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2019 Season Preview: Chicago Sky

The 2019 WNBA season tips off on May 24. will be previewing every team in the league. See below for a breakdown of the Chicago Sky.

2018 Recap

Record: 13-21; 10th in league standings; did not qualify for Playoffs for the second straight season

Leaders: Points: Allie Quigley (15.4), Rebounds: Cheyenne Parker (5.8), Assists: Courtney Vandersloot (8.6), Steals: Gabby Williams (1.6), Blocks: Parker (1.1), 3-Point Pct: Quigley (42.0%)

Team Stats: Offensive Rating: 101.5 (7th), Defensive Rating: 109.4 (12th), Net Rating: Minus-7.9 (10th), Rebound Percentage: 47.5 (10th), True Shooting Percentage: 54.7 (5th), Pace: 81.3 (4th)

Offseason Moves

Free Agency: Re-signed Allie Quigley, Cheyenne Parker, Jamierra Faulkner, Linnae Harper and Astou Ndour; Signed Hind Ben Abdelkader

Draft: Selected Katie Lou Samuelson (No. 4), Chloe Jackson (No. 15) and Maria Conde (No. 27) in the 2019 WNBA Draft.

Front Office: Hired James Wade as general manager and head coach

Players To Watch

Courtney Vandersloot: The Conductor

Vandersloot enters her ninth WNBA season coming off a career year as she posted new career highs in scoring (12.5 points per game) and assists as she dished out a WNBA record 8.6 per game. She is already ninth on the WNBA’s all-time assists list with 1,385 career assists in 239 games – the fewest games played of any player in the top 25.

Allie Quigley: The Sharpshooter

In addition to winning the WNBA All-Star 3-Point Contest in record-setting fashion, Quigley also finished third in the WNBA with 73 3-pointers made (2.3 per game), while connecting at 42.0 percent, which ranked seventh in the WNBA. For a team that wants to push pace, spread the floor and put up points, Quigley should flourish.

Diamond DeShields: Sophomore Surge

Last season’s No. 3 pick had a brilliant rookie campaign as she averaged 14.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game, which helped her earn All-Rookie Team honors. She had nine 20-point games last season, including each of Chicago’s final three games as she averaged 26.3 points over that stretch.

Katie Lou Samuelson: The Rookie

The addition of Samuelson with the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft gives the Sky another sharpshooter to add to their offense. She shot 41.5 percent from beyond the arc in her four years at UConn and should help the Sky spread the floor and improve their seventh-ranked offensive efficiency.

Three Questions

How will things change under new head coach/general manager James Wade?

After the draft, Wade said the following when discussing his team’s identity this season: “We’re going to focus on spacing the floor and moving the ball, playing with rhythm, playing with pace, and we’re going to make you have to guard us. We’re going to make you have to guard us farther because we’ll be able to shoot the ball from multiple positions, so we’re going to be attacking closeouts. That’s what we want to be known as, an offensive team that you have to guard someone at every position.”

Last season, the Sky finished in the top five in both pace (81.3, 4th) and true shooting percentage (54.7%, 5th). Can Wade’s new system and new personnel push those marks up even further and improve Chicago’s overall offensive efficiency, which ranked seventh in the league at 101.5 points per 100 possessions.

Can they Sky improve their defensive and rebounding woes?

Chicago finished last in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions – a mark that was nearly three points higher than the 6-28 Fever. The Sky were also a bottom-three team in overall rebound percentage (47.5%, 10th) and last in defensive rebounding (68.7%, 12th). Chicago chose not to address these issues in the draft or free agency by bringing in an elite defender or rebounder.

“We were last in a lot of defensive efficiency things, but a lot of that was because of the way we turned the ball over on offense,” said Wade. “But, what I asked the coaching staff is; if we take this great defender or this great rebounder, will we be the best at that? And everybody agreed that we wouldn’t. We would improve, but we wouldn’t be the best at that. I said, “Ok, if we take the player that we want, would we be the best at something?” They all agreed. They said we would be the best shooting team or one of the best shooting teams in the league.”

The Sky may not need to be the best defensive team, but an improvement must be made to compete for a playoff berth. Last season’s bottom five in defensive efficiency – Dallas and Las Vegas (tied at 104.7), New York (105.7), Indiana (106.7) and Chicago (109.7) – included all four teams that missed the playoffs.

Can the Sky make the Playoffs this season?

After a four-year stretch of making the playoffs each year from 2013 to 2016, including a Finals appearance in 2014, the Sky have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons, both under Amber Stocks. Now with a new head coach and general manager, a new system to learn and a few new pieces to incorporate, can the Sky make the jump back into the postseason this year?

It will depend on how quickly everything comes together for this team. Last year, they got off to a slow start at 3-9 before going 10-12 the rest of the season. Avoiding another slow start to the season will be key to Chicago’s playoff hopes. Last year’s rookies DeShields and Williams now have a full season under their belts and should contribute right out of the gate this season. If this year’s rookie class – particularly Samuelson and second-round pick Chloe Jackson – can find their way quickly, that would definitely help.

With Vandersloot running the show and the team pushing the pace, putting points on the board shouldn’t be a problem for the Sky, but in order to make the playoffs, they’ll have to figure out how to stop their opponents from doing the same at such at such a high rate.