February 22, 2023
How the Los Angeles Sparks can navigate Stephanie Talbot’s injury
Samuelson, Gray signings address depth
The Los Angeles Sparks were tasked with revamping their roster at the start of the WNBA free agency period. New general manager Karen Bryant and new head coach Curt Miller focused on one of the Sparks’ biggest weaknesses the past couple of seasons — consistent three-point shooting. They addressed that by signing Stephanie Talbot, one of the best available shooters on the market.
But Talbot suffered a torn ACL over the weekend while playing for the Adelaide Lightning in the WNBL and will miss the entire 2023 season.
The Sparks were presumably going to be without one of their other top three-point shooters, Katie Lou Samuelson, who is expecting a baby and is due in August of 2023.
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Where do the Sparks go from here then to address their shooting woes? For starters, they did re-sign Lexie Brown who is a solid three-point shooter in her own right. Last season, she made a career-high 39.8 percent of her three-point attemptd. Incoming point guard Jasmine Thomas adds range as well. She shot 40 percent and 38.5 percent from three-point range the past two seasons, although last season she only played in five games.
What this likely means is the Sparks are going to look to second-year guard Rae Burrell to give them immediate contributions. Burrell played a couple of games at the beginning of last season but was ultimately shut down for the remainder of the year due to injury.
At Tennessee, Burrell was only a decent shooter from three-point range, with only one season above 33 percent. If she wants to get consistent minutes this season, she’ll need to be able to shoot in the mid to high 30s from deep consistently. That’s a must in today’s game, especially from a wing player.
The Sparks could also look to their No. 10 overall pick for some shooting. There are couple of players who could be available when the Sparks pick that could help with three-point shooting. One of those players is Iowa State’s Ashley Joens, who holds a career mark of 35.5 percent shooting from three over five seasons with the Cyclones.
Another possible option is Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon who holds a career mark of 33.8 percent from three over four seasons with the Buckeyes, though many observers have Sheldon picked before Los Angeles can select at 10. They could also look at Virginia Tech’s Ashley Owusu, who has improved her shooting in a big way. She shot 40.6 percent from three last season with Maryland and has upped that to 53.3 percent from three in her first season with the Hokies.
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Just making the roster won’t be easy for any rookie, though, even without Talbot. The Sparks have ten players under contract right now. Should the expected re-signings of both Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike be finalized, it would bring them to 12. Jordin Canada and Layshia Clarendon, meanwhile, are both on training camp contracts.
This late in the game, there may not be anyone available on the free agent market that would make any more of a difference than a rookie picked tenth overall would, or replace the production of Talbot. The Sparks did make a couple of training camp moves this week, though, with the additions of former Sparks Reshanda Gray and Karlie Samuelson.
Gray played for the Sparks during the bubble season in 2020 and finished last season with the Phoenix Mercury. She’s a tough interior player who hits the boards and plays defense. Samuelson has had a couple of stints with the Sparks and was briefly in Phoenix last season as well. She brings a career shooting percentage of 33.9 percent from three-point range. Both players will have an opportunity to fight for a roster spot out of training camp.
Written by David Yapkowitz
David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.