February 19, 2024 

The Los Angeles Sparks add more current talent with Julie Allemand, Li Yueru trade

The Sparks' guard-heavy roster gets even more crowded.

The winds of the WNBA offseason have quieted down after a wild start of February, but a few teams are still making moves to solidify their rosters a few weeks into the month.

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The Los Angeles Sparks did just that on Monday in a trade with the Chicago Sky, sending the No. 8 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft in exchange for guard Julie Allemand, center Li Yueru and a 2025 third-round pick.

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On the surface, the fact that the Sparks traded for two players from overseas in an Olympic year makes this a fascinating move. The WNBA’s prioritization clause that started in 2023 has even harsher penalties this year than last, and many foreign players have national team commitments during the first half of the WNBA season.

But prioritization will not affect either Allemand nor Li, as they both have two or fewer years of WNBA experience. A source confirmed to The Next‘s Jackie Powell that Allemand intends to play for the Sparks in the 2024 season before the Olympic break and that she will be signing a multi-year contract (which was first reported by Mark Schindler).

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Whether or not Li comes over to play is more up in the air as of now, but with Allemand, the Sparks will be getting at least one experienced floor general to a team that will need-on court leadership. Allemand had a solid rookie season for the Indiana Fever in 2020 when she averaged 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 45.5% from the field and 47.8% from the 3-point line.

After sitting out 2021 and getting dealt to Chicago to play with fellow Belgian Emma Meesseman in 2022, Allemand played for the Sky sparingly that season as a backup guard, not making the same impact she did with the rebuilding Fever. With the Sparks, there appears to be a pathway towards regular minutes, perhaps even the starting point guard role.

What this move seems to really signify for the Sparks, though, is an assessment of the 2024 draft class — and based on who may or may not enter the draft, the Sparks seem to feel confident that this draft could be top-heavy. After all, they already are stocked with the No. 2 and No. 4 picks in the first round (and a third-round pick at No. 28 overall), so having a third rookie with the No. 8 pick might not make sense.

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It’s also a potential cost-saving move, too, as Li would only make $64,757 next season (per Her Hoop Stats) while the No. 8 pick is set to make $73,439 next season. Allemand’s contract was suspended last season, but she should still be on her rookie deal and have a more-than-manageable salary for LA.

Still, the focus for the Sparks needs to be on the draft and the future, and adding two more guards to a roster already stocked with them is an interesting choice. Los Angeles currently has the following players who they list as guards on the team’s website: Allemand, Lexie Brown, Rae Burrell (who is listed as a guard-forward), Layshia Clarendon, Nia Clouden, Zia Cooke, Li, Aari McDonald, Taylor Mikesell and Kia Nurse.

Even if Li doesn’t come to the WNBA this season, that’s still nine players fighting for around six to eight roster spots. One thing seems certain at this point: there’s going to be some tough decisions to make in training camp.

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Editor’s note (Feb. 20, 11:25 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this story misstated the position Li Yueru plays. She is a center, not a guard.

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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