Versatile center Azura Stevens to join LA Sparks
The sky is falling in Chicago.
We knew it would be a crucial offseason for them, with four of their top five players in free agency. The worst-case scenario – at least in terms of next season’s record – is unfolding right now. None of the four will be suitable for the Sky next season.
In a shocking twist, Candace Parker has joined the Las Vegas Aces. Courtney Vandersloot, the franchise’s greatest player and one of the best point guards the WNBA has ever seen, announced in a statement that she will not be returning to the franchise; sniper Allie Quigley, his wife, would be absent for the 2023 season.
Most devastating, according to multiple reports (ESPN’s Alexa Philippou and Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan tweeted the news Thursday at 10:28 a.m. ET, so I have no idea who technically reported it first), the all-round center Azurá Stevens will join the Los Angeles Sparks.
Stevens is coming off the healthiest campaign of his young career, appearing in a career-high 35 games averaging 10.6 points (53.5% from two, 36.2% from three), 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest in a lead bench role.
The advantage for Stevens is immeasurable. She is the rare tall one (listed at 6ft 6in) with true spacing and manipulation abilities. Her intersection of size and skill makes her difficult to defend; the mix of length and mobility allows him to be a factor in multiple defensive coverage.
With the acquisition of Stevens, the Sparks have added to one of the W’s most versatile frontcourts. They have re-signed superstar forward Nneka Ogwumike, with his sister Chiney Ogwumike also expected to return. We’re not far off trading Sparks for All-Star and former Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby.
With the Ogwumikes, Stevens and Hamby, the Sparks will be able to cobble together all types of frontline duos. Stevens has plenty of experience in both big lineups, with her shooting prowess paving the way for whoever she’s paired with. Hamby went 3-5 and the Ogwumikes have flipped between the two front row spots in their careers.
There’s potential for funky but effective big three lineups here. Given what the New York Liberty did this offseason — and even what the Aces experienced last season — it could be a worthwhile investment.
It helps that new Sparks head coach Curt Miller has his own experience with the Big Three rosters. He had no problem playing his three big names – Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and Jonquel Jones – together last season with the Connecticut Sun. This unit was successful; according to PBP Stats, they outscored their opponents by 70 points (plus-13.6 net rating) in 263 minutes together.