What does Chiney Ogwumike's surprising trade to the Sparks for a 2020 first-rounder mean for L.A. and Connecticut? An Ogwumike reunion and a crowded frontcourt in Los Angeles and a chance for Kristine Anigwe to step up for the Sun.
The Sparks are developing quite a crowded frontcourt.
It was announced Saturday that L.A. had acquired Chiney Ogwumike from the Connecticut Sun for a 2020 first-round pick. Not only does the trade mean that Chiney is reunited with her older sister, Nneka, but also it gives the Sparks an almost incomprehensible frontcourt of both Ogwumikes and Candace Parker.
Rumors had floated around a bit last season but this trade appeared to come out of thin air. According to Mike DiMauro of The Day, Ogwumike grew frustrated with other players and people asking her about it and her agent, Allison Galer, called to question the Sun's commitment to their young star.
While other teams were apparently in the mix, Connecticut coach Curtis Miller and general manager Amber Cox agreed to send the younger Ogwumike to the Sparks in large part due to her rising reputation as an ESPN analyst and the network having studios in L.A.
"If that opportunity weren't possible," Miller told DiMauro, "our understanding is that Chiney would be willing to move to ESPN full time and walk away from her WNBA career. Ultimately, that left us two options: look into trades with L.A. or receive nothing as she departed the league to grow her career at ESPN."
The ultimatum seems a bit drastic but the gamble ultimately worked out for Chiney, who will continue to advance her media career while also being on a team with a real chance to compete for a WNBA championship. But Ogwumike is not the only player who will be affected by this choice.
With the acquisition of Chiney, the Sparks would seem to be out of the Liz Cambage sweepstakes, as the disgruntled Wings star continues to try and force her way out of Dallas. Three star forwards might not be a crowd but four is certainly too many to conceivably be able to keep satisfied. Where Cambage goes now is anyone's guess, but a dream move to L.A. seems to be out of the cards.
This will also be an interesting situation for the No. 7 pick in the 2019 WNBA draft: Kalani Brown. Brown was already entering a frontcourt full of talent, now she looks to be the odd woman out. The former Baylor big will have a group of fantastic mentors to learn from with the Ogwumikes and Parker likely able to teach her every facet of the game, but where she will get minutes is a whole different conversation.
No matter what further transactions go down before the season starts, it's sure to be an interesting first season for new coach Derek Fisher.
As for the Sun, this does make a fair bit of sense. Connecticut will have seven free agents—five restricted, two unrestricted—going into 2020, so freeing up a good amount of cap space with Chiney's contract off the books will certainly help the team maintain some semblance of its current identity. And the acquisition of Kristine Anigwe—a fantastic rebounder and smart scorer—didn't seem to make a ton of sense when she was drafted but makes her a perfect fit now.
Connecticut was a fearsome rebounding team last season and looks to keep that reputation with Anigwe set to take a starring role in the lineup. And after going through two seasons with Ogwumike injured—she suffered a knee injury in 2015 and sat out for 2017 after tearing her Achilles—the Sun will be hoping that their new big can stay healthy and contribute immediately.
It appears that the Suns have their big of the future and a malleable roster going forward while the Sparks got an incredible weapon to add to an already-loaded frontcourt that can help them push for a championship. And with Breanna Stewart and Maya Moore out for the season, Skylar Diggins-Smith likely out for most of it (pregnancy) and Diana Taurasi (back) set to be out for 10-12 weeks after undergoing back surgery, the WNBA title is wide open. How each of these two teams does will likely be determined by the effects of this trade. We'll see who chose correctly.