The Chicago Sky’s starting five has gone from a forgone conclusion to a complete mystery and source of debate because Jantel Lavender’s injury. Fans and journalist alike seem to have different ideas on who should start. The Sky have played two games without Lavender, so we do have some idea as to who Coach Wade thinks can take over her position. With such a deep bench there any many possibilities available to Coach Wade. Let’s unpack them all.
Coach Wade’s recent decisions
On August 11th, the Sky lost to the Sparks 84-81. Lavender was officially out and Vandersloot was dealing with an illness, so the team was missing two of its starters. Coach Wade started the game with Diamond DeShields, Astou Ndour, Stephanie Dolson, Allie Quigley, and Gabby Williams.
Gabby taking Vandersloot’s place make sense. She is the backup PG so having her come in when Vandersloot is hurt is logical. Astou starting over Cheyenne Parker to me was a bit of a surprise. Astou is the best Center available on the roster, so starting her makes sense. But Coach Wade could have gone small by putting Dolson at the 5 and Parker at the 4 or vise versa. Coach Wade has preached position less basketball since his first press conference, so this small ball lineup seemed likely but it hasn’t happened to start a game yet.
On August 16, the Sky played the LA Sparks again but this time they won 91-81. This game marked the return of the All Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot and showed off the healthiest roster the Chicago Sky can have at the moment. The starting five was Diamond, Astou, Dolson, Quigley, and Vandersloot. It seems Coach Wade likes Astou starting to replace Lavender with either Gabby Williams or Cheyenne Parking being the first players off the bench.
Why This Lineup Works
Astou spent most of this season playing for Spain overseas. With her return, it’s kind of like playing with house money. The team was successful without her, so having her start to replace Lavender means the bench mob can stay intact. If Astou can be a good starter, no one else’s role has to change. Gabby can come in to replace Vandersloot and Parker can be the first big off the bench. Astou has to adjust to a bigger workload, but everyone else can keep doing what they have done all year. With a team playing as well as the Sky have this season, it makes sense to try and maintain the status quo for as much as possible.
Other Possible Starting Lineups:
Parker starting over Astou
The Astou for Lavender starting lineup has worked just fine, but Coach Wade may want to consider some other possibilities. First, let’s consider my personal preference of starting Cheyenne Parker over Astou Ndour. The starting lineup would be Diamond, Parker, Dolson, Quigley, and Vandersloot. With this lineup, you have the best five players currently available on the floor to start the game.
While the bench mob may take a hit, Astou is still very useful coming off the bench by adding a tall veteran Center who is smart and doesn’t get into foul trouble to the mob. Furthermore, Astou is already used to playing 11 min per game from earlier this season. This lineup would put Astou in her more natural role and give Cheyenne Parker a chance to prove herself with more minutes, which is a challenge CP would love to take on.
The Lou Hive Option
While it’s not likely, starting Katie Lou at the foul would appease a good chuck of the Sky fanbase. But it could also prove helpful in the long-run. Starting would give the Sky’s first-round pick some much needed experience, really strengthen the bench, and keep everyone playing in there natural positions.
It would probably have to be a short start for Katie Lou. She could play the first five minutes then Coach Wade could decide who to put in based on the flow of the game. He could add Astou in the game if things are going well or Parker can come in if he feels like the team needs a boost of energy. Again, this is a unlikely option given that Katie Lou hasn’t played enough minutes to be given this role, but you never know.
Gabby Back At The Four
Coach Wade has insisted time and time again that Gabby’s future is at the point guard position not the forward position. But Lavender going down is an emergency situation. Putting Gabby at the four and Dolson at the five makes so much sense.
Gabby has played at the position so much. She makes the team instantly faster and harder to guard while adding another ball handler to the starting lineup. The negative is losing your back up pg. Chicago would have to rely on Jamierra Faulkner. But Faulkner just returned from a long-term injury so that’s not ideal.While it likely won’t happen for this reason, starting Gabby is a very intriguing option and makes the starting lineup a nightmare to defend against.
Off the board: Cooper at the four
Here are the last few option I see as possible. Put Kahleah Copper at the four. You’d be sacrificing a lot of size, but you would get speed in return. The Sky would also suffer defensively, but Copper has played so well this season that it would be nice to see her take on the challenge. She could surprise people.
Does Who Starts Even Matter?
The last few days Chicago Sky Twitter has debated about who should start, but few are asking “does it even matter?” In both games since Lavender went down, the same seven players have seen the bulk of the minutes; Diamond, Dolson, Ndour, Quigley, Parker, Gabby, and Vandersloot
Vandersloot was hurt in the first game, but as long as she’s healthy she will start. The Parker versus Ndour to start debate might be a moot point. In game one, Astou played nine more minutes. But in the second game the gap shrunk to just under two. At the end of the day, even with some roster changes these core six to seven players will have the bulk of the minutes. Whether Astou plays more than Parker or if Gabby Williams goes from mid teens to low twenties in minutes will depend on game situations. It will be up to Coach Wade to put players in the best situation to succeed and find the best options for the team to maintain success despite losing a starter for the rest of the regular season.