July 7, 2024 

Chicago Sky check-in: Three things we know, two things we don’t

Chennedy Carter can score, the rookies are getting a long runway and aggressive defense comes with fouling

As we approach the halfway point of the WNBA season, here are three things we know about the 8-11 Chicago Sky and two things that remain a mystery.

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What we know about the Sky so far

1. Chennedy Carter is a scoring maverick

First, what is a maverick? To blend definitions from Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com: A maverick is someone who defies the conventional way of doing things. 

As a smaller guard in the WNBA, the conventional way to score a lot of points is to shoot a lot of 3s. But Chennedy Carter is so good at getting to the rim that she doesn’t need to. She scores a whopping 66.7% of her points in the paint.

“I like to read holes and I like to read gaps, so as soon as I see what the defense is giving me, I take the opportunity,” Carter told reporters after dropping 33 points in the team’s July 5 win in Seattle.  

Carter’s first step to the basket is lightning-quick. She attacks angles like a speed skater, taking curves so tight that her body is almost horizontal. 

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Chicago Sky guard Chennedy Carter (7) attacks the Washington Mystics with the dribble during a game at the Capitol One Arena in Washington, D.C., on June 6, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Of course, getting to the rim is only part of the story. At 5’9, she must finish over bigger defenders. Sometimes her speed neutralizes her opponents’ length, leaving her wide open. But she’s also mastered the extended layup: pulling up just outside the block and using the glass.

Will she be dunking in a game?

“Maybe in pregame, I might try,” Carter told reporters.

Even without dunking, Carter’s efficiency at the rim is what you’d expect from a 6’4 MVP rather than a 5’9 guard. She is making 68% of her shots from fewer than 5 feet from the rim. That puts her behind only Brittney Griner and ahead of A’ja Wilson.

Her vertical also makes her dangerous from midrange. Shooting 47.1% from 8 feet to 16 feet, Carter has been more efficient than Courtney Williams and Kahleah Copper. (Both are known for their midrange games.)

Still, we are seeing only the beginning of what Carter can do. Since joining the Sky’s starting lineup on June 16, Carter is the league’s second-leading scorer, with 22.0 points per game.

“I’m trusting myself a little bit more and getting out of my shell,” Carter told reporters after the victory over Atlanta, where she scored the last three baskets to put the Sky ahead.

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2. Sky rookies are getting big minutes

With solid veteran post players such as Elizabeth Williams, Isabelle Harrison and Brianna Turner on the Sky’s roster, starting spots for rookies Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso were never guaranteed.

And yet, Reese and Cardoso have played more minutes than any other true rookies this season except Caitlin Clark. They are averaging 31.0 and 25.8 minutes per game, respectively.

Chicago Sky center Kamilla Cardoso goes up for a layup against the Washington Mystics

Chicago Sky center Kamilla Cardoso (10) goes up for a layup against the Washington Mystics during a game at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., on June 14, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Part of this runway is due to injury. Elizabeth Williams tore her meniscus and Isabelle Harrison has been recovering from injury. But in Reese’s case, her motor is simply unmatched by the vets on the team — or anyone around the league. 

Reese leads the WNBA in rebounding with 11.7 rebounds per game and just tied Candace Parker’s record for most consecutive double-doubles with 12. She has a chance to break that record Sunday night against the Seattle Storm.

Reese’s playing time ranks seventh among all rookies since 2019. (Most on this list went on to be All-Stars; Reese already is one.)

Top 10 rookies by playing time from 2019 to 2024

PlayerMinutes per gameYear of rookie season
Caitlin Clark34.62024
Napheesa Collier33.32019
Julie Allemand32.62020
Arike Ogunbowale32.12019
Rhyne Howard31.32022
Aliyah Boston31.22023
Angel Reese31.02024
NaLyssa Smith30.72022
Crystal Dangerfield30.02020
Satou Sabally28.22020
Source: stats.wnba.com

Where Reese and Cardoso have struggled is with efficiency. That is typical for rookies.

