After four years, a trip to the WNBA Finals and an MVP, Elena Delle Donne has switched teams. On Thursday the young star was dealt to the Washington Mystics in one of the biggest trades in WNBA history. In return, the Sky received 2015 All-Star Stefanie Dolson, last year’s No. 7 overall pick, Kahleah Copper, and the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming 2017 WNBA Draft. Let’s take a closer look at what Dolson and Copper bring to the table as the Sky begin to retool.
The 6-5 center entered the WNBA with a strong pedigree, having captured two NCAA Championships at UConn, the NCAA’s perennial powerhouse. Though starting just one game in her rookie season, Dolson was an important piece off the bench as the Mystics made the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the East. Ever since, Dolson — who has never missed a game in her WNBA career — has been a staple of the Washington starting lineup, getting the start in 64 of 68 regular season games.
Along with being one of the most resilient players in the league, Dolson brings great size to a Sky frontcourt that lost two key pieces in the last few days in Delle Donne and Erika de Souza, who signed with San Antonio. At 6-5, Dolson will now partner with the 6-7 youngster Imani Boyette to form one of the biggest frontlines in the league.
The two seem to be a natural pairing, with Dolson capable of playing physical with the likes of Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles down low and taking some of the rigors of the low post off of the slighter Boyette. And though not quite as athletic as Delle Donne — few are, to be fair — Dolson does have quick feet and is able to stay with guards off the dribble in pick-and-roll or switch situations.
Likewise, Dolson’s skillset figures to mesh well with Boyette’s on the offensive end. While Boyette does most of her work around the rim, the versatile Dolson has no problem stepping out for mid-range jumpers. And though that’s where she’s more comfortable, she’s started expanding her range to the three-point line, shooting 35 percent from behind the arc over the last two years.
Letting Boyette work on the block, Dolson could play more of the stretch-four role on offense when they’re on the floor together, spreading the floor and knocking down open jumpers.
Although truly replacing Delle Donne is a difficult task, the Sky, in Boyette and Dolson, have a young and talented frontline that figures to get even better in coming years.
In addition to Dolson, the Sky acquired last year’s No. 7 overall pick. The hyper-athletic wing from Rutgers was solid in her rookie season, putting up 6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in just over 16 minutes a night. With Cappie Pondexter now 34, and Allie Quigley turning 31 during the season, adding Copper is a great way for the Sky to replenish their depth on the wing. And what better tutor for an energetic young guard from Rutgers than Pondexter?
On the offensive end, Copper can get out of control at times, but with her quickness has shown a great ability to get to the rim, both on the break and in the halfcourt.
And although it’s not her first option, Copper is a capable 3-point shooter, knocking down 46.7 percent of her 3-point attempts last season. If teams leave her open, she’s shown she will make them pay.
On the defensive side of the ball, Copper has all the tools to be an elite wing defender. To go along with her athleticism and sharp instincts, Copper is also 6-1 with plenty of length. This allows her to bother opposing guards and small forwards up and down the floor, and when she smells a steal, she can jump into passing lanes faster than just about anyone in the league.
Copper still has plenty of room to grow, but has shown the potential to be an important part of the Sky’s roster moving forward.
The No. 2 Overall Pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft
In addition to the two young talents the Sky got in Dolson and Copper, they also received the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft, which should add yet another important building block as they try to move on from Delle Donne.
Among the senior class, Washington Huskies sensation Kelsey Plum has vaulted herself into the discussion of top picks. Guards Alexis Peterson (Syracuse), Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland) and Alexis Jones (Baylor) could interest the Sky to complement their loaded frontcourt, while Tennessee’s Diamond DeShields looms as a draft wild card should she choose to enter the draft after her junior season.