January 13, 2022
Chicago Sky apply core designation tag to 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper
Options abound as the sides prepare to negotiate
The first major domino has fallen for the Chicago Sky before free agency officially opens up on Jan. 15.
First reported by Annie Costabile of Chicago Sun-Times and confirmed by The Next, the Sky have applied the core designation tag on guard/forward Kahleah Copper. If she signs the core qualifying offer, Copper would make $228,094 which equates to a one-year, super maximum contract.
The 2021 Finals MVP became an all-star for the first time and averaged 14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last season. However, it was Copper’s play in the postseason that elevated her status among the upper echelon of the league. She averaged 17.7 PPG and started to hitting from the outside more consistently (34.4 percent by the end of the playoffs). Copper’s teammates lauded her energy on the defensive end during the Finals versus the Phoenix Mercury and the pressure she put attacking the basket throughout the season.
“It’s huge for her to have the game she had (offensively) and then be be tasked with defending Diana,” said Candace Parker said after Game One of the WNBA Finals. “Sometimes those contributions on that end of the court get overlooked and we depend on her athleticism.”
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Heading into the off-season, head coach and general manager James Wade told The Next that determining the core of the Sky was going to be the no. 1 goal. Retaining Copper was atop of the list of his priorities.
“If Kah tells me, ‘hey, I want to sign for this long,’ then I will say okay and add the years in,” said Wade on Nov. 10. “How many teams can say they have the Finals MVP on their roster? We have two of them. You want to keep them as long as they want to play.”
Even though Chicago has cored Copper, it doesn’t necessarily mean she will be in a Sky uniform next season. The Sky, another team and Copper could come to terms to a sign-and-trade deal that could send her elsewhere. Chicago could receive assets in return despite the void Copper would leave behind. However, Chicago could also sign Copper to a multi-year deal, much like the Mercury did with Brittney Griner in 2020.
The most likely scenario would be Copper signing the qualifying offer, play out the season next to Parker (who she has grown close with), and keep her options open heading into 2023 free agency when more teams have cap space.