Free Agency is upon us and there are some hefty decisions to be made
The Los Angeles Sparks finished their 2021 campaign on a sour note by being a game away from clinching a playoff berth. Being riddled with injuries for the greater part of their season hurt their chances but health and competitive edge will be a few of the big priorities for them in 2022.
A major priority for the Sparks is to shape up the roster during free agency ahead of this upcoming season. The free agency period officially beings on January 15, in which the team can start to have negotiations with free agents, though signing on the dotted line has to wait until February 1.
With most of the team under contract, six players under protected deals or guaranteed contracts, the Sparks do not have much wiggle room to potentially sign other players in free agency unless GM and Head Coach Derek Fisher decides to move on from some of the players that are currently presented on the roster.
The players that are currently under contract take up 70% of the Sparks salary cap with some on the final years of their contracts heading into the 2022 season. Los Angeles would only have enough space to sign one player despite essentially having two open roster spots.
Los Angeles has already extended qualifying offers to both Te’a Cooper and Lauren Cox, the latter accepted her offer and re-signed with the Sparks on January 4. Cox joined the Sparks midway through the 2021 season after her stint with the Indiana Fever. Her presence with the team added to their defensive successes and frontcourt depth behind the Ogwumikes and Amanda Zahui B.
Cooper, a reserved free agent, has yet to either accept or decline her qualifying offer but with the Sparks extending one to her, retain exclusive negotiation rights with the third-year guard. Cooper continued to elevate her defensive activity in 2021 and had shown splashes of good production on offense, posting multiple double-digit points throughout the season while also getting teammates involved.
Forward Nia Coffey is the Sparks’ only unrestricted free agent after having an outstanding season with the team. Coffey found her stride offensively as she averaged a career-high of 8.3 points and a three-point shooting percentage of 41.3%. Coffey left her imprint on the floor on the defensive side with 35 blocks in 2021 and her overall hustle to get stops and steals.
With what Coffey brought to the Sparks in 2021, Los Angeles could bring her back into the fold or another team could snatch her up to better their team.
Los Angeles has no first-rounders in the upcoming 2022 WNBA draft but they do have four second-round picks in 15, 16, 19, and 27. It will be interesting to see how Fisher decides to use these picks to fit into the future of this team for this season and beyond.
Fisher has his work cut out for him this offseason in his second year holding both the general manager and head coaching titles. His first year saw some staple names move on and this year he will have to configure a team that can be a playoff contender after the Sparks missed the last postseason for the first time since 2011.