February 3, 2021
‘I’m most excited about proving those people wrong’: What Cheyenne Parker will bring to Atlanta
Nicki Collen has been looking for a post player that can stretch the floor for more than two seasons
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Nicki Collen has been looking for a post player that can stretch the floor for more than two seasons.
Beginning with the 2019 season, the Atlanta Dream traded for Marie Gülich during the draft in the hopes that Gülich would bring a physical presence in the post while also adding a bit of perimeter shooting. She hadn’t shot from beyond the arc in the WNBA previously, and Gülich went 8-of-25 from three-point range that season while averaging just over 11 minutes per game — not quite what Collen was hoping for.
In 2020, Collen and the Dream signed Glory Johnson as a free agent and on paper, Johnson looked like exactly what Collen was looking for. But after contracting COVID-19 before entering the bubble and missing the first few weeks of the season, Johnson never quite looked like herself with the Dream.
Whether it was lingering effects from having COVID and missing training camp or simply that Johnson didn’t fit as Collen would’ve hoped, Johnson scored in double figures just twice and only played around 15 minutes per game. Once again, the player Collen thought would be the stretch ‘4’ she was looking for didn’t quite pan out.
Enter Cheyenne Parker.
After six years with the Chicago Sky, Parker signed a three-year, fully protected deal with the Dream on Monday. A league source confirmed to The Next that the deal pays Parker $185,000 in year one with 3% raises in years two and three. Parker hadn’t planned to leave the Sky, but after seeing what she was worth on the open market, she made what she called a “business decision” to sign elsewhere. In doing so, she is poised to fill the spot on the Dream’s roster that Collen has been trying to solve.
“(Collen) talked a lot about having a dominant post presence and needing that dominant post presence to also be able to stretch the floor,” Parker said Tuesday. “Right now, my focus is basically on being that dominant post presence that she’s looking for. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to spread my wings and finally get that starting position or (play) more than 20 minutes, maybe. Really getting the opportunity to put some nice numbers up.”
Said Collen in a statement: “We targeted Cheyenne for two reasons: one, her ability to finish at the rim, and two, her ability to knock down the three. Cheyenne has shown growth in her game year after year and we believe will only continue to get better. Her toughness, desire to compete and her joyful attitude will only strengthen our roster. I’m thrilled she chose Atlanta.”
Parker had a career year with the Sky last season, setting new highs in nearly every statistical category. She’s added perimeter shooting to her skillset in recent years and though she doesn’t shoot a high volume of 3s, she made 15 of her 32 attempts last season. Parker is also an efficient scorer in the post and shot over 57% on 2s last year.
“That’s something Nicki emphasized,” Parker said. “ (She said) ‘We know you can shoot the ball, we want you to shoot the ball.’ To have a coach flat-out say that to me, off the jump, I’m excited. That’s something that shows me all my hard work has paid off and now it’s just, at this point, building on that.”
Parker said now that she’s solidified her three-point shot as part of her arsenal, she’s working on extending her range and getting even more consistent from beyond the arc. She also said she’s working to improve her team defense, something that Collen — known for being a defensive-minded coach — will undoubtedly be happy to hear.
“I’m looking most forward to being a defensive-identified team,” Parker said. “I really like that we’re all so gritty. We can really identify ourselves as the dogs of the league and just really be those dogs that nobody wants to play against because our defense is just elite.”
Though the Dream has struggled in the past two seasons after a run to the semifinals in Collen’s first year as the coach, Parker sees Atlanta’s roster as one that’s ready to start having success. She spoke about having read articles that question if the Dream are ready to be in the playoffs and if Atlanta has the right talent on the roster, and her feelings on those articles were clear.
“I’m most excited about proving those people wrong,” Parker said. “Of course, we’re gonna get rated real low, at the bottom. I love that. I’m excited to see those ratings because that’s what I’m gonna use to fuel my teammates all season long to just kick ass.”
Parker and the Sky have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and four times overall in Parker’s six years. She brings a depth of playoff experience to a roster that doesn’t have a ton of it, and Parker may just be the missing piece the Dream have been looking for to get back into the postseason.
“Yes. Honestly, yes,” Parker said when asked if she sees the Dream as a playoff contender. “I’m not selling a fairytale. I want my teammates to know that and believe that. … I think we have the grit and I think we have the ability. We’re definitely playoff (contenders). There’s no question. I don’t have any doubt about that.”