In the months following the Chicago Sky’s championship, Lexie Brown was seen dancing and celebrating in videos posted by the team’s Twitter account. However, as the offseason rolled on, it became apparent that she wasn’t a part of the Sky’s future plans.
Chicago offered Brown a qualifying offer, but based on the makeup of the squad, it was clear that it would be a long shot for her to keep a place on the roster, let alone a rotation spot. The Sky re-upped with both Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot while trading for Julie Allemand. Dana Evans also saw a more prominent role in the playoffs, and Chicago brought in several other guards on training camp contracts. Brown’s odds for staying with the Sky looked bleak.
But in the 11th hour, Los Angeles’ GM and coach Derek Fisher placed a call to Chicago inquiring about Brown’s availability. On March 30, the Sparks traded the rights of Li Yueru for Brown.
“When the circumstances started to align, we wanted to make the move to see if it would be a great fit,” Fisher said.
After a 12-20 season in 2021, Los Angeles placed a premium on finding guards who can shoot. And after a dominant inaugural season in Athletes Unlimited, Brown proved she was more than capable of filling the role.
During the 2022 Athletes Unlimited season, she averaged 14.0 points per game and 4.6 assists while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 46.9 percent from beyond the arc. But it wasn’t just her offensive performance that stood out—she frequently played aggressive defense and finished with the second-most steals (38) on the season. Her two-way play paved the way to earning All-Defensive Team honors and racking up the fourth-highest point total on AU’s leaderboard. Her performance caught Fisher’s attention, and the Sparks acquired her just in time for the start of training camp.
From the moment she stepped foot in Los Angeles, she’s impressed coaches with her work ethic. Additionally, the partial contract suspensions of Kristi Toliver and Katie Lou Samuelson at the beginning of the season left the Sparks with few perimeter options, providing Brown with the opportunity to earn playing time immediately.
Fisher’s trust in Brown paid off right away. Facing her former team on May 6, she scored 12 points in 32 minutes on four-of-five shooting from three-point range in her first game with the Sparks. Brown also added two steals and made a point of keeping her hands active, just like she did in AU, with several deflections leading to fast-break opportunities.
“We’ve seen enough of her in her career to feel that there was a chance that offensively she could help us, but I think she’s underrated defensively, and that’s where she’s really added value for us,” Fisher said.
By the fourth game of the regular season, Fisher promoted Brown to the starting lineup, and she has continued to show her two-way abilities in her new role. In the five games she’s started, Brown is averaging 8.2 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.0 steal per game.
Among Sparks players who have started at least one game, Brown is also the team’s best shooter, with a field goal percentage of 56.8 while shooting 53.6 percent from three-point territory. Those numbers are also good enough for her to be considered as one of the league’s top shooters at the moment. She currently ranks at the top of the WNBA in three-point percentage among players with at least 20 attempts, and she is fourth from the field among players who have played the full season.
Despite her solid shooting numbers, Brown isn’t a high-volume shooter by any stretch of the imagination. She ranks 18th in the league in three-point attempts and 60th in field goal attempts. There are a few obvious reasons for this. The first is that the Sparks primarily play inside-out and have an offense predicated on Nneka Ogwumike and Liz Cambage receiving the most touches. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they not only are first and second, respectively, on the team in field goal attempts but also make up nearly 35.0 percent of all the Sparks’ field goal attempts. The other players who rank above Brown in three-point attempts play in offenses with a focus on outside shooting. But there’s more to Brown’s efficiency than offensive philosophy. After all, she still trails three other guards on her team in overall shot attempts.
It’s her overall basketball IQ that not only protects Brown from inefficient shooting nights but also keeps her turnovers down. She has just seven turnovers all season (0.9 per game), which is half the amount of Brittney Sykes who has the second-fewest turnovers out of Fisher’s guard rotation. When comparing Brown’s totals to players in the league averaging over 20 minutes per game, Brown has the second-fewest turnovers behind only Kayla Thornton. For a team like Los Angeles which is averaging 15.3 turnovers per game as players are still working to learn each other’s games, Brown’s intelligence on the court is invaluable.
After a five-game losing streak, it looked like the offense finally started clicking for Los Angeles, and Brown was a big part of that. The Sparks scored 99 points in their victory over the Phoenix Mercury on May 25, and Brown had another efficient scoring night, securing 10 points on four-of-five shooting. In that game, Fisher started both Brown and Samuelson together, allowing the Sparks’ offense to function with more flow and space than in previous games.
“I thought the team was really intentional about sharing the basketball, playing together, and playing with some confidence,” Fisher said of his offense following the victory.
That flow should only continue to improve as Samuelson becomes more comfortable in Los Angeles and Toliver returns from her coaching duties. As it stands, Fisher has an interesting decision to make once Toliver joins the team. Does he bench his floor general in Jordin Canada, who not only leads the team in assists (5.4 per game) but also has become a legitimate scoring threat (averaging 11.8 points per game)? Or his team’s best shooter, who is one of a few players who can open up the offense? Of course, Fisher can choose to leave his starters as is and play Toliver off the bench. However, that seems unlikely for the time being as Fisher mentioned after the win over Phoenix that the offense was built around Toliver’s abilities.
One thing is for certain: No matter if Brown continues starting or goes back to the bench, she will continue to play the largest role she’s ever had in her WNBA career. There are only a few players who can feel confident that almost any shot they take has a high likelihood of going in, and Brown is one of those players. When a player has a skillset like that, it’s almost impossible for a coach to want them off the floor.
“It’s hard to explain what these women go through when they don’t actually know if they’re going to make a team and that burden they have to carry in training camp trying to prove themselves,” Fisher said. “I’m really happy she persevered and has proven herself to be very valuable, and I think she has a long career with us.”