The 2020 WNBA season is set to be the most unique in the league’s 24-year history. Teams have arrived at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL to begin training camp for a 22-game season with all games played at a single site without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bubble is set and the season is set to tip off on July 25. In the lead up to the season, WNBA.com will break down each team in the league, continuing with the Chicago Sky.
2019 Season Recap
- 20-14, 3rd in East, 5th in League
- Eliminated in playoff second round by Las Vegas
- Draft: No. 8 Ruthy Hebard; No. 30 Japreece Dean; No. 32 Kiah Gillespie; Dean was waived, Gillespie has opted to not play in the 2020 WNBA season
- Trades: Acquired Azurá Stevens from Dallas in exchange for Katie Lou Samuelson and a 2021 first-round draft pick; Traded Astou Ndour to Dallas for a 2021 first round pick
- Players Added: Signed free agents Syndey Colson and Stella Johnson; added Azurá Stevens via trade
- Players Lost: Traded Katie Lou Samuelson and Astou Ndour to Dallas; free agent Kayla Alexander signed with Minnesota; restricted free agent Jamierra Faulkner was not signed after announcing she would not play in 2020 due to injury; Jantel Lavender will not play in 2020 as she recovers from foot surgery
- Returning Players: Re-signed free agents Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper; Exercised team options on Gabby Williams and Diamond DeShields; Jantel Lavender and Cheyenne Parker remain under contract
Who’s at IMG Academy
Between free agency, trades, the draft and players choosing not to participate in the season due to health concerns, the teams that take the court in 2020 may look a lot different than they did in 2019. Here’s a look at some of the key players that will represent the Sky in 2020.
- 2019 Stats: 33 GP, 30.0 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 9.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 45.2 FG%, 29.0 3P%
- Vandersloot has set the WNBA single-season assist record in each of the past two seasons. Can she make it three in a row and become the first player in league history to average double-digit assists for a full season?
- 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 28.6 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.4 3PG, 49.3 FG%, 44.2 3P%
- Quigley led the WNBA with 80 3-pointers made and finished second in 3-point accuracy in 2019. She made her third straight WNBA All-Star Game, but was unable to successfully defend her 3-point contest title.
- 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 30.2 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 39.9 FG%, 31.6 3P%
- DeShields had a breakout season in her second year in the league, earning All-WNBA Second Team honors and an All-Star appearance, which included a Skills Challenge victory. DeShields led the Sky in scoring in 2019 and still appears to only be scratching the surface of her talents.
- 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 25.0 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.9 FG%, 36.1 3P%
- In May, Big Mama Stef revealed that she had contracted the coronavirus. She has recovered and is in Florida with her teammates ready to get the 2020 season underway.
- 2019 Stats (Dallas): 9 GP, 16.0 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 35.8 FG%, 11.1 3P%
- Stevens was limited to nine games last season due to a foot injury, but was an All-Rookie performer in 2018. Stevens’ combination of size, athleticism and skill set are part of an untapped potential that the Sky hope to tap into in 2020.
- 2019 Stats (Oregon): 33 GP, 28.7 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 68.5 FG%
- After running the pick and roll with Sabrina Ionescu for the past three years at Oregon, Hebard joins a Sky team with an assist machine in Vandersloot that will find her cutting to the basket on a regular basis.
1. How much will continuity of the roster help in a shortened season?
After an offseason of unprecedented player movement across the WNBA, the Sky bring back nearly their entire core with Vandersloot, Quigley and Dolson all resigning, and DeShields and Williams still on their rookie contracts. The biggest additions are Azurá Stevens, Sydney Colson and rookie Ruthy Hebard, who should all see minutes as the complement to the core group.
With so many teams racing against time to build chemistry in a two-week training camp, the Sky have the luxury of familiarity with their core pieces under coach James Wade. With only 22 games to work with this season, getting off to a fast start is more important than ever.
2. Can the Sky build on its 2019 success?
After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Sky posted their best regular season record since 2015 as they finished 20-14 and earned the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. They defeated Phoenix in the first round and were seconds away from advancing to the semifinals before Las Vegas’ Dearica Hamby shocked the world with a miracle shot in the closing seconds.
It was the first taste of WNBA Playoff action for DeShields, who shined under the pressure of single-elimination games as she averaged a team-high 24 points in 33 minutes per game. The Sky will look to build on the playoff experience they earned in 2019 as they enter 2020 with goals of a deeper playoff run.
3. Can the Sky make improvements defensively to match their potent offense?
Last season, Chicago ranked second in offensive efficiency behind Washington as the Sky scored 101.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they nearly gave up as many points as they finished ninth in defensive efficiency at 100.1 points allowed per 100 possessions. It was the worst mark of any team that qualified for the playoffs – only Dallas, Indiana and New York ranked worse than Chicago, and those three teams combined to go just 33-69 (0.324) on the year.
The additions of Stevens and Colson should improve the Sky defense. Stevens has ranked in the top 10 in blocks per 36 minutes in each of her two WNBA seasons. And Sky fans won’t soon forget that it was Colson that charged to chase Vandersloot and force that uncharacteristic turnover against Las Vegas that led to the season-ending miracle shot by Hamby.