Top five trades in WNBA history

Chelsea Gray, left, helped L.A. win the 2016 title and return to the WNBA Finals last season, while Jonquel Jones had a breakout season in 2017. AP Photo/Chris Carlson

When the Sparks visit the Sun on Thursday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), the Ogwumike sisters, Los Angeles' Nneka and Connecticut's Chiney, will have an on-court reunion. But the game is also a reminder of something that hasn't happened much in the WNBA: a mutually beneficial trade.

In the 2016 draft, the Sparks selected post player Jonquel Jones of George Washington and dealt her to the Sun for point guard Chelsea Gray. So far, so good: Both Jones, 24, and Gray, 25, are impact players who have bright futures.

There have been high-profile WNBA trades that greatly benefited one team -- and did little or nothing for the other. (For example, see Katie Smith to Detroit from Minnesota in 2005, and Becky Hammon to San Antonio from New York in 2007.) The "best" trades, though, are typically those that provide some value to both sides.

Admittedly, trades that turn out equally well for both sides can be rare in all pro leagues. But in the WNBA, player movement is also hampered in general by the core-player designation and a largely rigid salary structure.

At some point, the WNBA might grow to where there is more movement -- and the fan interest that usually spurs. But with Gray's and Jones' teams facing off this week, we look at five of the best WNBA trades, as defined by the deals delivering something positive -- although not necessarily equal -- for both sides.

1. Jonquel Jones-Chelsea Gray (2016)

The timing was just right, although it had to get done in speedy fashion on draft night in 2016. Connecticut had used the Nos. 3 and 4 picks for forward Morgan Tuck and guard Rachel Banham. When Dallas took wing player Aerial Powers at No. 5, the Sun hastily called the Sparks, who had No. 6, because they wanted center/forward Jones. The Sparks wanted a point guard who had a big upside, and Gray fit that bill.

Connecticut drafted Gray with the No. 11 pick in 2014, even though she had to sit out that season recovering from a knee injury that cut short her senior season at Duke. Gray averaged 6.9 points and 2.7 assists for the Sun in 2015. With the Sparks in 2016, she was a back-up to veteran Kristi Toliver, and saw her playing time increase near the end of the regular season. Gray averaged 9.0 points and 2.8 assists for the Sparks in the 2016 postseason, when they won the title.

Toliver went to the Mystics as a free agent in 2017, and Gray moved into a starting role for Los Angeles. She averaged 14.8 points and 4.4 assists last year for the runner-up Sparks. Sunday, Gray hit the game-winning shot against the Lynx in both teams' season opener.

Jones, meanwhile, was the WNBA's most improved player last season, as she started and averaged 15.4 points and 11.9 rebounds, both big jumps from her rookie season. She dunked at the All-Star Game and is expected to be a premier post for a long time.

2. Lindsay Whalen goes home (2010)

This deal could have been more equal over the long haul than it ended up, but we're still including it. When Minnesota got the No. 1 pick for the 2010 draft -- which everyone knew would be UConn star Tina Charles -- the Lynx finally had what they needed to get Minnesota native Lindsay Whalen from Connecticut, which had drafted her in 2004.

The Lynx sent that 2010 top pick and Renee Montgomery (who'd been the No. 2 pick in 2009) to the Sun in exchange for Whalen and the 2010 No. 2 pick (who became Monica Wright).

This couldn't have turned out better for the Lynx, who've won four WNBA titles with Whalen at point guard. And while Wright dealt with injuries and didn't really pan out for the Lynx, they traded her to Seattle to get Montgomery back in 2015. Montgomery -- who'd been dealt from Connecticut to Seattle -- became an important part of Minnesota's 2015 and '17 title teams.

As for the Sun, they were ready in 2010 to rebuild around a young superstar, and had that for four seasons with Charles, who was the 2012 league MVP.

Charles didn't agree with the Sun firing coach Mike Thibault after the 2012 season, when Connecticut lost a tough Eastern Conference finals series to Indiana. Charles played one more season with the Sun for coach Anne Donovan and then insisted on a trade to New York.

While the Sun didn't get Charles for her career as they hoped -- and they still haven't won a title -- even the trade that Charles forced had some merit. One of the players they got was forward Alyssa Thomas, an All-Star last year who has become a key part of the Sun's core.

3. Elena Delle Donne goes closer to home (2017)

What Chicago got for Delle Donne from Washington -- center Stefanie Dolson, guard/forward Kahleah Copper and the 2017 No. 2 draft pick (South Carolina's Alaina Coates) -- wasn't equal. Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA MVP, is a special player who should be a cornerstone for the Mystics for some time.

But it was about as good a deal as Chicago could have hoped for -- considering the Sky had little choice but to make it. Delle Donne forced the trade: She wanted to be back closer to her home in Delaware and had become pretty disenchanted with the Sky.

In 2015, another Sky star -- center Sylvia Fowles -- had sat out the first part of the season to force a trade to Minnesota. That July 2015 three-way deal included Atlanta, but Chicago didn't benefit from it; the Sky got veteran center Erika de Souza, who was in the latter stages of her career and isn't in the league now.

In contrast, getting Dolson (a starter who averaged 14.5 PPG and 5.8 RPG last year), Copper (who averaged 6.7 points and started 10 games) and Coates (out injured last season, so she's just beginning her WNBA career) was a better haul than most expected the Sky would get for a trade they had no choice but to make.

4. Cappie to the Big Apple (2010)

Hang with us through this one. It was a three-team deal, benefiting two of the teams.

Pondexter was coming off a second WNBA title with Phoenix in 2009, but pushed for a move to New York. She and Kelly Mazzante were dealt to the Liberty, who sent Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld to Chicago, which in turn sent Candice Dupree to the Mercury.

New York didn't win a title with Pondexter, but she had five productive seasons as a starter for the Liberty. (And in 2015, they traded her to the Sky for Epiphanny Prince, who's still with New York.)

Dupree was a starter in her seven seasons in Phoenix, including for the 2014 WNBA championship team. Having Diana Taurasi and Pondexter for longer with the Mercury might have resulted in more championships. Dupree ended up being a really good fit in Phoenix.

But this deal didn't work for Chicago. Kraayeveld had two pedestrian seasons with the Sky. Because of injuries, Christon played just 10 games total for Chicago.

5. Sims settles down in L.A. (2017)

Odyssey Sims was the No. 2 draft pick in 2014 by Tulsa, and she was a solid scorer in two seasons with the Shock and then one with the Wings when the franchise moved to Dallas. But she will tell you she lacked discipline and wasn't playing as well defensively as she's capable.

Those things changed when she was traded last year to the Sparks in exchange for the No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft, which was South Carolina's Allisha Gray.

Sims moved into a starting role about midway through the 2017 season, and sacrificed scoring to be what the Sparks needed her to be. The Sparks also got 2017's No. 11 pick in the Sims deal, and took Oregon State's Sydney Wiese, who remains with Los Angeles as a reserve.

Gray was the 2017 WNBA Rookie of the Year for the Wings, averaging 13.0 points and 3.9 rebounds.