May 17, 2022

Sparks will lose Nia Coffey in free agency

View Original Notice ? Sparks will lose Nia Coffey in free agency

And then there was one – Amir.

The Coffey family’s foothold in L.A. – Nia Coffey and her younger brother, Amir Coffey, playing for the Sparks and Clippers, respectively – won’t include Nia this coming summer.

Following Coffey’s breakout season in her first year with the Sparks last season, a source said the versatile forward will depart after agreeing to a multi-year, six-figure deal, reportedly with the Atlanta Dream, according to The Next Hoops. She was the Sparks’ sole unrestricted free agent this offseason.

The Sparks – who came to an agreement on a qualifying offer with guard Te’a Cooper this week – entered free agency this year with six of their nine rostered players on guaranteed deals and, accounting for cap holds, a maximum of $97,000 to offer free agents (barring a trade).

In 2023, however, it will be a vastly different scenario: All but two of their players will be free agents. (Those two: Jasmine Walker and Arella Guirantes, who both are about to enter their second WNBA seasons.) That will free up significant cap space for the Sparks to potentially compete to attract stars.

The Sparks were Coffey’s fourth team in five WNBA seasons, and they offered her a substantially larger role than at any of her previous stops – including with the Dream in 2019, when she averaged 5 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.9 minutes.

Last season, Atlanta finished 8-23 in a turbulent season that was marred by an off-court altercation that resulted in suspensions of former Dream players Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford for their roles in the incident outside of an Atlanta-area club in May.

The team announced that it would not re-sign either player, both of whom are free agents.

In L.A., Coffey, a 6-foot-1 forward, proved herself a high-character teammate and a reliable contributor, averaging 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 25.2 minutes per game – all career-highs, as was her 3-point shooting accuracy: 41.7%.

A 26-year-old from Minnesota, Coffey’s emergence was one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing, injury-plagued season for the team piloted by Derek Fisher, in his roles as general manager and head coach. The Sparks finished 12-20 and missed the playoffs the season after losing perennial All-Stars Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray in free agency.

Despite missing the playoffs last season, the Sparks don’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 draft, having traded what became the fourth overall selection to Dallas last season. They’ll have the 15th, 16th, 19th and 27th picks in the draft, for which the WNBA has yet to announce a date.

The Sparks swapped the first-round pick for Walker, a 6-foot-3 floor-spacing forward, whom they drafted seventh last year but whose rookie season was cut short when she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her second game.

This summer, they’ll also incorporate former UConn forward Gabby Williams, who will debut after sitting out last season because of French national team commitments.

And they’ll hope their stars will be much healthier after having had to play without Nneka Ogwumike for a career-high 14 games, Chiney Ogwumike for 25 and Kristi Toliver for 13 last season.

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