Season Preview 2011: Chicago Sky

Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot will manage the perimeter for the Sky while Sylvia Fowles controls the paint
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

It’s been five years since the Chicago Sky first joined the league and fans are still waiting for the team to crack the postseason. What better time to do it than in the league’s 15th season?

Rest assured the Chi-town front office is not just sitting around expecting this issue to resolve itself. After ending the 2010 season with a 14-20 record, last in the Eastern Conference, the Sky relieved Steven Key of his general manager and coaching duties and brought in Pokey Chatman. Chatman, who spent the 2010 offseason overseas in Russia coaching Epiphanny Prince and the Spartak team, was patient with her offseason moves but accurate in finding the right players to fill the roster.

The perimeter was a bit shaky last season for the Sky, but that’s to be expected with the team’s effort to work Prince into the mix in her first season. Although Prince has been known to play both point positions, her true bread and butter is at shooting guard. So when Chatman looked to add more weapons around the arc, she drafted Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot third overall in the draft, an acquisition that will likely allow Prince to swing back to her comfort zone at the two.

Center Sylvia Fowles, who experienced a breakout season in 2010, is the definition of size in the paint with her 6-foot-6 frame. In an effort to either boost depth down the middle or provide another option for when she wants to roll out bigs, Chatman traded Jia Perkins to San Antonio in exchange for veteran center Michelle Snow. The addition of Carolyn Swords 15th overall at the draft gives Chicago another 6-foot-6 center to consider in training camp. All in all, the Sky appears to have upgraded to a healthy combination of size and speed and they’re hoping it translates to more wins in 2011. The added hope is that they also improve upon a number of statistical areas in the process. Last season Chicago finished dead last in points scored per game with 76.1 and ninth overall in field-goal percentage, hitting 44 percent of its shots.

With Vandersloot’s ability to create plays, Prince’s switch to the shooting position and Fowles’ dominance in the paint, there’s plenty of potential for Chicago to compete with the best of them in 2011. It also helps that a healthier Shameka Christon, who suffered a broken orbital bone 10 games into the season last year, will aim to return better than ever after a strong overseas season with Russia’s Orenburg club.

The Sky addressed needs during the offseason and will look to implement the recent changes into its 2011 roster. It may take some time for all of the pieces to work together, but the one element that will remain true throughout is that this team will remain focused not only on winning the games at hand but also on cracking the postseason.

Frank Della Femina

Player on the Spot

The third overall pick in the 2011 Draft will likely find herself starting at the point for a Chicago Sky team that is desperately in need of a postseason berth. While a number of eyes will remain on Fowles and her dominant play in the paint, it will be up to Vandersloot to dictate the tempo of the offense and facilitate ways to create buckets. Vandersloot enters Chicago as the play-making artist who has a blank canvas to work with.

Results may not be immediate, but as she transitions to the WNBA level of play and gets familiar with her surroundings Vandersloot may very well emerge as one of the top considerations for Rookie of the Year. At the very least, she will begin to lay the foundation of what is expected to be a long and fortuitous career in the WNBA.

Frank Della Femina

Projected Lineup

G.Courtney Vandersloot
G.Epiphanny Prince
F.Shameka Christon
F.Cathrine Kraayeveld
C.Sylvia Fowles

Players Added

G.Jolene Anderson
G-F.Angie Bjorklund
C.Michelle Snow
C.Carolyn Swords
G.Courtney Vandersloot

Players Lost

F.Mistie Bass
G.Jia Perkins

2008 Leaders

PPGSylvia Fowles17.8
RPGSylvia Fowles9.9
APGDominique Canty3.4
SPGJia Perkins1.65
BPGSylvia Fowles2.59

Team Stats

Points Scored76.1(12th)
Points Allowed76.8(5th)
Field-Goal Percentage.437(9th)
Opponents’ FG%.444(8th)