April 15, 2021
2021 WNBA Draft Preview: Los Angeles Sparks
Although they hold those five picks, it's highly unlikely any of them make the roster
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The 2021 WNBA Draft is Thursday, April 15 and as it stands, the Los Angeles Sparks have five picks, three in the first two rounds, and two in the third round. They’ll be up at No. 7, and No. 10 in the first round, No. 22 in the second round, and No. 28 and 34 in the third round.
Although they hold those five picks, it’s highly unlikely any of them make the roster. Their first-round picks are probably going to have the best shot at making the opening day roster but it’s going to be a battle in training camp.
After free agency, the Sparks currently have 14 players on the roster, including Maria Vadeeva who is not expected to join the team until later in the season after her overseas obligations. That’s two players over the league maximum of 12.
WNBA teams are allowed a maximum of 15 players in training camp and need to cut down to 12 by the start of the regular season. Last month, Sparks’ general manager and head coach Derek Fisher mentioned to reporters that unless there are any drastic changes to Vadeeva’s situation, the team will be able to carry a sixteenth player so to speak into camp.
It’s probably safe to say that none of No. 22, No. 28, or No. 34 will be in camp with the team. That leaves No. 7 and No. 10 as the likely candidates for that last camp spot. Fisher had mentioned last month that both No. 10 and No. 22 would have a decent shot at being the last player in camp, but that was before the Sparks pulled off a trade to acquire the No. 7 pick from the Dallas Wings.
So if those two picks have a realistic shot at coming to camp and possibly lasting into the regular season, who might they be? The Sparks have done well to solidify their frontcourt with the re-signing of both Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, and adding Amanda Zahui B. They also have an intriguing young center in Kristine Anigwe. Their backcourt and wing depth is decent as well, but they could use some additional three-point shooting and additional guard depth.
There is a chance that either one of Arizona’s Aari McDonald or Louisville’s Dana Evans is available when the Sparks are on the clock at No. 7. Either one would be an excellent selection. They’re both quick, playmaking guards with solid outside shooting. If the Sparks are lucky enough to have one of them drop into their lap, then the debate is settled as to who gets that last camp spot.
Another player who could be available at No. 7 is UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere. Onyenwere isn’t a traditional wing, she often played in the post in college. But in the WNBA, she’s built more like a wing and has improved her three-point shot. She is also a versatile defensive player. She’d be a great pickup with the team’s first draft pick.
There could also be some solid talent available at No. 10 that could address those needs. One player, in particular, is Stanford’s, Kiana Williams. Fresh off a national championship, Williams leaves Stanford as the school’s career three-point leader. She shot 37 percent from the three-point range over four seasons with the Cardinal.
Another possible option is Arkansas’s, Chelsea Dungee. Dungee was one of the best wing scorers in college basketball and she shot 38.7 percent from the three-point line last season. She’ll likely be a later first-round pick and would definitely give the Sparks a nice wing player.
They could opt to swing for the fences in Shyla Heal who is one of the youngest players in the draft. She’s a point guard and has intriguing upside.
Whoever the Sparks select with those picks, they’ll have their work cut out for them trying to earn a roster spot in camp or beyond. The Sparks brought in Bria Holmes and Nia Coffey, two solid veterans, on training camp contracts. Seimone Augustus and Te’a Cooper are also on camp contracts, but they’re pretty much guaranteed to be on the regular-season roster.
They may end up cutting someone with an unprotected contract like Anigwe or Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, but they seem to like what they see in Anigwe and Ruffin-Pratt is still one of the team’s best defensive players.
Either pick No. 7 or No. 10 will most likely be the last player in camp, but beyond that, it’s difficult to see them sticking around into the start of the season.
Other team-by-team WNBA Draft previews:
Written by David Mendez-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.