General manager James Wade experienced perhaps the hardest part of free agency this week, having to part ways with a player who pledged her loyalty to him and the Sky last week.
The Sky on Wednesday announced a sign-and-trade deal that sent center Astou Ndour to the Wings for a 2021 first-round draft pick. The news comes one day after the Sun-Times reported that the Sky matched a three-year offer sheet Ndour signed with the Atlanta Dream and one week after the Spanish-Senegalese player said she credits her WNBA opportunity to Wade, who took a chance on her in 2014.
“It’s a very hard day for me personally and for the Sky nation,” Wade said in a statement. “Today we traded a great piece of our family in Astou. We loved Astou in a Sky uniform, but the unfortunate side of free agency is that we are forced to make decisions that make it so what you want to do, and what you have to do, does not always perfectly line up. We wish her nothing but the best.”
Wade knew he had his work cut out for him this offseason, especially after the groundbreaking collective-bargaining agreement, announced last month, increased the maximum top veteran players’ salaries by 83 percent, while upping the salary cap by only 30 percent.
“With the 30 percent salary-cap hike you have to be more calculative in how you spend that money and where you spend that money and it makes you look down the line, two, three years down the line,” Wade said last month. “You have to really be very smart with how you spend. ... You’re trying to put 100 percent pay into a 30 percent hole and that’s really tough, that’s challenging.”
As of now, the Sky have five players under contract for next season, with All-Stars Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson still on the market and restricted free agents Kahleah Copper and Jamierra Faulkner under team control. They also have the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Ndour’s departure could open minutes for 2019 first-round pick Katie Lou Samuelson, who averaged just 7.6 minutes in 20 games last season. It could also signal that the Sky are looking to draft a frontcourt player in this year’s draft.