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Sparks trade for Katie Lou Samuelson, a draft pick, and a lot of cap space

LA is trading Gabby Williams to the Seattle Storm for Katie Lou Samuelson and the No. 9 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.

Seattle Storm v Washington Mystics Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks made their offseason significantly more interesting this week, reportedly agreeing to a trade that will send Gabby Williams to the Seattle Storm in exchange for Katie Lou Samuelson and the No. 9 pick in the upcoming 2022 WNBA Draft.

While the players involved are certainly notable, the biggest impact of the deal might involve players that aren’t actually in it. The Sparks entered the offseason with just $96,946 in cap space — enough to sign one player, despite having two open roster spots. By trading Williams, who had a protected salary of $144,000, for Samuelson, who has an unprotected salary of $72,141, Los Angeles opened up the requisite cap space to make a splash in free agency.

They also get a player with untapped potential in Samuelson, a Southern California native whose sister, Karlie, has spent parts of three seasons with the Sparks. Katie Lou, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 draft, has yet to find her groove in the WNBA, and the Sparks will be her fourth team in as many years. But she started to find rhythm a year ago with the Storm, averaging career bests of 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, and shooting 35.1% from three-point range.

Sparks coach and general manager Derek Fisher has not kept it a secret that he covets floor-stretching wings who can play multiple positions, and it was that profile, in part, that led Samuelson be such a high pick when she came out of UConn.

Speaking of UConn, the Sparks are moving on from Williams — who was Samuelson’s teammate in college and with the Chicago Sky — before she ever suited up for them. Faced with a roster crunch prior to the start of the 2021 season, Los Angeles traded rookie Stephanie Watts and the rights to international player Leonie Fiebich for Williams, who had already announced that she would not be playing in the season as she honored her Olympics commitment to the French national team.

The trade also gives the Sparks a first-round draft pick again. Los Angeles acquired the No. 7 pick in last year’s draft (as well as a 2022 second-rounder) from the Dallas Wings, in exchange for their 2022 first-rounder. We’ll see if Los Angeles keeps the pick, or uses it as an asset in a separate trade.