The first major free agency domino has fallen. Candace Parker, whose list of accolades are only rivaled by Daenerys Targaryen’s titles, is headed home to Chicago after spending the first 13 years of her career as the face of the Los Angeles Sparks. In Parker, the Sky gain a leader, a defensive stalwart, and an active offensive threat.
Candace Parker is one of just 12 #WNBA players all-time to have played 300+ games and to play them all with just one franchise.
— Kurtis (@fromkurtis) January 27, 2021
What this means for the Chicago Sky
One major conversation heading into 2020’s Wubble was whether the Sky were ready to take the leap into championship contender. Coach James Wade’s squad, after a devastating loss in 2019, was running it back, with strong chemistry and a fast-paced offense. Much of that hinged on the continued development of 2019 All-Star Diamond DeShields, but she was never fully healthy. After a strong start, the team finished sixth, with a 12-10 record, bounced by the Connecticut Sun in single elimination.
This coming offseason, with many contracts coming due in a year’s time, the talk turned to their potentially closing window. Are the Chicago Sky a piece away from making a true run in 2021?
Candace Parker immediately answers that question. Still a superstar, she proved last season that she still had lots in the tank, adding Defensive Player of the Year to a resume longer than a CVS receipt. Parker’s presence down low fills a vital need for the Sky: they ranked last among all playoff teams in defensive rating of 102.7. The Sparks, anchored by Parker, were third, at 98.8. This much-needed rim protection will offer a safety net to a team that loves to run.
Parker was especially strong defending the post, surrendering just 19 points on 39 possessions, according to Synergy Sports. The 0.487 PPP ranked sixth in the W, good for the 92nd percentile.
While Parker’s 23.0 usage would’ve been tops on the ball-sharing Chicago Sky, it only ranked 25th in the W last season. Three players maintained usage rates over 22 last season for the Sky, so they’re not bringing in a ball stopper.
Parker is, however, an outstanding post passer and ball handler, so she will slot right into Chicago’s fluid offense. Although just average at executing the pick-and-roll, she ranked second in the league at scoring on cuts (1.609 PPP), behind only Las Vegas’ Danielle Robinson. With the ever-aware Courtney Vandersloot running point, look for CP to find a ton of easy buckets.
This signing also signals Cheyenne Parker will not be returning, and it brings into question the future of the frontcourt, as Chicago is up against it, cap-wise. Look for the Sky to pull off another deal in the coming days. (Editor’s Note: Since publication, Cheyenne Parker has agreed to a deal with the Atlanta Dream.)
What this means for Los Angeles Sparks
L.A. bet big in naming Derek Fisher as General Manager last month, and this is a rough start to his tenure. “We have every intention of making every effort possible to re-sign Candace Parker and make sure she finishes her career in L.A.,” Fisher said at the time. “There’s no hesitation around that. Our intentions are to make sure Candace never plays a game for any other team.”
Though the news of another former MVP, Nneka Ogwumike, returning to the Sparks is welcome, the team still has much to worry about.
Sources: WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike has agreed in principal to a multi-year deal to return to the L.A. Sparks. Ogwumike, one of the top free agents this offseason, made her decision after taking meetings with at least two other teams. @Winsidr
— Rachel Galligan (@RachGall) January 27, 2021
According to Howard Megdal of The Next, the Las Vegas Aces are in talks to acquire point guard Chelsea Gray. With the Lynx getting a verbal commitment from Kayla McBride, the Gray transaction seems likely to happen. As broken down on Her Hoops Stats, the Sparks have a handful of other unrestricted free agents—Seimone Augustus, Reshanda Gray, and Riqana Williams—as well as one restricted free agent (Brittney Sykes) and one suspended contract (Chiney Ogwumike). Do they decide to blow it all up, or try and find another star to plug into the starting lineup?
As always, refer to Winsidr’s Free Agency Tracker for information about all the latest transactions in the W. Stay tuned, because things are just heating up.