Trio Of Sparks Fit Together Perfectly
By Brady Klopfer
The Los Angeles Sparks’ trio of All-Stars is hardly conventional. At 6-foot, 4-inches and lean, Candace Parker is undersized for the modern center position. At 6-2, Nneka Ogwumike gives up height to most opposing power forwards. And at 5-11 and incredibly strong, Chelsea Gray does not fit the mold for a prototypical point guard.
But unconventional isn’t inherently bad, and the Sparks dynamic trio has proved that time, and time again. Not only are all three accomplished individuals who are heading to the All-Star Game (though Ogwumike will sit out due to illness), but the triumvirate works brilliantly together.
It starts with Parker, whose ball-handling skills rival any point guard in the league, and whose passing is nearly unparalleled. Armed with a desire - and more importantly, an ability - to work from the perimeter in, Parker pulls opposing centers out of the lane, and opens up the court for her teammates. Ogwumike and Gray, in particular, benefit. Gray is able to utilize her size advantage at the rim, as she can bully through opposing guards, and even hang with many interior players. Once Parker has removed the center from the scene, Gray has the ability to penetrate and gain steam heading towards the rim.
Ogwumike gets to the rim with great frequency, and often on the receiving end of a Parker dime. Her footwork and strength allow her to not only survive, but excel against taller players, and it’s alarming how frequently she gets deep positioning, and makes the finish look easy with a drop step or reverse layup. And the threat of the outside shot by both Ogwumike and Gray allows them a number of easy backdoor cuts, which Parker has a propensity for finding.
Defensively, it’s a similar story. Parker and Ogwumike may be undersized, but Gray (and LA’s other perimeter defenders) flash into the paint to harass opposing bigs, and make life easier for their frontcourt. And Parker and Ogwumike, with their elite defensive fundamentals, afford a safety net to Gray, that allows her to aggressively defend on the perimeter, something that is necessary for a guard who is stronger than she is quick.
They’re not a conventional trio, but the Sparks three-headed monster has proven that only one thing matters: how you fit. And while they may all have earned the individual accolades of being All-Stars, the real reason that Los Angeles is in title contention is because the whole of their trio is greater than the sum of its parts.