January 14, 2022
Re-imagining the Chicago Sky core for 2022
Some options ahead if Chicago can't sign their 2021 key players
Even before the Chicago Sky went on their historic 2021 postseason run, the fan base was chirping about what the team was facing in 2022 free agency. With four players signed through next season, Sky head coach and general manager James Wade is going be counting nickels and dimes trying to figure out how to fill out the rest of the roster with limited cap space.
(Note: Em Adler’s The Daily Briefing will return tomorrow.)
Heading into free agency, the Sky have $908,215 in cap room to work with to fill (at least) seven spots. Candace Parker, Azurá Stevens, Ruthy Hebard and Dana Evans are the lone members of the Sky who are on the roster at this moment. If the Sky are unable to re-sign their core of Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper, they will have some fallback options to turn to.
Allie Quigley Replacement: Rebecca Allen
When DePaul celebrated her on “Allie Quigley Night” for the Blue Devils’ season opener, Quigley’s former head coacd, Doug Bruno said it best: she is playing the best basketball of her career. However, the three-time all-star hasn’t announced if she will be returning for her ninth season in Chicago. Replacing Quigley would not be an easy task for Wade but there are options on the free agent market that could help ease the transition of life after-Allie if she elects to call it quits.
After a strong start, the Liberty were miserable down the stretch of last season, but one of the few bright spots was Rebecca Allen. Attempting a career-high 5.0 three-pointers a game in 2021, Allen connected on 38.1 percent of those opportunities. She is limited as a facilitator and won’t attract the same attention as Quigley does on the perimeter but she is an above-average spot up shooter and would pair well next to Stef Dolson if the center returns to Chicago.
Another possible free agent replacement: Riquana Williams
Courtney Vandersloot Replacement: Courtney Williams
Vandersloot told me a week ago she is heading into free agency with an open mind (she emphasized that didn’t mean her time in Chicago has ended “by any means”). Sloots don’t grow on trees and replacing one of the greatest point guards in basketball history is not something that can be accomplished this offseason. However, if Vandersloot decides to move on from the organization that drafted her, the Sky have a few options.
With there not being a ton of high-end point guards in this year’s free agent class, the Sky could take a flier on Williams despite her recent off the court activity that caught the ire of the Atlanta Dream organization and fans. Despite that, Williams is one of the most electrifying scoring guards in the league. The advanced stats don’t love her production in transition but the Dream (96.33) played at a comparable pace to the Sky last season (97.46). Chicago likes to play uptempo basketball and putting the ball in Williams hands could possibly be a solution in a Sloot-less world. Losing Vandersloot would be a nightmare for Chicago, but swapping one Courtney for another might help.
Another possible replacement: Leilani Mitchell
Kahleah Copper Replacement: Tiffany Hayes
The likelihood of Copper leaving Chicago is minuscule based on the scrutable tea leaves Copper has left since the Sky won the Finals. One of the final lines she penned in an article for The Players Tribune asked the fans if they were ready to make another run at the title. Parker and Copper have also grown close since the future hall of famer signed with the Sky last season. First reported Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times and confirmed by The Next, the Sky have applied the core designation from Chicago. If she doesn’t accept a long-term deal in the Windy City, she could re-enter free agency next season when there is more cap space across the league.
If Copper isn’t donning blue and yellow next season, Tiffany Hayes could be the next best free agent wing on the market. She dealt with an MCL injury that kept her out for a third of the season last year, but when healthy, she is a rim-running wing who shot a career-high 40.5 percent from beyond the arc. Her 0.98 points per possession as a pick and roll ball handler were the eighth-highest mark in the league, according to Synergy Sports. If Copper were to leave in a sign-and-trade, Hayes could help replicate Copper’s tenacious scoring nature. The only question with Hayes, who is 30 years old, is her health but if she were to come to the Sky on a shorter term deal, the upside would be too high to pass up.
Another possible replacement: Nia Coffey