Weather Report: What’s going on with the Sky after 1/3 of the season

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The Chicago Sky are essentially one-third done with the season with 14 games under their belts. Now that we have a bit more data on what this team is, we can delve into the Chicago’s Sky’s performance so far this season.

The Chicago Sky are 7-7, which puts them in eighth place overall. The Sky has improved a lot record-wise from last year, but they still have a ways to go. If they win at their current pace, the Sky will miss the playoffs. Coming off a 4-game losing streak, Chicago needs to answers some question. Primarily, was that a rough losing streak or a sign of things to come? Time will tell. But I believe the team is more like that 6-3 Sky than this 7-7 Sky.  

Offense

On the offensive side of the ball, the Sky are succeeding in every statistical category that matters. They rank fifth in the league in points per game at  78.6 points per game. They have made 103 three pointers  and are shooting 35% from beyond the arc, in addition to ranking third in the league in assists per game at 20.1.

As these stats show, the Sky play very aggressively on offense. They push the tempo, score a lot, make more threes at a higher percentage than the league, and have the third highest assists % in the WNBA. Coach James Wade emphasized improving in these areas when he took the job in the offseason. He’s constantly talked about playing a faster and more aggressive style of basketball. One third of the season in, the offense has accomplish that goal so far.

However, the Sky could to grab more offensive rebounds. Right now they average 7.5 per game, which is the second lowest mark in the league. Offensive rebounds are worth their weight in gold because they give your team second-chance opportunities. I’d like to see the Sky reach, at least, double digits on offensive rebounds. If they do, the offense could explode going forward.  

Defense

Defensively, things need to improve. The Sky give up 80.4 points per game. That number is a bit higher than what is desired for a playoff team.  So what is causing this team to give up so many points per game?

Well, turnovers certainly don’t help. The Sky are averaging 16 turnovers a game, which is a stat not lost on the Sky’s supporters. If you ask any Chicago Sky fan what the team needs to improve, limiting the turnovers would be near the top of that list. Turnovers are so damaging to a defense because it gives the other team the ball, usually, in fast break situations. So, taking better care of the ball should boost Chicago’s defense.

Coach James Wade

The Sky went through a complete overhaul this off-season. Changing their logo, adding more content on social media, and the biggest change, adding James Wade as a coach and general manager of the team. Ultimately, Coach Wade’s ability to build a roster and coach that roster will decide how far the Sky go. So how has he done in 2019 so far? 

I’d rate his job as good. Coaches are, whether fair or unfair, judged by wins and losses. The Sky sitting at 7-7 and sixth in the league means Wade has done a solid job so far. He made his offensive philosophies clear since day one and this team has embraced that identity. He challenged players to play in different positions and they have responded very well, such as Point Gabby. As I mentioned earlier, the defense has been a bit weaker so we’ll have to see what adjustments on that side.

GM James Wade

Coach Wade has impressed, but what about GM Wade? Here, I have to give an incomplete grade. Overall, I’ve liked the things Wade has done thus far. But the grade is an incomplete because we need much more time to truly know how good or bad the GM decisions have been.

Giving up a 2020 second rounder for Jantel Lavender just before the season shocked many. However, that pickup has worked out great so far. Lavender is having a borderline career year and is starting for the Sky. Still, giving up a second round pick to improve the team short-term seems like something a coach would do, but a general manager would hate.

Draft picks are the best way to improve your team with talent that can outperform their contract. Yes, it’s a second round pick that might turn out to not be a great player. But isn’t it the GM’s job to help get a great player in those later rounds when it’s harder to do so? Time will tell if that sacrifice of a 2020 pick is ultimately better for the team. 

The Sky drafted Katie Lou Samuelson 4th overall in the 2019 draft and it has resulted in frustration mainly. Currently, she is injured so she hasn’t played in a while and still has no timetable on a return. She played a handful of minutes in the season opener, then zero in the following game. This shocked many and raised questions as to why she was not in the rotation? The following games she played a few minutes, but did not make an impact on the team prior to going down with an injury.

Many have mentioned their reasons for why Katie Lou has struggled in the WNBA. Some say it’s a size issue, some say she has defensive struggles and is too slow. For the record, I do believe Katie Lou can be a good player in this league. She only played in three games for a total of 40 minutes. For me, that is simply not enough time to make a proper assessment of a players talent.

But, if the production Katie Lou has had is similar to what her career stats would be, then this draft was a disappointing one for GM Wade and the Chicago Sky. If the team is good for the foreseeable future then it will be a while before they draft at four and to use that pick on a fringe player would be a shame. Still, like I said I have to give the draft an incomplete because it’s just not enough data so far to make a declarative statement. 

Overall 2019 has been going well for the Chicago Sky. Many had this team missing the playoffs so the fact that they started 6-3 was the surprise of the season. With some defensive improvements, fewer turnovers, and a new and improved Katie Lou, the Sky can continue to shock the WNBA and emerge as a championship contender as the season continues.

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