clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Sparks are facing a numbers crunch in tonight’s WNBA Draft

New, comment

And yet, they added an extra first-rounder.

2016 WNBA Draft and Portraits Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2021 WNBA Draft is another reminder of how difficult it is to find a spot in this league. Only about 0.8 percent of women’s college players find their way into the WNBA, per 2020 data from the NCAA, the lowest of any major sport. Even first-round picks don’t always stick.

The players drafted by the Sparks in tonight’s draft, which will air on ESPN at 4 p.m. PT, will face an especially tall task to make this roster.

The Sparks currently have 14 players under contract. Five of them are on guaranteed deals, five on unprotected (non-guaranteed) deals, and four on training-camp contracts. A WNBA roster can only carry 12 players. A first-round pick in this draft will have to beat out at least three players to make the 2021 final roster.

Beyond making the roster, it might be difficult to simply be invited to training camp. Only 15 players can be in camp at a given point. The Sparks expect one of their international players, Maria Vadeeva, to arrive late since she will be competing in EuroBasket, but that still leaves 13 players in camp before draft picks come into play.

L.A. has five picks in this upcoming draft: no. 7 and no. 10 in the first round, no. 22 and no. 28 in the second round, and no. 34 in the third round. The team just acquired the seventh pick yesterday, and presumably wouldn’t have done so without a specific player in mind. Given that there are no international players mocked in that range who could theoretically be stashed overseas, that means the Sparks are expecting two first-round picks to make this year’s team.

Los Angeles Sparks v Dallas Wings
How comfortable should Sparks on non-guaranteed contracts like Te’a Cooper, Seimone Augustus, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt feel with heading into training camp?
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The most likely cuts for Los Angeles should these draft picks impress would seemingly be the players who are on training camp contracts, but that list includes Seimone Augustus and Te’a Cooper, both of whom have featured prominently in the team’s offseason promotional campaigns. Perhaps the Sparks will try to pick up international players later in the draft so they can make decisions on whether or not keep them in future years.

As for who the Sparks want to select tonight, they are reportedly interested in adding a wing. The team has been linked to Chelsea Dungee from Arkansas, Michaela Onyenwere from UCLA, and DiJonai Carrington from Baylor at both first-round slots. One mock draft even has Tennessee’s Rennia Davis falling to the Sparks at no. 7, but Davis has also been mocked as high as no. 1, so that would be a surprise.

Even if a high-quality point guard like Aari McDonald or Kiana Williams is available at L.A.’s first pick, the expectation is that the team will prioritize positional need in the first round. What happens beyond that is anyone’s guess, but whoever’s name does get called will have an uphill battle over the next month to secure her place on the Sparks.