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2020 Sparks Exit Interviews: Reshanda Gray

Gray’s per-minute stats popped in 2020, but she was the least-used player on the Sparks roster.

Connecticut Sun v Los Angeles Sparks - Game One Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Name: Reshanda Gray

Age: 27

Contract status: Gray made $68,000, per The Next’s salary database, on a one-year deal that she signed as a replacement player when Chiney Ogwumike opted out of the season. She is now a restricted free agent, meaning the Sparks can match whatever contract offer she signs in free agency.

Stats: Gray played in 10 of the team’s 22 regular-season games for a total of 62 minutes. She averaged 1.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in her 6.2 minutes per game.

Gray had 2 points and 1 rebound in the Sparks’ playoff loss to the Connecticut Sun.

Preseason expectations: Gray was expected to battle with Kristine Anigwe and Marie Gülich to be the Sparks’ third big. Gray had the most WNBA experience of the three and is the best rebounder, but there was really no telling who head coach Derek Fisher would prioritize among the group.

What went well: Everyone on the Sparks — and in the Wubble as a whole — absolutely adored Gray. She bedazzled masks and other paraphernalia for Holly Rowe of ESPN, assistant coach Latricia Trammell, and several other people on the Sparks and in the WNBA. Fisher noted that Gray’s presence was a source of light in what could be a difficult experience of playing the bubble.

On the court, Gray was an outstanding rebounder. She led the league in rebounding percentage (22.8%) and defensive rebounding percentage (31.9%), which has historically been a weakness for L.A. Advanced stats loved Gray’s overall defensive impact, as the Sparks were 14.0 points per 100 possessions better with her on that end of the floor, per Pivot Analysis. When Gray played, opponents only shot 44.1% at the rim; that’s a ridiculous number that’s skewed by a small sample, but it is nonetheless indicative of Gray’s ability to protect the basket.

What needs to improve: Gray couldn’t really get on the court. More than half of her minutes (35 out of 62) came in garbage time or in low-leverage minutes against the two worst teams in the WNBA, Indiana and New York. It was impossible for her to really affect the team’s performance if she wasn’t allowed to be a part of it.

The Sparks may have kept Gray tethered to the bench because of her offensive limitations. She wasn’t much of a scoring threat and thus not a great pick-and-roll partner for Te’a Cooper in the second unit. Gray made 4-of-11 shots all season, so it’s safe to say she doesn’t actively seek her own offense, but again, the sample was too minuscule to draw any larger conclusions about her offensive ability.

Future with the Sparks: It’s hard to see a place for Gray long-term in Los Angeles, unless there are some dramatic surprises in free agency. If she couldn’t find space in the team’s frontcourt rotation when Chiney Ogwumike and Maria Vadeeva both opted out of the season, it stands to reason that Gray wouldn’t be a priority when they came back.

That’s a shame, because Gray looked like she could positively contribute to the Sparks when she was on the court in 2020. She brought a physicality that was missing, something that was particularly noticeable during the playoff loss to Connecticut, when the Sun bullied the Sparks in the paint.

It’s understandable that the Sparks would have prioritized Anigwe and Gülich over Gray considering the former two are still on rookie contracts and a better bet to be a part of the team’s future since the Sparks have a challenging offseason ahead to make room for all of their stars. But it’s fair to wonder if Gray would have been more helpful in the present as a veteran who knows exactly what she is capable of and plays entirely within herself.