Believe it or not, the LA Sparks are past the season's halfway mark. This year has brought many expected and unexpected changes for the team, from a new president, a coaching change, and a star free agent joining the team. With the season halfway done, the Sparks are a frustrating 8-11 but tied with the Liberty for the eighth and final playoff spot. If they can make some incremental improvements in the second half of the season, they can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
There will be plenty of time to break down the road ahead for other Sparks; for now, we want to give out our midseason awards for the team. We did this for the first quarter of the season and will do it after each quarter until the season is done. Again, this is just awards for the team, not the WNBA as a whole. Let's start with the MVP award.
MVP: Nneka Ogwumike
The point of doing this every quarter is to break down the scenario for these awards throughout the season and see the incremental changes taking place with the team and its players. That will unlikely be happening with the MVP award. It's Nneka Ogwumike. It's been Nneka Ogwumike. You can look at the intangibles like her leadership on and off the court and her seniority within the team, or you can look at the stats. She's averaging 18.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. She is leading the team in both points and rebounds and has started every single game this season — a feat only she and Liz Cambage have accomplished. When you add it all up, you can only come to one conclusion, Nneka Ogwumike is the MVP of this team.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brittney Sykes
With interim head coach Fred Williams, the Sparks have improved defensively. One player who has always been a lockdown defender for the Sparks is Brittney Sykes. In a league where switching has become commonplace and perimeter defense is everything, Sykes excels at both with her athleticism, footwork, wingspan, and incredible shot-blocking ability.
welcome to the brittney block party— buckets (@buckets) May 20, 2022
brittney sykes (@BrittBundlez) breaks down her top 5 blocks on #buckets5 with @_jordanligons. WATCH: https://t.co/Yueq6VtkoZ pic.twitter.com/JVJkHx9nvw
Sykes isn't just a blocking machine; she also leads the team in steals with 1.7 a game, and it's no coincidence that the team's defensive rating has improved over the past month with her implemented back into the starting lineup.
Sixth Woman: Chennedy Carter
On this one, I really did struggle on who should be Sixth Woman. I almost went with Lexie Brown, but ultimately I landed on Chennedy Carter. She's embraced her role and has consistently been the most dependable player to come off the bench. She's averaging 7.8 points, 1.6 rebounds, and two assists per game, and, on a team still trying to optimize its lineup, it's nice to know Hollywood Carter can be counted on to come off the bench and get buckets.
Most Improved: Katie Lou Samuelson
Katie Lou Samuelson has been in the WNBA for four years and has played for four teams. She went from the No. 4 pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft to a journeywoman, but it appears she may have found her home here in LA because she is having a career year. She's averaging 10.7 points and 1.9 assists while also shooting 41 percent from three on 4.5 attempts a game, making her the most improved player on the team.
This category highlights the team leaders in points, rebounds, and assists. So, no analysis is being done here, just the numbers on who the leaders are.
Sparks Scoring Leader: Nneka Ogwumike, 18.3 PPG
Sparks Rebounding Leader: Nneka Ogwumike, 7.2 RPG
Sparks Assists Leader: Jordin Canada, 4.9 APG