At 11-18, there’s no sugarcoating the Los Angeles Sparks are having a disappointing season. They currently sit a game and a half back from the eighth and final playoff spot, and if they miss the postseason, it'll mark the third season in a row they failed to make the playoffs. Thus assuring this is the worst era in the Sparks' 27-year history.
While the team results have left much to be desired, a few players have shined amidst the muddiness of the season. So as has become a tradition, let's give out our quarterly awards before we enter the final games of the regular season.
We gave out some accolades at the midway point of the year and there have already been some changes since then. Let’s see how things have shaked up before the team heads into their final leg.
Most Valuable Player: Nneka Ogwumike
How many more ways can we describe Nneka Ogwumike's greatness? She's started in all 28 games she's played in and leads the team in both points (19.8) and rebounds (9.1). The 33-year-old is doing all this as the oldest player on the roster and playing in her 12th season.
Spending her entire WNBA career with the Sparks, Ogwumike remains the face of the franchise and continues to be the most productive player on the roster. Thanks to her prolific career and longevity, it seems like she breaks a new record by the day.
Earlier this month, Ogwumike passed Candace Parker on the Sparks' all-time scoring list. She is now just behind Lisa Leslie for the franchise’s top spot.
"What a storied career she's had here,” Curt Miller said following her accomplishment. "She helped bring a championship in 2016, she's been an MVP of the league and she's been tremendously loyal to this franchise."
Although multiple players are having career years for the Sparks, none have outperformed Ogwumike to this point and that is why she deserves MVP honors on the team.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jordin Canada
Despite already being known for her defensive prowess, Jordin Canada has taken it up a notch this year. After signing with the Sparks on a training camp contract, Canada quickly emerged as a starter behind her feisty play.
Canada has been the defensive anchor for this team and their first line of defense against the league’s top guards. Her 1.9 steals per game is good for third-best in the league.
The Sparks' defense *really* popped in the first half.— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) May 26, 2023
Stagger call for Jackie Young. Tries to go backdoor on Cooke (fine read based on her body positioning) but Joyner Holmes is there to help.
From there, just great work from Jordin Canada. pic.twitter.com/7aXAT8MJyY
In a season filled with injuries and inconsistent play, one of the few constants has been Canada forcing her matchup to work for their numbers which makes her the perfect choice for this award.
Sixth Woman of the Year: Dearcia Hamby
In the first quarter, I named Karlie Samuelson as the Sixth Woman of the Year award winner, then Chiney Ogwumike and now I believe the honor belongs to Dearica Hamby.
Hamby returned far sooner than anyone expected after giving birth in March, and has averaged 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds while playing in all 29 games this season.
With Lexie Brown out, Samuelson has worked her way into the starting unit and with Ogwumike still injured, it’s Hamby who has shined off the bench to lead the second unit.
The two-time All-Star has the potential of breaking permanently into the starting lineup at any moment, but right now, she has provided an offensive boost off the bench just like she did against the Mystics when she scored 14 points.
At this rate, she’s making a strong push and case for the team’s best player off the bench.
Most Improved Player: Jordin Canada
With Ogwumike, Lexie Brown, and Karlie Samuelson all posting career-high numbers this season, the Sparks have many suitable options for this award. Ultimately, Jordan Canada deserves this piece of hardware too as she has been the healthiest, most consistent and has made the most strides.
The offensive jump is what has stood out most in Canada’s game. Prior to this season, she’s never averaged double-digit points. This year, however, she’s averaging 13.3 points a game in large thanks to a jump in efficiency from behind the arc.
A career 21% shooter from three, Canada is converting a respectable 32% with the Sparks. The former Bruin has also been a highlight reel this year with plenty of killer crossovers and beautiful finishes near the rim. But the biggest highlight from Canada came recently against the Fever.
Not only did she score 20 points, but she drilled a game-winning three-pointer. She then followed it up with a 21-point performance against the same Fever team to help the Sparks notch another win and build some momentum.
Canada has played above even the most optimistic fan's expectations and deserves recognition for the individual improvements she has made to her game.
While celebrating the players that are performing well is nice, it’s now or never for the Sparks to see results in the win column.
With only eleven games left, L.A. will have to play their best basketball to extend their season. But with teams like New York, Las Vegas and Connecticut still remaining on the schedule, it won't be an easy task. Perhaps Lexie Brown can return and give the team a much-needed shot in the arm, but with no official update on her injury, that also remains to be seen.
The Sparks will likely have to make do with what they have on the roster. If not, they'll be forced to watch the playoffs from home for the third year in a row.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.