January 16, 2023 

Los Angeles Sparks acquire Jasmine Thomas from Sun

The move reunites Curt Miller with his former point guard

The WNBA free agency period has not yet begun, but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Sparks from getting started on revamping their roster.

The team announced on Monday that they had acquired Jasmine Thomas from the Connecticut Sun in exchange for Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Jasmine Walker and the rights to Kianna Smith. The Sparks will also receive the No. 10 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft from the Sun.

“The trade with Connecticut puts us in a great position going into free agency as we were able to secure a veteran point guard and add a first-round pick,” Sparks general manager Karen Bryant said in a statement announcing the move. “We are grateful for the time that we had with Olivia, Jasmine and Kianna and thank them for their contributions to the Sparks. We wish them all the best as they continue to grow in this league.”

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This move signifies a couple of things. First, the Sparks wanted to get a true floor general at point guard. Jordin Canada, the starting point guard for most of last season, is set to become a free agent. She didn’t quite have the impact that the Sparks hoped for when they signed her last off-seasons. She initially left the Seattle Storm in search of a bigger role and it’s tough to envision her re-signing after this. She’s likely headed elsewhere now.

As for Thomas, the move reunites new head coach Curt Miller with his floor leader from the Sun. Thomas spent the last five seasons in Connecticut and was an All-Star during the 2017 season. She missed most of last season with an ACL tear, but if healthy, she provides a lot of what the Sparks need from the backcourt. She’s a defensive-minded guard whom Miller used to give Chelsea Gray and the Sparks headaches in both the 2019 and 2020 playoffs. She can shoot from the three-point range with a career average of 33.3 percent. She’s the type of veteran who can run the offense and keep the ball moving. The Sparks often went through offensive lulls where they struggled to put up points.

“I have had the pleasure of coaching Jasmine for my entire professional head coaching career and know she will be an incredible addition to this team and the culture we are building in LA,” Miller said in a statement. “Her knowledge of the game and her ability to lead a team both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor is something that will be invaluable to us.”

The move is also significant because the Sparks managed to trade into the draft. They had originally surrendered their own pick in the 2023 draft, which ended up in the lottery, in the trade that sent Erica Wheeler to the Atlanta Dream and brought in Chennedy Carter. Now they have the ability to add a top rookie to the team. During an introductory press conference a couple of weeks ago, Bryant acknowledged that the team was exploring all options regarding the draft and apparently, they were able to move into the first round.

In terms of what the Sparks gave up to get Thomas, neither Walker nor Smith were expected to have much of a role this season. Walker was billed as having solid upside when she was drafted, but she missed all of her rookie season with an injury and was unable to provide any consistent production last season. Smith was a reserved free agent, meaning she could have only negotiated a new deal with the Sparks, but she would have been hard-pressed to even make the final roster.

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The major loss here is Nelson-Ododa. She was one of the lone bright spots for the Sparks last season off the bench. There were times when she obviously struggled as a rookie, but she showed some tremendous potential as a defensive anchor and a threat to score around the basket. She was in line to take another big leap this season. Her departure leaves the Sparks depleted in the frontcourt. Another big body is absolutely necessary now. It also appears as if the Sparks will not be able to pursue a potential center target in Brionna Jones, as it’s been reported by ESPN’s Alexa Philippou that the Sun intends to core her.

Overall though, this was a solid move by the Sparks. They get their point guard and being able to acquire young talent on a cheap rookie deal is never a bad thing. Provided that they don’t have any more trades up their sleeve, they will now turn to free agency to construct a team they hope can contend this season.

Written by David Yapkowitz

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