2020 Reflections and 2021 Forecasts: Chicago Sky

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The Seattle Storm are one win over the Las Vegas Aces away from being 2020 WNBA Champions. That means ten teams and fan bases are already looking ahead to the offseason. While we’re looking forward to Game 3 tomorrow night, this piece kicks off a series reflecting on the 2020 season for each team in the WNBA. Today, we break down the Chicago Sky.

By the numbers

  • 12-10 (0.545), 6th seed in the playoffs, eliminated in Round 1

  • Points Scored: 86.7 (3rd), Points Allowed: 84.1 (7th), Margin Per Game: +2.6 (5th)

  • Offensive Rating: 104.5 (4th), Defensive Rating: 100.3 (7th), Net Rating: +4.3 (5th)

  • Pace: 83.4 (4th)

2020 Synopsis

Expectations were high for Chicago entering the season. The Sky ranked second in our preseason Power Rankings thanks to more roster continuity than any other contender and a good 2019 that would have included a trip to the WNBA Semifinals if not for the Hamby Heave.  

However, things didn’t work out quite as planned. Chicago won 10 of its first 14 games but finished 2-6 after both Diamond DeShields and Azura Stevens left Bradenton midseason. DeShields was not healthy all year, and Stevens suffered a season-ending injury to her left knee. Stevens had been a revelation this season, averaging 11.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game which was third-best in the league this season.  

Despite the late-season slump, this was an impressive team. Courtney Vandersloot set a WNBA record for assists by becoming the first player in league history to average 10 per game. The Sky led the league in effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the value of threes) and points per scoring attempt (which accounts for the value of threes and free throws) after finishing second to the historic Mystics in both categories the previous year. James Wade has turned around an offense that, prior to his arrival, hadn’t finished in the top half of the league in efficiency since the departure of Elena Delle Donne.

Cap Situation

Unrestricted free agents

Free to sign with any team

Restricted free agents

Current team can match contract signed with another team

The Sky have no restricted free agents this offseason.

Reserved and “Suspended-Contract Expired” players

Can only negotiate with the Sky

2021 Draft Picks

  • 8th pick (1st Round 8th Pick via Phoenix), $67,208 rookie scale contract

  • Traded 1st Round Pick to Dallas

  • Traded 2nd Round Pick to Indiana

  • Traded 3rd Round Pick to Indiana

2021 Roster and Cap Situation Summary

Chicago can return almost all of their key players for 2021 but - barring trades - things are a little tight to retain their one meaningful free agent: Cheyenne Parker. Parker is an unrestricted free agent who is likely to command more than the Sky’s available $141,434 if they also choose to retain every player who is currently under contract. If they sign their 1st round draft pick but cut Gillespie and Conde, both of whom were third-round picks and are yet to wear a Sky jersey, they'd have just over $191,000 of cap room to sign Parker or another free agent. Even in that scenario, though, they would not be able to core Parker since that requires supermax cap space. They’d also be starting the regular season with 11 players once again, rather than 12.

Looking to 2021

The Sky have been on the rise for the last two years, but it’s fair to wonder how long their championship window with Vandersloot and Quigley will remain open. The former will be 32 and the latter 35 next season. Chicago does have a younger backcourt duo in DeShields and Copper that is ready to take the next step, but the health of DeShields will be a key factor heading into 2021 after a 2020 season in which she was never fully right.

On the court, the biggest focus heading into next season has to be defensive improvement. The Sky finished seventh in defensive rating in 2020 and haven’t been in the top four since 2013. DeShields and Stevens are two of their better defensive players, so a full season from both of them would certainly help. But even with both in the lineup Chicago often struggled to slow down opposing scorers this season, and if the Sky want to become true title contenders, that will have to be addressed.


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