- With so many storylines swirling around the WNBA, the Sky don't seem to be on some people's radars. But Chicago—and its MVP candidate—is showing just how good it can be as the postseason approaches.
When news began to cross the timeline Friday night that Courtney Vandersloot might have suffered a major injury, I immediately thought the worst.
The potential setback seemed to be coming at the worst possible time, with the postseason two weeks away and Vandersloot’s push for MVP consideration beginning to take over the Twitterverse.
So I think we all took a collective relieved breath when Vandersloot returned to the bench and began warming back up.
The whole injury situation felt like a decent analogy for the Sky’s season as a whole in that a major event—be it a potential injury to your team’s best player or be it losing five of six games in a 14-day period in the middle of the season—could potentially derail your team’s success. Yet it doesn’t.
In fact, that 14-day streak appears to be the hardest challenge that the Sky have had to overcome this season and they’ve done it spectacularly, having only dropped three games since that loss to the Minnesota Lynx on July 10 and currently sit fourth in the standings with a playoff berth already clinched.
With Courtney Vandersloot pulling the strings, Allie Quigley being an absolute flamethrower from outside and Diamond DeShields continuing to play with a motor and athleticism that makes her impossible to ignore, Chicago continues to roll through its opposition.
The loss of Jantel Lavender hurts—though she won’t be hard to find or hear—but Astou Ndour is proving to be a revelation for the Sky. And with Stefanie Dolson continuing to put in work, this Chicago lineup looks incredibly formidable, especially on the offensive end.
The Sky’s offensive stats may not be as impressive as the Mystics but their damn good, with the third-best field goal percentage in the league, the second-most three-pointers made and the second-most assists per game, the latter two categories of which the Vanderquigs have a large hand in. (The fact that Vandersloot is averaging three more assists than the next highest player and Quigley is shooting 44.1% from three is actually ridiculous and we should talk about it more.)
Don’t sleep on Chicago on the defensive end, however, as a unit that ranked third-last in 2018 has shot up to fourth-best this season. Vandersloot and DeShields are both swiping 1.3 steals per game while Cheyenne Parker leads the team in blocks per game with a 1.2 average, putting her top 15 in the league with every player above her averaging more than her 19.4 minutes per game.
Forgetting the stats for a second, the Sky are just damn fun to watch. They strike a perfect balance between the new school basketball with its emphasis on long-range shooting and efficient shots with just the right amount of DeShields pull-ups and midrange jumpers. When Chicago is playing, it’s typically must-see TV.
Whether that manifests in beef between Parker and Liz Cambage or the Sky dropping a cool 94 points to ruin Diana Taurasi’s return, if you ever find yourself with some time and a league pass subscription, Chicago games are always a good choice.
Not only that, but the Sky rarely lose games they’re not supposed to. The only non-playoff team they’ve lost to this season is the Fever and that was on June 21. The real problem they had was losing to the teams that are seemingly always above them, those teams being the Mystics, Sun, Sparks and Aces.
And yet even that wasn’t the case in the past couple weeks, with Chicago bouncing back from a loss in Los Angeles to beat the Sparks at Wintrust Arena and earning a win over the Mystics on Friday. Though the Sun and the Aces do still expose one of the Sky’s glaring issues: their interior defense.
Chicago ranks dead last in opponent points allowed in the paint, with their 36.8 points per game a full three points more than Phoenix in 11th. That much was clear against the Mercury, with Brittney Griner dropping a smooth 34 points as Ndoor and Dolson struggled to deal with her size and physicality.
And with almost every playoff team possessing a dominant post player who can go off in any game, the Sky might find themselves in trouble when Dolson or Ndour finds themselves looking at any of Cambage, Jonquel Jones, Nneka Ogwumike, Griner … you get the point.
But this team is smart, with James Wade coaching his way into a very strong Coach of the Year case, and it is more than capable of pulling off some surprises. Hell, the fact that the Sky are returning to the playoffs three years after Elena Delle Donne went to Washington and the team is currently seeded above preseason favorites like Phoenix and only a half-game behind Vegas and Los Angeles is surprising.
Where the Sky’s limit lies is a good question, but it’s one that we’ll at least get a game—or more—to analyze in the playoffs.
Given the topic of today’s column, it only feels right that I include these.
This. Is. Incredible. LADY ACESSSSS.
Is this related to basketball? No. But is it absolute flames? You already know. I’m putting it onto my Apple Music as I type.