Prior to the start of the season, the Chicago Sky faced a lot of questions. What would the starting five be? What will rotations look like? What’s the identity of the team? Five games into the season and many of these questions remain.
The starting five inquiry seems to be the closest to being answer. After Coach Wade replaced Gabby Wiliams with Janetel Lavander in the starting line up for game two of the season, Lavander has played well. She has averaged 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game and is on pace for her best season since 2015. So it appears Lavander will be the Sky’s starter at the four. At this point of the year, Sky fans should feel comfortable with a starting five of Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Diamond Deshields, Stefanie Dolson, and Lavender.
As far as the bench is concerned, there are more questions than ever. Chicago has seen wild differences in terms of production from their bench in each game. The questions begin with Gabby Williams. She started all but four games as a rookie last season and has played well this season, averaging 7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. So, will she now be the first off the bench? And considering how well she played last year, how will she accept that role?
The other young gun on the Sky’s bench has also played unevenly. In the first game of the season, Katie Lou provided solid minutes and out up a modest 4 points, 1 rebound, and 2 assists. Then she doesn’t play at all in the following game. Then, she gets back into the rotation, but scores zero points in the third game of the season. Unfortunately for Katie Lou Sameuelson she has a fracture in her hand is will be out indefinitely. This setback is very upsetting since it will only make it that much harder for Katie Lou to establish her game in the WNBA and solidify her role in the rotation.
Even the starters have been up and down. Deshields (due largely to foul trouble) scored zero in game one and has been unbelievable since. The dynamic guard is averaging 13 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists, even with that goose egg to open the season. Allie Quigley, who is someone we should know what to expect from each night, had a surprising zero point vs the Mystics last week. In this season so far Quigley is averaging 9.4 points per game, a significant dip from last years 15.4 average.
Now, it’s not necessarily time to worry Quigley and Deshields. Barring injury, we can expect them to have great seasons. But Sky fans still have to feel queasy about everyone else outside of Vandersloot. Its unclear what to expect on a night to night basis and that makes it harder to get into a rhythm, harder for players to know their roles, and harder to create the chemistry needed on a great team.
If you had to describe the Chicago Sky’s identity in one sentence, how would you describe them? If you;re like me, you’ll have trouble doing so positively. They want to play fast, uptempo basketball. Spread the floor, lots of action, lots of pick and rolls, and less dribbling. On their best nights, the Sky embody these ideals.
But, early in the season, we see lots of turnovers and a team still a bit uncomfortable running their plays. To be fair, this is somewhat expected. The preseason is too short and having so many new players with an entirely new coaching staff doesn’t make it easier. Also, the schedule has not been kind to the Sky. In the first five games, they have played both WNBA finalists and a very strong Lynx team.
While the Sky’s up and down start is understandable, the defense and sloppy play simply has to improve for Chicago to win. Last year, the Chicago Sky allowed the most points per game at 90.1 and led the league in turnovers. So far in three games, the Sky are still giving up a high number of points at 83.4 and are giving up 17.8 turnovers a game.
With the 3-2 start, the Sky have plenty of reasons for optimism this season. Let’s not forget only 5 of 34 games have been played. There are a lot of good players on this team, a young team, and a coach who wants to make his mark in the WNBA. Overall, Coach Wade’s vision is one to believe in. If the starting five can be consistent and the bench has a known pecking order, chemistry will build and this team will be a threat.
It’s so easy to overreact with hot takes and declarative statements about how good a person’s career or a team’s season will be after just a handful of games, but let’s try to be both critical and patient. This team is not starting from a high position. Wade will need time to develop his style and get the players to buy in and play the style of basketball he wants. Still, the season is fast and furious. The Sky have seven more games coming up in the month of June. They’ll need less turnovers, consistent play from their core players, and more rebounds if they want to have a winning record going into July.