Statistically Sky-High

The Chicago Sky is off to their best start in franchise history. Elena Delle Donne certainly deserves credit for her efforts. She has received the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week three times and WNBA Rookie of the Month twice times. However, statistically this strong start has been a team-wide effort.

The Sky sit at 15-8 on the year, good for first place in the Eastern Conference. They are fourth in the WNBA in points per game, but just seventh in the league in shooting percentage. Of course, if you factor in that the Sky shoot 21 free throws per game and lead the WNBA in free throw percentage — 82.2 percent — that makes more sense. They’re also 4th in the league in three-point percentage, thanks to Delle Donne and Epiphanny Prince shooting over 40 percent from downtown.

Defensively, however, is where the Sky have cemented their status as contenders. They lead the league in opponent field goal percentage (40%) and sit at third in the league in points allowed per game. Not bad for a team that likes to play at a pretty fast pace. Former Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles has a lot to do with it, as she’s the driving force behind a defense that leads the WNBA in blocks per game and sits at second in rebounding margin.

The Sky have given up 85 or more points three times this year. Once was in overtime against the best team of the West, the Minnesota Lynx; once was on the road against the Atlanta Dream during their early-season hot streak; and the last was against the Washington Mystics. They’ve held their opponents to 80 or fewer points in 16 out of 23 games and to 70 or fewer eight times.

There has also been a number of individual games that are noteworthy from a statistical perspective.

Delle Donne and Fowles had themselves a night on Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx in Rosemont on August 11. The two put up a combined 63 points and 15 rebounds against the best team in the WNBA. But what fans may not know is exactly how impressive their night was.

In the Sky’s 7.5 seasons, there were just 11 games in which a Sky player scored 30 or more points. In 16 other games, one player on the opposing team scored 30 or more. Sunday, August 11 was the first game the Sky have participated in where two players on the same team scored 30 or more points.

Looking back at the start of the season, the Sky grabbed the opening game win against the highly anticipated Phoenix Mercury. The Sky wasted no time, setting franchise records for most points in a single quarter (39 in the 2nd) and points in a regulation game (102). Then, less than a week later, Chicago took on the Connecticut Sun. In that game, Fowles slapped up 24 points and 22 rebounds, the first 20-20 game in Sky history. It was also the third time in four years that Fowles had recorded at least 20 rebounds in a game.

In short, the Sky profile as a legitimate contender in 2013. They’ll need to find some consistency, especially on offense, but there’s plenty to like about their chances. Either way, Chicago should be fun to watch in the final month of the season.