February 1, 2023 

Sources: Los Angeles Sparks signing former Seattle Storm forward Stephanie Talbot

Seattle's supporting cast loses key shooter

It’s a new era in Los Angeles. And after securing their point guard and power forward via trade, the Sparks have now added a versatile piece in Stephanie Talbot.

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Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told The Next that Talbot is signing with Los Angeles in free agency. The combo forward played in Seattle the past two years, appearing in 64 games with 10 starts, where she shot over 40% from three on 2.2 3-point attempts in 17 minutes per game. Per 100 possessions, Talbot took 6.5 threes and averaged 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks, demonstrating both an incredibly versatile skillset and the capability of taking on a larger role than she had with the Storm.

At first glance, the departure of Seattle’s Sixth Woman would seem to suggest that the Storm are in for a rough 2023 — after all, why would such an important piece be going elsewhere if Seattle was going to be signing Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot?

But one source told The Next that Talbot had been very interested in re-signing with Seattle, but simply preferred to make her decision sooner rather than later in the free agency period. Talbot could have waited to see if Stewart would be re-signing with the Storm, but with free agents having been able to negotiate with team for almost two weeks, she wanted to take the guaranteed playing time on a promising team while the offer was available. This was apparently also the case for Brittney Sykes, who per Khristina Williams’ reporting was in talks with Seattle, but took a three-year offer from Washington over waiting out Stewart’s decision. (Sykes’ signing was originally reported by our Howard Megdal, with Williams reporting the contract’s length.)

For Los Angeles, signing Talbot may be a small coup. The Sparks currently have five players under contract, three of whom are guards, and another one of whom is pregnant (Dearica Hamby). Though Nneka Ogwumike is all but certain to re-sign, they still need to add more frontcourt talent. Talbot’s ability to play both the three and the four (though she’s more natural at the former) should pair very well with Katie Lou Samuelson, a combination of shooting and defense that can truly optimize Los Angeles’ “Nneka at the five” lineup for the first time in years.

Most important for fans, this move should inspire confidence that Curt Miller’s Sparks are not going to become like his Sun, obsessed with interior play in an era of spacing and 3-point shooting. Assuming Ogwumike re-signs, Los Angeles’ top six of Jasmine Thomas, Chennedy Carter, Samuelson, Talbot, Ogwumike, and Hamby represent a fairly modern unit capable of playing in a multitude of styles. They would still benefit from adding more guard depth and capable bigs, though.

It’s hard to overstate the unique loss Talbot’s signing represents for the Storm; her skillset is simply not replaceable in the current free agent market. Signing Isabelle Harrison (who Williams reported has been in talks with Seattle) or Monique Billings would help replace Talbot’s size, interior defense, and rebounding, but wouldn’t make up for the loss in shooting or perimeter defense. Prying away a restricted free agent like Marina Mabrey from Dallas or Natisha Hiedeman from Connecticut would help replace Talbot’s shooting and tertiary playmaking, but wouldn’t make up for the loss in all-around defense and rebounding.

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The Storm are going to be worse off for Talbot’s departure. On the downside, that may affect Stewart’s ultimate decision, pushing her towards New York. On the upside, it may mean a more effective tank for Seattle if they don’t re-sign Stewart.

As always, be sure to visit our Offseason Matrices to see the latest free agency updates, including all reports and signings and trades from around the WNBA.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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