The Chicago Sky missed the Playoffs in 2017 and 2018, losing a total of 43 games. In 2019, the plan was to retool, first with a new coach, James Wade, and next around a talented group of young players. That type of transition can often take time, but just over five weeks into the season, Chicago has already emerged as a team to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. The Sky hold a record of 6-6, including two wins over the Seattle Storm and a victory against the Connecticut Sun.
So why are the Sky treading water? The roster boasts some promising and talented players, to be sure. Allie Quigley has been a mainstay in Chicago since 2013 — able to hit an abundance of outside shots. Second year player Diamond DeShields has shown an impressive ability to score. Cheyenne Parker can overwhelm other second units off the bunch.
But point guard Courtney Vandersloot has kept this team running. She holds the keys to a precise and effective offense. The 30-year-old currently leads the WNBA with 7.7 assists per game, all while grabbing a career-best 4.7 rebounds per contest. She has expertly set up her teammates—six members of the Sky are averaging at least eight points. With Vandersloot whipping the ball around and keeping the defense off balance, Sky fans have plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the rest of the season.
Vandersloot probes in half court possessions, looking for openings to exploit. She is tremendously effective at attacking a hole with speed, catching defenders a step behind, and getting a layup. The point guard has impressive foresight on offense, passing the ball into perfect spots for teammates to receive and score. She mixes in some fancy no-look maneuvers which leave defenses simply disheartened. Vandersloot is also deadly in transition; few can stay in front of her agile movements.
Chicago selected Vandersloot with the No. 3 pick of the 2011 WNBA Draft and she has held down the point guard position ever since. She (along with Quigley) remains with the Sky as a holdover from the team’s glory days earlier this decade. In 2013, with Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince, and then rookie Elena Delle Donne, Chicago went 24-10 and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals. A year later the Sky advanced even further — all the way to the WNBA Finals before the Phoenix Mercury emerged as champions.
After playoff exits in 2015 and 2016, Chicago has yet to return to the postseason. But Vandersloot, the consistent presence at the lead, appears primed to return to the bright lights once again. She set league records for single-season assists per game in 2017 and 2018 and was named to the All-WNBA Second Team in 2018.
Vandersloot and the Sky may remain without a championship, but there are signs that a deep and talented group, with a mix of talented young players and rock-solid veterans, can bring WNBA success back to Chicago.
And there is no one better than Vandersloot (and her dynamic passing) to guide that group in the right direction.