By Brady Klopfer
No, don’t look at the 10-17 record, or the fact that they’re a few days away from being eliminated from playoff contention. Instead, look at their last four games: A blowout against the Dallas Wings. A 14-point road knockout against the Phoenix Mercury. Another win against the Wings – this one on the road. A game against the Los Angeles Sparks is the only setback in a four-game set full of impressive play.
Over those four games, their offensive rating of 116.4 has set the league on fire. Their true-shooting percentage has been 61.1, a blistering pace, and they’ve averaged nearly two assists for every turnover.
While these numbers are surely propped up by the always accommodating shoulders of small sample size, they also represent what the near future will look like for the Sky. A simple look at the numbers for their core players tells you everything you need to know. Here’s how they’ve done over the 3-1 stretch: Allie Quigley is averaging 16.8 points, shooting 45.2 percent from deep, and has a 58.8 percent TS(True Shooting). Courtney Vandersloot is at 14.3 points and 12.5 assists, on an unspeakable 67.4 percent TS. Stefanie Dolson? 12.3 points on 63.6 percent TS. Rookie Diamond DeShields? 16.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, with a 52.1 percent TS. And Gabby Williams, playing the best ball of her young career, is at 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and a criminal 2.3 steals per game, on 64.3 percent TS.
But if those numbers are important, they’re nothing compared to these three: 26, 23, and 21. Those are the ages, respectively, for Dolson, DeShields, and Williams. And that’s before we get to last year’s second-overall pick, 23-year old Alaina Coates, who, when given opportunities, has shown some draft pick pedigree. And their poor record this year means they’re well on their way to another high pick.
Quigley and Vandersloot have been the stars (and they have plenty of All-Star caliber seasons left in their legs), but it’s the young foundation that has made the Sky such an intriguing team. This has been highlighted by their ridiculous offensive explosion as of late; sure, the defense has been abysmal, but that’s what you expect with young teams. The defense will always take a little bit longer to mature. Williams and DeShields have strong defensive fundamentals that allow them to cover multiple positions, and the latter is a tremendously gifted athlete, while the former is very light on her feet. They’re unlikely to be a defensive titan anytime soon, but that end of the court will round into form enough that the offense can shine and lead them to victories.
You won’t see the Sky in any playoff games this season. But watch their core on any given night, and it’s clear that, in the next year or two, Chicago will be a veritable force to be reckoned with.