The Chicago Sky had an offseason of drastic change.
Courtney Vandersloot chose New York in free agency. Allie Quigley decided to sit out the upcoming season. Marina Mabrey, brought in through a four-team trade, signed a three-year extension with the Sky. Azurá Stevens left for Los Angeles. Emma Meesseman is balling out in Europe.
And, of course, the proverbial elephant in the room—Candace Parker packed her bags and headed west for Las Vegas.
Parker aside, Chicago is seeing their largest makeover in the backcourt.
Quigley and Vandersloot out, Mabrey in. Courtney Williams signed a one-year deal to join the Sky’s guard room. Rebekah Gardner inked a one-year deal to remain with Chicago for her second season.
All of this change, for better or worse, leaves Dana Evans—entering only her third WNBA season—as the longest-tenured member in Chicago’s guard rotation.
Evans came to Chicago during her rookie season via a trade with the Dallas Wings and quickly became a vital part of the Sky’s 2021 championship roster.
She played only six games with the Wings prior to the trade and immediately stepped into an increased role with the Sky, doubling her minutes per game (MPG) from 4.0 to 8.6, according to HerHoopStats. Evans’ production spiked as well, specifically from the three-point line, where she shot 40.5 percent with the Sky on nearly two attempts per game.
As rotations tightened during playoff action, Evans continued to see a role off the bench. She shot 5-of-12 from three in the postseason, a 41.7 percent clip. This includes an impressive 3-of-5 long-range shooting performance in 14 minutes during Game 3 of the WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury. Chicago dominated, winning by 36 points to take a 2-1 series lead, which set up the Sky’s Game 4 clincher, bringing home their first championship.
Last season, she saw her minutes jump to 11.5 MPG, while her three-point shooting took a bit of a dip, connecting on 32.8 percent of attempts throughout the regular season. Evans did see increased volume and production from inside the arc, however, scoring on 42.9 percent of twos, an increase of 16.4 percent from her rookie year.
Evans has an opportunity to improve this season from three-point land, aiming to bring her efficiency from deep back to where it was during her rookie campaign. She’s able to make threes both off-the-dribble and in catch-and-shoot scenarios, helping her confuse defenses and space the floor as a three-point threat.
We know that Evans has the ability to be an elite three-point shooter at the highest level—she’s already shown us so. As a senior at Louisville, she ranked in the 98th percentile in three-pointers made (3PM) and 97th in three-point attempts (3PA), according to HerHoopStats. As a junior, she ranked in the 100th percentile in 3PM on extremely high volume.
With Vanderquigs gone onto new adventures, there are 3PA that will need to be taken in Chicago this season. Of course, Mabrey, who has averaged over five 3PA per game in each of her last three seasons, will take some off the table. But, Quigley shot a large number of those on her own, consistently finding herself at the top of the W in terms of 3PA and efficiency during her tenure with the Sky.
If Evans is given a portion of the empty Vandersloot/Quigley minutes, the volume will follow. Her two 3PA per game last season can quickly turn into more than three in 2023, bringing additional scoring opportunities. Once those opportunities are presented, efficiency can lead to a greater role and a potential long-term future in Chicago.
Another area where we can see potential growth for Evans this season is as a facilitator. She’s a strong passer that’s comfortable with the ball in her hands. Paired with strong vision and a potent feel for the game, the recipe is there for Evans to elevate as a floor general.
She has only averaged 1.1 assists per game (APG) in her two W seasons, due to low minute-volume. With Louisville, Evans was one of the NCAA’s leading facilitators year in and year out, dishing 3.9 APG throughout her collegiate career.
Flashes of this potential have been shown at the professional level as well; the role just hasn’t been large enough to see this aspect of her game flourish.
Just look at the vision here. Evans is able to catch three—heck, maybe even four or five— Dallas defenders ball-watching, then find a cutting Gardner for an uncontested lay-in.
A thing of beauty.
She’s a pesky on-ball defender, which can lead to instant offense and energy for her team.
Evans started just one game last season, which happened to be the team’s season opener, and only did so because of injuries in Chicago’s backcourt. She made the most of it, dropping 24 points, five assists, and four steals in 35 minutes of play.
As one of the players who has now been in the building the longest, Evans has the opportunity to make her presence felt as a leader, too.
Kayana Traylor, who was selected 23rd overall by the Sky in last week’s draft, said, “One thing that I can take from (the Sky guards) is how competitive they are, how hard they work. It’ll be fun to be around that environment.”
Traylor will soon be looking to compete for a roster spot in training camp. She pointed out she’s looking forward to picking Evans’ brain specifically and learning from her as the two young guards meet up in camp. “(Evans’) story has been really cool to follow,” Traylor said. “She’s a really good player, a really good point guard scorer.”
That story seems like just the beginning for Evans. The Sky have a team option for Evans in the 2024 season. Amidst a sea of changes and already a WNBA champion, Evans will be given an opportunity to grow and shine, to prove she’s a core component of Chicago’s retooled roster, this season and beyond.
Stats, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of WNBA Stats.