MVP of the Sparks. She leads the team in points (18.0), rebounds (7.5), and minutes played (32.5). She has also started every single game this year, a feat only she and Liz Cambage can claim. She has the love and respect of her teammates and the Sparks community at large. When they announce players, the roars for Nneka are the loudest, and when crunch time is here, the ball usually ends up in Nneka’s hands. When you add up her production on the floor, leadership with the team and admiration from the fans, the only conclusion you come to is Nneka is the MVP of the Sparks.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brittney Sykes
The Sparks have a lot of turnover from last season’s team, but Sykes has consistently been the Sparks best defender for a few years now. She has the speed and strength to take on the best guards and enough size not to be a liability when being switched on to bigger players. She’s again leading the team in steals and averaging nearly a block a game. Only Cambage has more blocks on the season. With so many dynamic guards in the W, having a 2021 WNBA All-Defensive First-Team player by your side helps tremendously.
Sixth Woman: Chennedy Carter
Sixth woman is hard this early into the season because we are still unsure what the starting five will consistently be night in and night out. I’m sure Liz, Nneka, and Jordin Canada will start every game unless injured, and I have ideas on the fourth and fifth spot, but it’s still being developed as Coach Derek Fisher tinkers with lineups. So far, the Sparks have few players who consistently come off the bench, and from that core, Chennedy Carter has shined.
Hollywood has been a spark plug for the team. She’s a certified bucket, and the passion and fire she plays with can be felt on the court and in the stands. Averaging 9.6 points and 2.5 assists per game makes her the most offensively productive player on the bench by quite a margin. Barring injury, I expect Carter to continue coming off the bench and giving the Sparks an offensive boost every time she plays.
Most Improved: Jordin Canada
Jordin Canada is LA. The LA native, UCLA Bruin, has been everything the Sparks were hoping she could be and more. She’s having a career year averaging 11.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 2.2 rebounds. She’s started in every game she’s played in and has solidified herself as the Sparks point guard. After a few seasons of taking the backseat in Seattle, Canada has proven she’s not only ready for a bigger role but shines in it.
This category is just strictly highlighting the team leaders in points, rebounds, and assists. So, no analysis is being done here.
Sparks Scoring Leader: Nneka Ogwumike 18.0 PPG
Sparks Rebounding Leader: Nneka Ogwumike 7.5 RPG
Sparks Assists Leader: Jordin Canada 5.3 APG
Fisher shared some thoughts on the start of the season so far and where the Sparks are now compared to this time last season after the team’s win over Dallas.
“There’s an opportunity for us to actually fine tune who we are now,” he said. “So far through 11 games we’ve just had to like lace our shoes up and go out and play because we had a game every time we blinked, but now we get to actually break down and start to look at what we’re doing well, where our weaknesses and our growth opportunities are, and really start to hone in on those things over the next few weeks.”
June will definitely be a much kinder schedule for the Sparks with only seven games in the month compared to the 11 games played in May, including eight on the road. Hopefully the schedule allows Fisher to optimize the team and get to the halfway point of the season with more wins than losses.