By Brady Klopfer
The Chicago Sky are still struggling. At 10th in the standings, they looked headed for a year without any postseason presence.
But that doesn’t mean the season is lost, or lacking things for their fans to cheer for. Quite the opposite. The Sky have built their foundation in the last two drafts, securing Alaina Coates, Gabby Williams, and Diamond DeShields with a trio of high picks. And while those players certainly look like the rookies that they are, all three consistently show flashes that are highly encouraging.
But while those young players develop, Chicago has reminded us all that they’re not lacking in veteran talent either. And that’s where Stefanie Dolson comes into play. Dolson is still finding her footing after missing seven games earlier in the year. And to that end, her numbers (9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) are rather dull, relative to what we’ve come to expect following last year’s All-Star campaign.
She’s clearly still rounding into form, but her presence is already impacting the young Sky. The ability to stretch the floor from the center position – she’s taking 2.4 threes per game and making 38.5 percent of them – is dramatically improving the spacing of a Sky team that has struggled in that regard. Dolson’s willingness to move out from the hoop has granted open lanes for her guards, as well as improved opportunity at the rim.
Chicago’s team true shooting percentage – 53.4 percent is eighth in the league. That’s not burning anything down, but for a team so reliant on young players, it shows some promise, and has led to an offensive rating of 99.9 (also eighth), which is just a hair behind the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.
Dolson doesn’t deserve all the credit for this, of course, but her work both inside and out has been a critical element.
Defensively, it’s been a different story, but there are still encouraging signs. Chicago’s defense is worst in the league by a sizable margin, and, as the team’s starting center, Dolson deserves her fair share of blame. But here’s where the Sky’s youth earns them a pass; it’s a bit too early to grade them harshly for their defensive performance.
While Dolson is far from an elite rim-protecting big, her presence has allowed Williams a little more comfort defensively, which has paid huge dividends for the rookie. Williams often finds herself guarding larger players, but with Dolson back in the fold, Williams’ impact on the defensive end has skyrocketed.
At just 26, Dolson is a veteran who likely still has her best days ahead of her. And while it’s true that Williams, DeShields, and Coates will be vital elements if Chicago is to see postseason glory in the next few years, Dolson is reminding us all that she’s a key member of that core as well.