Late on Monday afternoon, the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks put aside their rivalry to conduct a bit of business. The two legendary franchises, who met in the WNBA Finals in 2016 and 2017, and in the first round of the playoffs last season, agreed to a trade that will send Odyssey Sims to the Lynx and Alexis Jones to the Sparks.
This isn't the biggest blockbuster of all time, nor was it the trade WNBA fans have been waiting for all summer -- that would be the Liz Cambage trade. Still, Sims is a former No. 2 overall pick, and there are some interesting subplots to this deal besides just the on-court impact.
Lynx acquire old rival
In announcing the deal, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve told the team's website, "We have gotten to know Odyssey Sims up close and personal from a competitive standpoint in our rivalry with the LA Sparks over the last few seasons." That would be an understatement.
Not only was Sims a key member of the Sparks team each of the past two seasons, but she had a fairly serious beef with Lynx legend Lindsay Whalen. The two got in each other's face a few times on the court, and last year Sims had a go at Whalen in the press, saying after one of their regular season matchups that she "didn't even know if [Whalen] was still on the team." Via The Athletic:
"She's a great player," Sims said. "She's a veteran in the league. She's earned her stripes, but at the end of the day, I'm younger and I do what I do best. I know she doesn't like pressure. It makes her feel uncomfortable. I knew at halftime she was tired and it showed. OK, she got some key buckets at the end of the game, but we really wore her out. … For us to disrupt her, to make her uncomfortable tonight was really key for us."
"Of course (we expected Whalen's comeback)," Sims said. "She was on the bench for a little while, honestly, didn't even know if she was still on the team at one point, so I think she rested up just for those moments, especially when they came back (head coach Cheryl Reeve) had her on the bench for a reason. And then she came back, so it's nothing new."
Whalen is of course retired now, hanging it up after 15 legendary seasons to coach the University of Minnesota women's basketball team. So there won't be any issues there, but it's likely that fans and other players on the Lynx won't have forgotten about the beef.
Affect on a potential Cambage trade
Back in January, Dallas Wings center and 2018 WNBA MVP runner-up Liz Cambage High Post Hoops, "There have been several times where I thought we had a deal done. Two times, at least, where I was rather confident we were heading to a resolution only to have things, for lack of a better word, fall apart at the eleventh hour."a trade. At this point, the biggest open secret in the league is that she wants to play for the Sparks. But with the season just a month away now, no deal has been completed, despite Wings president Greg Bibb telling
Earlier this offseason, the Sparks matched what was reportedly a three-year max deal offer sheet that Sims signed with the Mercury. While the WNBA is notoriously secretive with salary and contract information, this put the Sparks in an interesting position. Not only did they already have big money tied up in Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender, but they still needed to re-sign star point guard Chelsea Gray -- something that still hasn't been accomplished.
Without any inside knowledge, this certainly feels like a move to clear the books in order to re-sign Gray and then potentially complete a trade for Cambage.
- Odyssey Sims
The Lynx are in an unfamiliar place this season. Not only did longtime point guard Lindsay Whalen retire, but they'll be without their former MVP, Maya Moore, who is taking the season off for personal reasons.
Even though Whalen has been on the decline for some time now, she was still key in operating their offense. Meanwhile, Moore has been one of the best scorers in the league for years, and was Minnesota's primary offensive option on the perimeter. In Sims, they'll hope they can fill both voids at once.
Though she saw a reduced role on a talented Sparks team in the last two seasons, Sims was a strong scoring point guard early in her career with the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings. She's not the most efficient player -- 39 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from 3 for her career -- but she's more than capable of creating her own shot, which is something the Lynx desperately need.
It will be interesting to see how much Sims plays with Danielle Robinson, but between them the Lynx should have things covered at the point guard position considering Sims is a pretty decent playmaker in her own right. A strong on-ball defender as well, Sims will fit right in with the Lynx's defensive-minded culture.
This isn't a move that will bump them back into contender status by any means, but acquiring Sims will make them much better this season.
Los Angeles Sparks
- Alexis Jones
The Sparks have a lot going on this offseason as they try to juggle not only their own roster, but a potential trade for Cambage. In both regards, moving on from Sims made sense. From a cap space perspective, signing Sims was always a bit of a head-scratcher, and on the court she never really seemed to find her groove with the Sparks.
In moving Sims for Jones, they not only clear some cap space, but boost their outside shooting -- at least in theory. Jones was a tremendous shooter in college, hitting over 41 percent of her 3-point attempts in her last two seasons at Baylor. However, she played sparingly for the Lynx in the past two seasons, and is 27-79 from 3 in her career, good for 34.2 percent. That's a solid mark, but she hasn't quite been the sharpshooter she was in college.
She's unlikely to see a huge role increase with this talented Sparks team, but given their backcourt options after Chelsea Gray and Alana Beard, Jones could play her way into some solid minutes if she shoots the 3 consistently. As a team, the Sparks took just 17 3s a game last season, and were middle of the road in terms of percentage, hitting 34.7 percent.
Losing Sims does put the Sparks in an interesting position regarding ball-handling and playmaking. Gray is dynamite, and they can run the offense through Candace Parker, but they don't really have a true back-up point guard on the roster anymore. Of course, there's still a potential Cambage trade down the line, and we'll have to wait to see what happens with that to fully judge the Sparks' roster. For now, they got worse talent-wise, but Jones is a slightly better fit, and they may have set themselves up better to acquire one of the best players in the league.