The Chicago Sky go into the 2017 season with a number of injured players, issues on a number of fronts and no easy answers.
Record last season: 18-16
Finished second in the Eastern Conference, lost to the Los Angeles Sparks in the second round
Projected starters/Potential Subs:
Courtney Vandersloot/Makayla Epps
Cappie Pondexter/Tori Jankoska
Keisha Hampton/Tamera Young
Jessica Breland/Cheyenne Parker
Stefanie Dolson/Imani Boyette,
For the Chicago Sky and their fans, there is the team before they drafted Elena Delle Donne and after they added the incredibly talented player out of Delaware to the roster.
Before Delle Donne was drafted with the second overall pick, the Sky had never made the WNBA postseason and the best record they could manage was 16-18 in 2009. By contrast, once Delle Donne came to Chicago in 2013, the team made the playoffs four straight years, including a trip to the WNBA Finals in 2014.
It is obvious that the addition of Delle Donne transformed the Sky and took a very mediocre franchise and made them a consistent playoff contender. A superstar can do that and help transform a team from a joke into a force to be reckoned with.
Which is exactly why the Washington Mystics traded for Delle Donne during the offseason.
In what has already become a trade of WNBA legend, the Mystics sent center Stefanie Dolson, guard/forward Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft to the Sky in exchange for Delle Donne and her talents.
Delle Donne had made it perfectly clear she had no intention of playing for the Sky anymore, wanting to play closer to home and willing to sit an entire season to force a trade and make it happen. With their backs against the wall, the Sky did the deal and sent her to Washington.
In addition to losing Delle Donne, the Sky also parted ways with head coach Pokey Chatman, who has since moved on to the Indiana Fever. Chatman was replaced by Amber Stocks, who also serves at the team’s general manager. While she is a rookie as a head coach, she has years of coaching experience, both pro and college.
With the No. 2 pick the Sky took center Alaina Coates out of South Carolina. And while there has been some rumor about whether the Sky ever intended to keep her or trade Coates to the San Antonio Stars for Kelsey Plum, the bottom line is she won’t be any help to the team this season. Coates had surgery on her ankle shortly before the WNBA Draft and is expected to miss the entire 2017 season while rehabbing.
In addition to Coates, guard Jamierra Faulkner is going to miss the entire 2017 season due to injury, which means the Sky will be missing yet another veteran on the floor.
The Sky have a returning core of solid players, including Courtney Vandersloot, Cappie Pondexter and sophomore center Imani Boyette who many are expecting great things from down the road. The problem is what kind of team is the Sky going to be this season? Last year the Sky was a powerhouse offensively but also allowed teams to score at will against them, with the second-worst defensive rating in the league.
So with all the questions surrounding the Sky this upcoming season, what can fans expect when the season kicks off?
Unfortunately, the most likely answer is a rebuild.
A team doesn’t lose a player like Elena Delle Donne and simply replace that kind of production overnight. The Sky are going to have to lean heavily on their rookies to help fill out a roster light on experience and depth. Sure, you can sign free agents and make trades, which Chicago is rumored to be perusing, but the bottom line is that with a new coach and so many new faces, wins will not come easy.
In fact, some might say that with an incredibly deep draft coming next year, tanking the season might not be the worst decision for a team in search of an identity in the wake of the Elena Delle Donne era.
The Chicago Sky open the season against the Minnesota Lynx on May 14.