Los Angeles Sparks – Draft Summary
By Matt Hallett
The Los Angeles Sparks were just one game away from being champions of the WNBA last year. According to site expert and professional coach Eli Horowitz, they were a couple of bench pieces away from being able to compete in Game 5. They addressed the lack of depth at guard over the offseason by signing Cappie Pondexter with cap room. They had pick 11, 23 and 35 to address their needs in the front court.
Pick 11 – Maria Vadeeva
In what could be the second biggest steal of the draft, somehow Maria Vadeeva fell to the 11th pick. A talent and ceiling potentially worthy of a top five pick, Vadeeva had the biggest slip down the draft board of any player due to Azura Stevens nominating late. The Sparks do not have any major holes in their roster but having a big the quality of Vadeeva on the bench might tip the balance in their favor.
However, that is part of the rub. Firstly, with Vadeeva’s international commitments will she come over. It is not like she is paid well to be a WNBA player, not by the standards of the Russian league anyway. However, there is a possibility of glory if she can come over and help the Sparks win another championship. She will also get to play with Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike which will help her learn.
At 19, Vadeeva has plenty of time to grow, however the talented Russian has been playing WNBA players for four years now. Last season she averaged 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in the Russian league. These are not earth-shattering numbers, but her ceiling is high, she has now gone to a team who can let her grow and harness that talent.
Pick 23 – Shakayla Thomas
Shakayla Thomas is a 5’11” forward out of Florida State. Last season Thomas averaged 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. She led Florida State in scoring and scored at a good clip of 51.2 percent from the field.
These numbers are good but there is a problem for Thomas. The front court for the Sparks is Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Alana Beard. Their reserves are Jantel Lavender and probably Vadeeva. The Sparks have a set guard rotation of Odyssey Sims, Chelsea Gray and Cappie Pondexter. The Sparks are also at the limit of the salary cap. It will be very hard for Thomas to be on the roster for the season.
Pick 35 – Julia Reisingerova
For the 35th pick the Sparks went overseas again, this time to the Czech Republic. The 6’5” center is a project player as she is only 18 with only two years’ experience in the Czech league. She was able to match up reasonably well with Vadeeva in the European championship.
However, Reisingerova moved to the Spanish league last season and averaged only 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. This league is a lesser standard than the WNBA and shows that Reisingerova still has a lot of work to do.
Draft grade: A-
I give the Los Angeles Sparks an A- for this draft. The truth is that they had little cap room and a low pick. They got the best player available, but the question remains if she will come over and play in the WNBA next season. If she does then I will change this grade to an A.