The Sparks’ Prioritization of Nneka Ogwumike Before Free-Agency Pays Off

Of all the WNBA teams with decisions to make entering free agency, the Los Angeles Sparks have some really tough choices to make. After a first-round exit in the playoffs in 2020, many of the Sparks’ key players are scheduled to be free agents this offseason. Nneka Ogwumike is one of those players.

Ogwumike is a WNBA star who will get significant attention from other teams wanting her to join their team. She was given a special designation by the Sparks, which gave them negotiating rights heading into the free agency period. That designation seemed to be the difference for LA in their pursuit of Ogwumike.

The Sparks made Ogwumike their top priority in free agency

Three big names were at risk of going into free-agency on the Sparks: Nneka Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray, and Candace Parker. All three players have been with the team for quite some time, but the Sparks couldn’t keep all of them. They decided to make Ogwumike their top priority.

LA decided to use their core designation on Ogwumike, which helps them a lot this offseason. Coring Ogwumike means that she cannot sign with another team unless it’s part of a sign and trade deal. This basically means the Sparks have primary negotiating rights with their star player. Out of the three key players hitting free agency for LA, Ogwumike is the one who has the highest ceiling.

Using that core designation essentially stops Oguwmike from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Another part of this designation is that the Sparks have offered Oguwmike a supermax deal is for one year. She can take the one-year deal or try to work out a longer-term deal with the team. It’s beneficial for players to sign long term contracts that earn them the most money.

With Nneka Ogwumike being cored, it shows the Sparks are invested in her and the team’s future. The six-time All-Star was a priority for the team to get signed to a new deal.

Nneka Ogwumike re-signs with the Sparks

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The Sparks had to re-sign at least one of their three stars that were heading into free agency. They laid the groundwork to do this by giving Ogwumike the core designation. According to Winsidr, Ogwumike has agreed in principle to re-sign with the Sparks.

Ogwumike reportedly met with at least two other teams before re-signing. The figures of the deal haven’t been released and probably won’t be known until Feb. 1. That is the day players and teams can make signings official. It is reported to be a multi-year deal, which gives the Sparks their cornerstone player for the next few years. This was a huge signing by the team, as their other two stars already left.

Candace Parker decided to leave LA to sign with the Chicago Sky. She cited the opportunity to play in front of friends and family as the deciding factor in her decision. Parker spent her entire 13-year career with the Sparks, being on the 2016 championship team with Ogwumike. Gray is going to sign with the Las Vegas Aces after spending five years with the Sparks.

Getting Nneka Ogwumike back for multiple years secures the Sparks as a competitive team. They have some other things to handle this offseason, but securing the best of their three stars is a great start. The hope is the Ogwumike can get back to her old self after a draining 2020.

Nneka Ogwumike is hoping to bounce back in 2021

When at the top of her game, Ogwumike is one of the best players in the NBA. She is a four-time All-WNBA selection, a four-time All-Defense selection, and a former MVP. Her scoring ability and toughness down low is something the Sparks can use as the team’s identity. However, Ogwumike wasn’t herself during the 2020 season.

Her stat line dropped slightly, averaging 13.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists last season. She had a lot on her plate during the season, as she is the president of the WNBA players association. The WNBA has been active in politics and social justice forever but took it to new heights during the 2020 season. Being president of the WNBPA, Ogwumike had a hand in many of the players’ efforts and movements on top of playing basketball.

She also played a key part in getting the league’s bubble environment set up in Bradenton, Florida. She was a recipient of the WNBA’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award in 2020, being the second player to win it in consecutive years. Along with her responsibilities as president of the WNBPA, Ogwumike dealt with nagging injuries last season, which hampered her play. The Sparks expect the 30-year old superstar to bounce back with a vengeance.

The Los Angeles Sparks bring one of their best players back in Nneka Ogwumike on a multi-year deal. She is now the lone face of the Sparks franchise with Parker and Gray gone. Being a former MVP and one of the league’s elite scorers, Ogwumike secured the bag and is looking to return to form in 2021.