February 1, 2024 

The Los Angeles Sparks put all their chips on the 2024 WNBA Draft

How one night in April will define LA's next era

When it was revealed that Nneka Ogwumike was going to be leaving the Los Angeles Sparks in free agency, all of their focus needed to turn to the upcoming WNBA Draft. It appears as if they got the memo, acquiring the No. 4 overall pick from the Seattle Storm along with Kia Nurse in exchange for a 2026 first round pick.

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Free agency now takes a backseat for the Sparks as they venture into unknown waters this offseason; building a roster without their longtime franchise cornerstone. In a press release, Sparks new general manager Raegan Pebley expressed her thoughts on the latest moves.

“Being able to add a player with Kia’s skillset and experience will fill a big role for us this season and I look forward to seeing her impact,” Pebley said. “Adding a second lottery pick also assures another significant addition to our roster in 2024.”

Nurse is a solid veteran and with the Sparks agreeing to terms on a two-year contract with Layshia Clarendon, the locker room post-Ogwumike should still have strong voices. But make no mistake, the main focus in this trade is the No. 4 pick.

Heading into a deep draft with two lottery picks as well as the No. 12 pick is more than what the Sparks could have hoped for to get this rebuilding phase underway. They have the opportunity to draft not one, but two potential foundational talents as well as another solid contributor. If the Sparks’ need to hit a home run in the draft was magnified after the departure of Ogwumike, it’s even more critical now.

If they get this draft right, this could be a quicker turnaround than expected. It’s still not clear who will actually declare for the draft and it may not be known until 48 hours following the final game for each potential lottery pick. The general consensus is that Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is the No. 1 pick should she declare. That could leave the Sparks deciding between Stanford’s Cameron Brink and Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers with the No. 2 pick, should they both decided to enter the draft.

For argument’s sake, let’s say all three of Clark, Brink and Bueckers enter the draft. Let’s say the Sparks end up with one of Brink or Bueckers and the Phoenix Mercury select the one that’s left with the No. 3 pick. When it comes to the No. 4 pick, there are a couple of names the Sparks should seriously consider.

One of them is Tennessee wing Rickea Jackson. Jackson looked comfortable playing against Team USA in an exhibition game back in November. She would have been a first round pick had she chosen to enter the 2023 WNBA Draft, but coming back to school has helped her stock. Jackson would give the Sparks a dynamic offensive option on the wing that they have lacked in recent seasons.

The other player the Sparks should have in consideration for the No. 4 pick is South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso. Cardoso had a strong showing over the summer with Brazil during the Americup games and that play has continued into the NCAA season. Potentially having two bigs alongside each other in Brink and Cardoso will give the Sparks the opportunity to do something revolutionary in today’s game. With teams moving away from more traditional bigs and small ball becoming ever popular, the Sparks could set themselves up with a twin towers of sorts and a frontcourt that could terrorize the league for years to come.

The Sparks have been presented with a tremendous opportunity to accelerate their rebuild. With Wednesday’s trade, they took it.

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.

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