Elena Delle Donne (R) is the big story. But with Epiphanny Prince (M) and Swin Cash (L), Sylvia Fowles and more, the Sky look geared to (finally) write a new chapter for their franchise. NBAE/Getty Images
Elena Delle Donne
Take it back to early March, when the '2' in No. 2 overall pick looked a whole lot more like a '?'
Brittney Griner had been slotted into the No. 1 spot in the 2013 WNBA Draft ever since a middle-school growth spurt. But the second pick -- the one that belonged to the Chicago Sky -- wasn't quite so clear. Hoops-wise, Elena Delle Donne looked like the favorite, what with her center size and Steph Curry range. But Skylar Diggins, a hometown sensation, born leader and marketing sunburst, was the safe bet.
Then the country got to watch Delle Donne in action, blowing through double-teams and shooting over triple-teams to take the Delaware women's basketball team to a place that Delaware basketball -- in all likelihood -- never expected to go.
Now, the questions go something like this: is a team that hasn't made the Playoffs in its seven years of existence, the only team in the WNBA to never reach the postseason, really the favorite to come out of the East?
"Getting that national ranking, getting to the Sweet Sixteen, was something no one thought we could do," Delle Donne said of her time at Delaware. "Now, it's time to do stuff like that for the Sky. We haven't made the Playoffs, so that's No. 1. Make the Playoffs. Then keep pushing the limits, do things people don't think we can do. I think anything is possible with this team."
The pieces were already in place for a run last year. If not for Tina Charles, center and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles would rank as the elite pivot player in the WNBA. And had an injury not taken away half of Epiphanny Prince's season -- after Prince had rolled out to the hottest start of her career, leading the WNBA in scoring -- the Sky almost certainly would have cracked the Playoffs.
Now, they're both back. Swin Cash -- and all the matchup problems she presents -- too. And they're all healthy. And along with ever-improving point guard Courtney Vandersloot, whose progress essentially gave the Sky the confidence to go with Delle Donne instead of Diggins, they've got someone to fit the pieces together.
Because right now, heading into the most important season in team history, the Chicago Sky could feature a starting five that looks something like an All-Star team: Vandersloot at point, Prince at 2, (the 6-foot-5) Delle Donne at 3, Hall of Famer Cash at 4 and Fowles at 5.
"Elena is going to make everyone else's job easier. With her size and ability to hurt you from the three-point line, Syl was getting lots of room down low and I was getting a bunch of looks that were even better than the looks I get in practice," Cash said after the Sky's first preseason game. "We are going to be getting lots of chances to knock down open shots. It's a real benefit to the whole team."
But, for potentially the first time in Sky history, there's some serious depth, too. In addition to Delle Donne, all six of the team's leading scorers are back. Guard Eshaya Murphy scored 8.5 points in just 18.6 minutes a night last year, shooting 44 percent from distance. Forward Tamera Young brings power on the wing and in the paint, along with a rebounding presence and a sure shot (42.3 percent from the field). Allie Quigley, signed in the offseason, had a solid debut in the preseason, going for 14 points on 50 percent shooting against the Liberty.
And all that means that, after years of hopes cut short, the Chicago Sky have arrived.
"You should expect every single game we will play hard," Cash said. "We're trying to do something this franchise has never done, which is to make the playoffs. But we know it won't be easy, so we are all committed to working hard to make that happen for our fans and the people of Chicago."