On the second day of practice for most teams around the WNBA, an interruption in the form of a major trade. After three years in Washington, DeLisha Milton-Jones is headed back to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks sent the Mystics Taj McWilliams-Franklin and a 2009 first-round pick.
It was no secret that Milton-Jones had requested a trade and wanted out of Washington. That gave the Sparks an opportunity to bring her back to where she started her WNBA career and won two championships.
Is this an upgrade for the Sparks? On paper, no doubt. Milton-Jones was an All-Star a year ago and still has some miles left at age 33. McWilliams-Franklin remains effective, but at 37 her days are numbered.
However, a look at the numbers raises some red flags. Before pulling out my spreadsheet, I had forgotten how much Milton-Jones struggled last year. She shot just 34.9% from the field and 23.5% from downtown. Add in 3.6 turnovers per game and Milton-Jones was one of the least efficient offensive players in the WNBA. A simple method I use to evaluate efficiency is a player’s points divided by their possessions used (using the formula FGA + (.44*FTA) + TO). Milton-Jones averaged just 70.7 points per 100 individual possessions. Amongst players in similar roles in their teams’ offenses, only young guards Sherill Baker and Ashley Shields were less efficient.
Now, that could have just been a fluke. The year before, Milton-Jones’ individual offensive rating was a fine 93.1 points per 100 possessions. Overall, she projects as an upgrade on McWilliams-Franklin, but maybe not to the extent you’d imagine.
From the perspective of the Mystics, this deal isn’t ideal. They’d surely have preferred to get a younger player instead of McWilliams-Franklin, and the first-round pick, while handy, will probably be late in the round. Milton-Jones put the Mystics in a tough spot, and this was probably the best the team could have done.