What to Expect from the Chicago Sky in 2018

Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley both had career years in 2017 as the Sky’s starting backcourt, and now Chicago seeks to build around them.

To say that 2017 was a disappointing season for the Chicago Sky might be an understatement. The franchise had languished at the bottom of the WNBA for years before finally breaking through in 2013, and had made the playoffs every season since then. But with Elena Delle Donne forcing her way out of town and Pokey Chatman heading to Indiana to coach the Fever, the Sky were put in an awkward transition phase. They got off to a poor start in 2017 and never truly recovered.

After this letdown, the Sky are now essentially starting over. Veterans Cappie Pondexter and Jessica Breland signed elsewhere in free agency, with their immediate replacements in the starting lineup unclear for the time being. The team is even playing in a new location, moving to Wintrust Arena in Chicago’s South Loop, which ownership hopes will boost ticket sales, sponsorship, and community involvement.

(And let’s be real. Playing right across the way from O’Hare Airport never suited them. They’re not called the Rosemont Sky, right?)

They do still have some legitimate in-house options, all of whom will be crucial to any success they have this season. Courtney Vandersloot is arguably the best point guard in the league; she owns the WNBA record for consecutive double-doubles of points and assists. Allie Quigley provides plenty of shooting from the off-guard position, while Stefanie Dolson is one of the more skilled centers in the league and continues to improve. This trio gives head coach Amber Stocks plenty to work with.

Joining the Sky’s core will be Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams (drafted in April at #3 and #4, respectively), along with Alaina Coates, who will be making her debut after missing the entirety of last year while rehabbing from a foot injury. Finally, explosive point guard Jamierra Faulkner is also set to return, making Chicago’s backcourt among the deepest in the WNBA.

Adding so much young talent has given good reasons for Sky fans to be excited. But how will it all fit together? Nobody knows.

Here’s the major issue: Vandersloot isn’t with the team, and hasn’t been for some time. She’s currently finishing up her overseas commitments with Turkish club Yakin Dogu (also featuring Aces guard Kayla McBride and Sparks center Jantel Lavender) as they compete against Fenerbahce (Aces guard Kelsey Plum and Liberty center Kia Vaughn) for the league’s championship.

The other problem is that the Sky doesn’t have much outside shooting. Quigley is an elite outside shot and Dolson can step out from time to time, but the players who will be seeing the majority of the team’s minutes on the wing - DeShields, Williams, and Kahleah Copper - all have the most success when they can get out and run in transition. Without Vandersloot orchestrating the team’s halfcourt offense, someone on the Sky is going to have to take charge and create shots.

In short, the Sky might struggle offensively while they wait for their star point guard to return. They’ll have to get creative and run plenty of offense through Dolson at the high post, as well as seek out easy transition baskets, in order to stay in games. It’s not the ideal scenario for a team with so many rookies.

That’s not to say the Sky won’t be worth watching. It’s actually the opposite; DeShields, Williams, and Copper are all elite athletes, and if they can mesh quickly, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this group grow together. If you’re into rebuilding projects, the absence of Breland has left a gaping hole at the Sky’s power forward position, so there are plenty of minutes up for grabs for players like Cheyenne Parker and Adut Bulgak. You've also got guards Linnae Harper and Chelsea Hopkins battling for a permanent spot on the roster for when Vandersloot comes back.

It’s an interesting position that the Sky are in. They’re rebuilding, yes, but have the potential to become very good in a matter of months. Their best players are still young enough to be considered part of the team’s core, and depending on how quickly the team’s rookie class comes along, Stocks could have a deep, versatile team to work with when the playoff race gets tight.

Temper your expectations for the Sky at the start of the season, and try to keep a big-picture perspective. This team has the talent. It’s going to be a question of when - not if - they’re competitive again.

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