Shameka Christon (left) and Cathrine Kraayeveld provide some added scoring after being traded to the Chicago from New York.
David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

As the Chicago Sky prepare to enter their fifth season, their number-one goal remains the same: to make the playoffs. Typically, the ultimate objective is a championship, but the Sky should start two series smaller. They are, after all, the last remaining WNBA franchise without a postseason trip to their name.

If trends continue, however, the Sky could be in for their best season on record. 2009 was a year of growth for the team. Their 16-18 record was their finest campaign yet, and head coach Steven Key believes consistency can spur them closer to, and possibly even over, the 20-win mark.

“We get over the hump by being more consistent than we have ever been,” Key said. “We know we are competitive, but need to be throughout the season, and not just in spurts. That starts on the defensive end, with rebounding and willingness to do whatever is necessary.”

Rebounding wasn’t particularly a strong suit for the Sky as a whole last season – they finished 11th in the league. Add in the fact that they traded their top player, Candice Dupree, who happened to lead the team on the boards (7.9 rpg), and they’ll need someone to step up to help center Sylvia Fowles (7.8 rpg). Dupree was an all-around talented player; she was also their top scorer (15.7 ppg). But the Sky had several needs and were able to fill two spots by shipping Dupree to the Phoenix Mercury in a three-team deal in March. In the swap, the Sky received forwards Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld from the New York Liberty. Christon (16.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) put together the best season of her six-year WNBA career in 2009, and she should be able to provide veteran leadership and outside scoring. Kraayeveld is also expected to step into a starting role, similar to what she had in the Big Apple. She’s been one of the league’s top three-point scorers since she was drafted in the third round by the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2005.

It’s important to point out that Chicago does have a very strong core, even with the loss of Dupree. Fowles’ (11.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg) numbers have improved in each of her first two years, while guard Jia Perkins (13.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg), a veteran of six WNBA seasons, will now shoulder the leader role. Both were All-Stars in 2009, along with Dupree, so they’ve been recognized as having strong skills. It will now be up to their teammates to compliment their abilities.

“Jia and Sylvia will benefit from having added capable scoring teammates, but most importantly, having dependable defensive teammates,” Key said.

Perkins and Fowles will be re-joined this season by guards Dominique Canty and Kristi Toliver, and forward Tamera Young. Canty has played 11 years in the league, the last three with Chicago. She’s started all but three games for the Sky during that span. Toliver, meanwhile, had a superb freshman season in 2009, posting averages of 7.6 points and 1.9 assists per night, all off the bench. It’s really a toss-up whether she supplants Canty as the Sky’s starting guard this season, but it could be interesting to see what she can do playing more than 14 minutes a game.

Among the other newcomers to the Sky’s roster are center Courtney Paris and rookie Epiphanny Prince. Paris was acquired out of the Sacramento Monarchs’ Dispersal Draft. The 6’4”, 250-pound center had a quiet rookie campaign, but should be a valuable backup to Fowles. Several eyes will be on Prince, who made national headlines when she left Rutgers University after the 2008 season to play professionally in Europe. The move didn’t hurt her draft prospects much as the Sky grabbed her fourth-overall. Key believes the newcomers only add to his arsenal.

“Even though we have some new additions, we weren’t missing anything,” Key said. “Christon, Kraayeveld, Prince and Paris will help in depth and experience. We just need to work together to reach our potential.”

Scott Stanchak

Player on the Spot

There’s no doubt that Fowles will be relied upon heavily with the departure of Dupree. After all, the third-year star out of LSU is the key to the Sky’s success this season.

Fowles has emerged as the Sky’s most versatile player after being selected second-overall in 2008, one spot behind WNBA MVP Candace Parker. While Chicago hasn’t exactly been a major success on the court, Fowles personally has. Not only did she make her first All-Star appearance last season, but she was part of the U.S. women’s basketball team that took gold.

A big part of the Sky’s achievements will come if the 6’6”, 198-pound center can stay healthy for a full season. She appeared in just 17 games her freshman season and 24 last year. With 34 games on the schedule, some of those extra appearances could have add up to wins for Chicago, who missed the playoffs by two wins in 2009.

It’s also important to remember that the Sky added two outside-the-arc scorers (Christon and Kraayeveld), which could spread the opposing defense out to allow for more inside dishes to Fowles. On the defensive end, she’s very tough to keep off the boards, especially with her height, which also helps in the blocks department.

Scott Stanchak

Projected Lineup

G.Jia Perkins
G.Kristi Toliver
F.Shameka Christon
F.Cathrine Kraayeveld
C.Sylvia Fowles

Players Added

F.Shameka Christon
F.Sandora Irvin
F.Cathrine Kraayeveld
C.Abi Olajuwon
C.Courtney Paris
G.Epiphanny Prince

Players Lost

F.Candice Dupree
F.Shyra Ely
C.Katie Mattera
C.Chen Nan
F.Brooke Wyckoff

2008 Leaders

PPGCandice Dupree15.7
RPGCandice Dupree7.9
APGDominique Canty3.2
SPGJia Perkins2.15
BPGSylvia Fowles1.46

Team Stats

Points Scored75.7(10th)
Points Allowed79.2(10th)
Field-Goal Percentage.435(3rd)
Opponents’ FG%.442(11th)
Rebounding Diff.-2.1(8th)