Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Sykes is a humble, yet confident basketball player. So she has no problem putting herself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year in the W.
“Honestly, respectfully and humbly, I think I should because I don’t think any guard wants to see me on the court defending them,” said Sykes.
Sykes’ job is simple yet difficult: guard the opponent’s best perimeter player. It is a challenge she willingly accepts.
“I feel like I should be in that talk for Defensive Player of the Year. It’s hard to kind of brag on myself but I just say check stats against players that I’ve defended, check their numbers,” Sykes said after recently holding the league’s leading scorer Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale under her season average of 21.9 points a game.
Sykes believes her intangibles make her elite on defense. The same can be said for the 5’9 player’s highlight reel worthy blocks.
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) July 25, 2020
“There’s a lot of things that aren’t on the stat sheet that I bring for my team and I believe that should put me in the category for defensive player of the year,” Sykes added.
In 2020, the Sparks know they can score. The team is averaging 85.6 points a game, good enough for fifth place in the league. So, film sessions inside the Wubble have turned into philosophical discussions about the other end of the court.
“The conversation is about defense,” said assistant coach Latricia Trammell, who also serves as the Sparks’ defensive coordinator. “They do have a sense of pride, a sense of urgency.”
Sykes’ ability to score on offense (she’s averaging 10.3 points per game) is an underrated asset when it comes to defense.
“I think that’s why we have great defenders,” Trammell added. “Think of the players we have on our team, they know what that offensive player is thinking, so we can put ourselves in situations on the defensive end to be successful.”
I definitely think it helps when you understand the offensive end, it’s like a chess game in my opinion. You’re always wanting to put the defensive players where the offense wants to go. You want to take away what they’re comfortable doing.”
Meanwhile, Sparks MVP and DPOY candidate Candace Parker told Winsidr she will gladly share the DPOY conversation with Sykes.
“I think that’s what I love about Slim is her confidence. She’s unbelievable and I remember at the beginning of the season saying that she reminds me a lot of Alana Beard,” Parker said. “Just in the way that she moves, her length, her athleticism, her quickness. Her ability to really affect things on the defensive end.”
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) September 1, 2020
“She’s a rebounding guard and sometimes you get caught watching her because she gets over screens and you don’t have to help as much,” Parker continued. “(I will) gladly share that because I know that we definitely need to continue to be good on the defensive end.”
However, the Sparks are 10-3 with Sykes in the starting lineup. The fourth year player out of Syracuse is the anchor of the team’s perimeter defense. That is an achievement that deserves praise and recognition.
She’s seventh in the league in steal percentage, which means 3.2 percent of the Sparks’ defensive possessions end with a steal by Sykes. She also ranks 14th in the W with 30 total steals in 20 games.
Ultimately, Sykes will most likely not win Defensive Player of the Year. The award could very well go to Candace Parker, who is leading the league in rebounding. With that said, Sykes should have a legitimate chance to make All-Defensive First or Second Team.
Her highlight reel blocks are memorable but voters know Sykes is willing to guard anybody, anywhere. That’s why she’s arguably a Top 10 defender in the WNBA.