Grading the Trade: On a Wing and a Prayer

The Los Angeles Sparks trade Noelle Quinn to the Washington Mystics for Marissa Coleman.

The first move of the WNBA free agency signing period turned out to be a trade that would’ve been perfectly legal back before free agency started. LA and Washington decided that their underperforming backup wings might do better if they swapped them around, so Noelle Quinn and Marissa Coleman both face a change of scenery next season. Given how they played in 2011, it probably can’t hurt.

Quinn’s had a weird WNBA career. She started a lot of games for awful Minnesota Lynx teams in her first two years in the league, but they could never quite work out how to use her. Amongst all their injuries and the attempt to hand the reins of the team over to Lindsey Harding, sometimes Quinn looked like a wing shooter, sometimes like a better point guard than Harding, and sometimes like she was too slow to guard any other professional wing on the planet (Sidney Spencer doesn’t count). When she was traded to LA (for, incidentally, a first-round pick that eventually became Tina Charles) it was supposed to be a glorious homecoming. She was born there, grew up there, went to UCLA – where better to flourish as a pro?

It kinda worked for a while. She was the first guard off the bench for LA in that weird year where no one knew whether it was Lisa Leslie’s or Candace Parker’s team, and Kristi Harrower was starting at the point. Quinn started every game the following year (2010) as essentially the small forward, shooting solid percentages and hitting some big shots, but for a team that struggled under Jen Gillom and the weight of Parker’s injuries. Then last season, despite starting 23 games and shooting right around 40% from three-point range for the second year running, she never seemed to fit. She drifted through a lot of games without making much impact, barely reminding anyone that she was even on the floor in a lot of them. It was probably time for her to get a new start, but she was likely hoping that the Carol Ross era in LA could’ve been her new beginning. Not being sent cross-country to the moribund Mystics.

Detailing Coleman’s WNBA career doesn’t take nearly as long, and not just because her time as a pro has been significantly shorter. As with Quinn, she was already playing for her hometown team, after growing up in the D.C. area and attending Maryland. She had a few promising outings at the start of her rookie season, picked up an ankle injury that knocked her out for six games, and has rarely been particularly impressive ever since. Occasionally she’ll knock down a flurry of perimeter jumpers – her primary WNBA-level skill – and remind everyone that she’s alive, but those brief moments of excitement have been few and far between. Like Quinn, it’s often far too easy to forget that she’s on the floor.

Last year was meant to be Coleman’s big chance. With Alana Beard missing yet again and Monique Currie joining her on the sidelines, the starting small forward spot was open for Coleman in Washington along with a lot of shots and the chance to push her way to prominence. It never happened. She started 28 games, but her impact was just as negligible as when she was coming off the bench behind Currie. Hence this offseason where Currie was cored to make sure she couldn’t walk away from the franchise, and Coleman was finally sent packing.

Despite all that, there are elements of this switch which certainly make sense. LA can always use players who can knock down perimeter shots, and especially with Nneka Ogwumike (or even Brittney Griner, should she declare) joining Parker in the paint, the open shots should be there for Coleman. She’s also more of a true small forward as opposed to Quinn’s utility 1/2/3 skills, which might help with the rotational mess that LA had on the perimeter last year. The move also saves them some cash (around $30,000) which could help if they need a little extra room for the free agent hunt.

Quinn’s versatility could be of use to the Mystics, especially given that Currie should be back and swallowing most of the minutes at small forward. Quinn could easily end up starting at the point, ahead of Jasmine Thomas, and/or platooning with Matee Ajavon at the off-guard spot. Given how many holes they have to fill, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for her to play.

Ultimately, this is a trade made more in hope than expectation. Coleman is younger and cheaper, with slightly more hope that she might one day ‘get it’ and become a real WNBA starter; Quinn can play more roles and has shown slightly more skill on the WNBA level already. Both of them have shown an ability to shoot from outside, but often look slow and passive compared to the athletes around them. Neither is exactly going to change the face of their new franchise.

Los Angeles: C  Mediocre wing for mediocre wing. Meh.

Washington: B-  Coleman had been given enough chances, and Quinn’s versatility makes it a slight upgrade.

Coleman: B  Leaving home, but going to a franchise that at least looks like it could be on the rise.

Quinn: D  Leaving home, and heading to the Mystics. Sorry, Noelle.

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One comment on “Grading the Trade: On a Wing and a Prayer

  1. […] the Trade: On a Wing and a Prayer – The Los Angeles Sparks trade Noelle Quinn to the Washington Mystics… The first move of the WNBA free agency signing period turned out to be a trade that would’ve been […]

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