February 5, 2022
Atlanta Dream, Los Angeles Sparks working on Chennedy Carter, Erica Wheeler swap
Blockbuster deal would also send picks to Atlanta
The Atlanta Dream and Los Angeles Sparks are working to finalize a deal that would send Chennedy Carter to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for Erica Wheeler and multiple picks, sources familiar with the negotiations tell The Next.
The deal would end the stormy tenure of Carter in Atlanta, one that included virtually unlimited promise at times, but also injuries and a months-long suspension that began in July 2021 and ended her 2021 season after just 11 games.
The move represents a sharp break from the public comments of Atlanta’s front office as recently as a few weeks ago. Back on January 19, Dan Padover told The Next regarding Carter: “Since we all took these new roles, we’ve all reached out to Chennedy and been in contact,” Padover said. “I believe that she is a top guard in this league. She’s obviously overseas right now, and like every other player on our roster, we are looking forward to seeing what they have and judging from there. But Chennedy is a part of the Dream and we plan on her being so.”
The logic behind the deal for both teams is clear. Los Angeles, which struggled to score the basketball consistently in 2021, gets itself an elite scoring point guard in Carter. She averaged 17.4 points per game in her rookie season, playing through injuries, and 14.2 last year, with an ability to get to the rim that’s as effective as any perimeter player in the league. 37.1 percent of her attempts from the field were at the rim last season, and she hit 71.4 percent of those shots.
And as Atlanta looks to build around high-character players, they can hardly do better than Wheeler, the once-undrafted point guard who is building on her best year yet in 2021 with the Sparks. Wheeler reached the All Star Game in 2019 while with the Fever, but it was last season that she set a career-high in points per game with 13.6, tallied an assist percentage of 31.1 and limited her turnover percentage to just 16.9 percent.
Rachel Galligan had further details of the potential swap. A source confirmed those terms to The Next.
The Sparks also have cleared nearly $200,000 in cap space between this trade and the Gabby Williams-Katie Lou Samuelson deal earlier this week. Given that Liz Cambage remains unsigned, that is an intriguing potential match, according to a source familiar with the situation.
For Atlanta, the move makes sense if it did not believe that Carter could connect with its roster of the future, though losing her offensive productivity is a difficult hole to fill regardless. What the trade does do, however, is give Atlanta another crack at the 2023 Draft (and, perhaps, the very top of it).
Should Los Angeles and Atlanta both miss the playoffs — as they did in 2021 — the Dream could have two potential lottery picks in a draft with a transcendent post player in prospective top pick Aliyah Boston.
Now, Padover and company have hit the reset button. In a social media post Thursday, the general manager said, “As I’ve said since day one, there are only shortcuts to the middle, not the top. We want to ensure everything we do is intentional as we build ourselves into perennial contenders and climb our way to the top. We’re really excited for Dream fans to join us on this ride.”
Several weeks back, Carter had liked a post on social media that had negatively reacted to the team’s decision to re-sign Tiffany Hayes. In a post that went up after Rachel Galligan announced that the team had re-signed Hayes, and has since been deleted, Carter wrote “I wanted too face you this szn , i remember your twitter fingers.”
Updated Dream Roster
Guards: Erica Wheeler, Aari McDonald
Big Guards/Wings: Tiffany Hayes, Jaylyn Agnew, Megan Walker
Big Wings/Posts: Cheyenne Parker, Nia Coffey, Kia Vaughn, Monique Billings
Updated Dream Picks
2022: No. 3, No. 14, No. 15 (from Los Angeles)
2023: Own 1st Round, Los Angeles’ 1st Round, Own 2nd Round
(Howard Megdal contributed reporting to this story.)