Delaware star and All-American Elena Delle Donne was the second overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky.
Stereotypes can be useful because they are frequently accurate. They can provide a useful picture of a situation -- but it's vital to remember that “frequently” is very different than “invariably”.
That distinction is important to remember as the Chicago Sky enter their eighth season. They have yet to make the playoffs and the stereotype of non-playoff teams is that they lack talent -- but nothing could be further from the truth.
The 2013 Sky have a roster that is talented and deep, with the exception of one position. They are not only talented, they are versatile and allow coach Pokey Chatman to put a number of different looks on the floor. Chatman plans on utilizing this strength to improve an offense that needs improvement, but if they are to get better, they must fix one major problem. In 2012 Chicago led the league with 17.8 turnovers a game and if they hope to make the playoffs, this can’t happen again.
Another obstacle is the status of Epiphanny Prince, the Sky’s high-scoring guard. In 2012, the Sky’s season was derailed when Prince injured her foot and missed eight games, and this summer Prince has a commitment to play with the Russian National team in the Eurostar Tournament. Prince will leave the team in early June and will not return until the end of that month and so will miss seven or eight of the team’s 34 games. Those games will be the key to the Sky season as Prince is a key part of the team at both ends of the floor.
The Sky, however, did have the second pick in the recent draft and they added Elena Delle Donne. Chatman plans to use the 6-5 future star at all positions but point guard. She should be effective at each spot and will be difficult to defend no matter where she is on the floor.
The Sky certainly have the talent to make the playoffs – don’t forget Sylvia Fowles -- and they have the potential to contend for a conference championship. This is Chatman’s third season as the teams head coach and general manager and another failure to make the playoffs could add to another stereotype: The losing coach who gets fired.
Point guard: Courtney Vandersloot, TBD.
This will have to be a breakthrough season for Vandersloot. Last season she averaged 4.6 assists and 3.3 turnovers a game. She shot only 40.5% from the field and ran an offense that frequently stalled. Chatman feels that she turned the corner after the Olympic break and will continue to grow this season. She says that a player’s third season, and this is Vandersloot’s third season, is the one in which she makes a significant leap forward. In addition to shooting better and turning the ball over less, Chatman wants Vandersloot to become a more vocal leader.
She will have to make a major improvement because Chatman says “time will tell” who will be her backup. Prince can play point guard, as can Sharnee Zoll, but Prince will be depended upon to score and Zoll’s entire WNBA experience was six games in 2008.
Shooting guard: Epiphanny Prince, Eshaya Murphy, Allie Quigley
Prince has established herself as one of the top scorers in the league and can be counted on to consistently put points on the board. She is fast and should be an excellent fit for the uptempo offense that Chatman wants to play. She is coming off an excellent season overseas and should again be one of the league’s top players.
Eshaya Murphy has been a solid backup for the Sky who can give the team points off the bench. She will be counted on to start in Prince’s absence. Murphy does not have much of a mid-range game and she needs to improve in that area.
Allie Quigley is a free agent signee who has played minimally in her first four season in the league. She is a three point shooter who can do little else.
Elena Delle Donne was the No. 2 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Kelly Kline)
Small forward: Elena Delle Donne, Tamera Young, Sonja Petrovic
Delle Donne is at this position somewhat by default as she will be in the starting lineup and this is the spot that is open. She will have the usual adjustment to the speed and physicality of the game and she has much work to do defensively.
On the offensive end, she will provide real matchup problems for her opponents. Chatman will put her on the outside to draw out the opponent’s defense. She is an excellent interior passer and this will make it hard to defend her when she is situated close to the basket. While she is making the huge jump from mid-major to the WNBA, she is leaving behind the double- and triple-teams she routinely saw in college.
Young is a key player and re-signing her was Chatman’s first offseason priority. She is a player who will consistently give the team eight to ten points a game and more important, she is the team’s best individual defender and provides much of the fire for the squad.
Petrovic plays for Chatman in Russia and Chatman hopes she can develop into a contributing WNBA player.
Power forward: Swin Cash, Ruth Riley
Swin Cash is the epitome of the savvy veteran and is expected to start alongside Delle Donne – and it may be hard to determine which is the small forward and which is the power forward. Cash plays both forward and will be on the court for at least half of the game. Cash provides solid numbers but more important, she gives the team the oncourt leadership the team needs. She averaged 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds a game in 2012 and should provide numbers in that range again.
Riley joins Cash in the savvy veteran department and will get minutes at both power positions. When she is at power forward, she and Sylvia Fowles will give the Sky one of the tallest post tandems in the league. Riley provides more defense than offense but she can be counted on for a consistent 12-15 minutes a game.
Center: Sylvia Fowles, Carolyn Swords, Ruth Riley
The 6-6 Fowles has established herself as one on the very best players in the WNBA. She is almost a guaranteed double-double who is also one of the league’s best interior defenders. Despite her size, she has the ability to beat most centers down the court in a fast break and has expanded her game so she is a threat from about 15 feet in. One improvement the Sky offense has to make is to get Fowles more involved. Despite shooting 63.8% from the field, Fowles only took eight shots a game. If that number doubles, the Chicago offense will be much stronger.
Carolyn Swords is the prototypical banger who provides a solid complement to Fowles. She is a decent rebounder who doesn’t score much but basically holds the fort when Fowles is out.
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