However, Reese’s at-the-rim efficiency is up to 50.0% in the last three weeks, compared to 43.3% during the first month of the season. She attributes some of this improvement to advice from a legendary center.

Tina Charles told me I got as much time as I need around the basket, and that’s what I took today,” Reese said after shooting 8-for-12 in the Sky’s June 23 victory over the Fever.

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3. Sky’s aggressive defense has been good, except for all the fouling

Every defensive scheme sacrifices something. Sky assistant coach Sydney Johnson, who helped architect the team’s aggressive defense, told The Next that the team wouldn’t have to worry about fatigue. The Sky are too deep for that. What he was worried about was fouling. 

Halfway through the season, the Sky foul more than any other team in the league. This often costs them late in games. They put teams in the bonus or have to play without Reese or Carter. Reese and Carter average 3.5 and 3.4 fouls per game, respectively.

Take out the fouling, and the Sky’s defense has been a bright spot. Their defensive rating of 99.9 puts them fifth behind championship contenders the Minnesota Lynx, Connecticut Sun, Seattle Storm and New York Liberty. Only two teams (the Las Vegas Aces and Indiana Fever) have scored more than 90 points against the Sky this season.

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What remains a mystery about the Sky

1. What roles will Dana Evans and Diamond DeShields play off the bench?

Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans holds her dribble against the Washington Mystics
Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans (11) holds her dribble against the Washington Mystics during a game at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., on June 14, 2024. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

This was going to be Dana Evans’ year.

For the first time in Evans’ career, she was tapped her to be the team’s starting point guard. Then, 12 games into the season, head coach Teresa Weatherspoon shook up the rotation. She brought Lindsay Allen — a veteran pass-first point-guard — and Carter — the team’s best offensive player — into the starting lineup. The moves sent Evans and Diamond DeShields to the bench.

Since then, both players’ minutes have fluctuated. Against the Lynx on June 30, neither Evans nor DeShields saw more than 12 minutes of floor time.

Two days later, against the Atlanta Dream, the two were part of the closing group that pulled out a tight road victory. Evans scored 14 points and hit four 3s in 23 minutes. DeShields scored nine points in 24 minutes.

So which of these roles should fans expect going forward?

Weatherspoon often tells reporters that her subbing decisions reflect the flow of the game. At a recent postgame press conference, she was asked whether she has a method for determining the “flow.”

“No, it’s no method, no method at all,” Weatherspoon said after the team’s June 27 loss to the Aces. “It’s just what you see as far as the flow of the game.”

Will the game flow in the direction of Evans and DeShields? It’s hard to tell.

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2. Is the future of Sky Guy in jeopardy?

The Next’s Jackie Powell recently reported on the growing stardom of Ellie the Elephant, the Liberty’s mascot.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a grassroots movement to get rid of the Sky mascot — Sky Guy — is gaining steam.

The “No more Sky Guy!” petition states, “Sky Guy is outdated, barely relevant (his sisters played basketball?? who cares!) and most importantly, NOT A WOMAN. Sky fans deserve a mascot they can be excited about and rally behind (especially when we play the Liberty because if they bring Ellie to Chi we don’t stand a chance…).”

Do the Sky players know about the movement?

“I’ve heard whispers,” DeShields told reporters after shootaround on July 7.

But DeShields, who won a championship with Sky in 2021, has mixed feelings on the matter.

“I like Sky Guy,” DeShields said. “Me and Sky Guy go way back. But I’m not opposed to an upgrade.”

Written by Alissa Hirsh

Alissa Hirsh covers the Chicago Sky for The Next. She is also a high school basketball coach at her alma mater and is writing a memoir about the difficulty in leaving her college basketball career behind. Her hometown of Skokie, Illinois, is known for having the top bagel options in the Chicagoland area. Before joining The Next, she co-founded the Sky Townies.

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