Nneka Ogwumike leaving LA Sparks – Where will she go next?

Photo Credit: Akiem Bailum

Remember a few seasons ago when Candace Parker departed from the Los Angeles Sparks only to win championships with both the Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces? 

Yeah…it felt really weird to see Ace in a uniform that was not adorned in purple and gold. 

We are once again getting that same feeling as it relates to Nneka Ogwumike. At times, free agency news is broken by top-tier WNBA reporters such as Khristina Williams or Ramona Shelburne. 

At times, that news is broken by the free agents themselves, as was the case for Madame Prez. 

Ogwumike will indeed sport another team’s uniform and colors in 2024. Following a 12-year career that included bringing a third WNBA championship to Tinseltown in 2016, Ogwumike is calling it a career in Southern California. 

For the Sparks, it officially puts the team, which recently brought in Raegan Pebley as its new general manager, in full rebuild mode. A key part of that rebuild will likely be whoever the Sparks select with the second overall pick in this year’s draft after the Indiana Fever select, who most believe will be, Caitlin Clark. 

Reports have suggested that Ogwumike has met with six teams regarding her future – the Sparks being one of them. Surprisingly, her home state Dallas Wings were not one of those teams mentioned in Shelburne’s report. With Los Angeles off the table for her, let us have a look at the other possibilities out there for one of the league’s flagship veteran players. 

For many a WNBA pundit, this seems like the likeliest and most intriguing of possibilities. 

Ogwumike taking her act to the Pacific Northwest and pairing her with the scoring machine that is Jewell Loyd would be a massive get for coach Noelle Quinn and general manager Talisa Rhea. 

It may also be the veteran combination that would help Ezi Magbegor in her development and propel the Storm back to being in the tier of WNBA around where the Connecticut Sun and Dallas Wings are currently. 

Seattle also has a lottery pick – the no. 4 selection in this year’s draft. 

Here is another intriguing possibility. 

Ever since Rhyne Howard was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year that year, the Dream have been a team on the rise. 

Atlanta made the postseason last year with a core that included Howard, Cheyenne Parker and Allisha Gray. In recent years, the Dream have also been a team that has been very guard heavy. 

We know Dan Padover has the skills to make big deals happen – he practically built the Aces into what they are today. Ogwumike joining the Dream would give the team a formidable interior presence and she could be a mentor for fellow Stanford alum Haley Jones.

The Sky have made noteworthy changes over the offseason by bringing in Teresa Weatherspoon as head coach and Jeff Pagliocca as general manager. 

Chicago has not only been linked to Ogwumike, but also to another noteworthy free agent in Skylar Diggins-Smith. 

The Sky still managed to qualify for the postseason last season despite a midseason departure of former coach James Wade. Our guess is given where Chicago currently is in the WNBA’s pecking order that it could be the likeliest team that may try to work out a package deal for both Ogwumike and Diggins-Smith.

New York Liberty

It should not be much of a secret for as to why Jonathan Kolb has Ogwumike on his radar. 

For the Liberty, the prime directive of the 2024 season is to defeat the Aces and to bring a first-ever WNBA championship to Gotham. Adding a third star frontcourt player to the mix alongside Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones will certainly help in the Lib efforts in keeping A’ja Wilson in check. 

With all of those stars that would grace New York’s roster, someone would have to come off the bench. Would that be Courtney Vandersloot or Betnijah Laney-Hamilton to fill the sixth woman role? Developing…

After the dismal season the Mercury had in 2023, Ogwumike taking a meeting with Phoenix is certainly intriguing. 

This season will be the first for Nate Tibbetts as Mercury head coach. It may also be Diana Taurasi’s final campaign in the W, so Mat Ishbia believes adding one more interior piece could be what Phoenix needs to get back to contender status. 

Reports already have the Mercury linked to a possible Elena Delle Donne trade – which would have to happen via a sign and trade since she was cored by the Washington Mystics. Also, the Mercury have the No. 3 pick in the draft which could be either Stanford’s Cameron Brink, LSU’s Angel Reese or South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso. 

Having both Ogwumike and Brittney Griner as mentors would do wonders for the development of a young big Phoenix may pick in the draft.