During the 2016 season, the Los Angeles Sparks were the best 3-point shooting team in the WNBA, knocking down 37.5 percent of their looks from downtown. However, the 3-ball was not exactly a major component of their offense, as they were seventh in the league in attempts, putting up just under 16 triples a game, and of the 49 players who took at least two 3s a game last season, the only Sparks among them were Kristi Toliver and Candace Parker.
While Parker had a the best 3-point shooting season of her career, the Sparks’ main threat from outside was Toliver. The likes of Parker, Alana Beard, and Essence Carson were more than capable knocking down open spot-up triples, but for Toliver, the outside shot was the main component of her game — and for good reason. She was both prolific and efficient last season, taking the third-most 3s per game (5.8), while still finishing with the fourth-best percentage (42.4).
Unfortunately for the Sparks, Toliver left in free agency during the offseason, signing with her hometown Washington Mystics, joining up with Elena Delle Donne and Co. The Sparks still had plenty of talent, of course, but they were now without a truly elite threat from downtown.
And though they acquired Odyssey Sims from the Wings to take most of Toliver’s minutes, she won’t be able to replace her outside shooting, as Sims is just a career 28.6 percent shooter from 3. They just might, however, have found their Toliver replacement late in the first round of this year’s draft.
With the No. 11 overall pick, the Sparks took Sydney Wiese, a lefty guard out of Oregon State who lit it up from beyond the arc in college, shooting 42.6 percent as a senior, and 41 percent for her collegiate career.
Just two games into her WNBA career, she’s showed no problem translating that skill. On Friday night, after the Sparks received their championship rings with Toliver and the Mystics in town, Wiese put on an incredible shooting display, going 6-10 from 3-point land on her way to a new career-high of 22 points.
Including the Sparks’ first game against the Storm, Wiese is now 8-13 from 3, good for a 61.5 percent clip, and averaging 14 points per game. While shooting over 60 percent is probably unsustainable, Wiese certainly looks capable of replicating Toliver’s role as the Sparks’ main weapon from downtown — especially if she keeps getting the open looks she has in the first two games.
With all the other talent on the Sparks roster, Wiese has found herself wide open, both in transition and in the halfcourt time and again, and is simply knocking down catch-and-shoot 3s in rhythm.
The defense helps to cut off a Nneka Ogwumike drive and force the ball out of her hands, and boom, there’s Wiese ready to knock down the open look.
When the Sparks get out in transition, all Wiese has to do is run to the corner, and her teammates will find her.
Los Angeles has even already started running plays for her, as she gets the look off the baseline out of bounds set.
And here off the little flare screen.
Wiese’s ability to step right in and immediately fill the void left by Toliver is such a huge boost for the Sparks. Now, just like last season, opposing defenses are going to have to pick their poison when trying to guard this talented L.A. bunch.