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Predictions for Sky’s free agents

We offer our best guess on what the Sky will do as the time for decisions draws near.

Chicago Sky guard Kahleah Copper (2) shoots against the Dallas Wings during the first half in the first round of the WNBA basketball playoffs, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski) ORG XMIT: CXA154
Chicago Sky guard Kahleah Copper (2) shoots against the Dallas Wings during the first half in the first round of the WNBA basketball playoffs, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski) ORG XMIT: CXA154
Kamil Krzaczynski, AP Photos

WNBA free agency is three short weeks away with player contract negotiations beginning on Jan. 15 and players able to sign on Feb. 1.

The Sky remain one of the most intriguing teams in free agency and not because they are the reigning champs. Even before they won their first title back in October, the 2022 free-agency period was set to be an entertaining one for fans as most of the players on the roster would become free agents.

Depending on which James Wade you’re talking to, the coach or the general manager, his answers for how he plans to navigate the next month will vary. Coach Wade wants to keep his entire championship roster together, while general manager Wade has to figure out if that’s possible with $908,215 in cap room, according to HerHoopStats.com.

Before the madness ensues here are my predictions for the Sky’s free agents:

Courtney Vandersloot

For the first time in her career, Vandersloot has said she is open to free agency and all that it entails. She said Wade will get the first call, of course.

Vandersloot has expressed interest in the idea of returning to her home market to play for the Seattle Storm. Making that move ahead of the 2022 season doesn’t necessarily make the most sense, especially if Sue Bird returns for one more season. The Sky are legitimate contenders to repeat if they keep their core players intact.

Prediction: Wade re-signs Vandersloot to a one-year contract.

Allie Quigley

Vandersloot’s future in Chicago depends largely on whether or not Quigley retires.

After the season, the league’s best sharpshooter said she would spend the next few months thinking about what her future looks like. When discussing Quigley’s retirement with her former coaches, Wade and teammates, it was a stretch for any of them to imagine it after the year she had.

Prediction: Quigley returns for the 2022 season, signs a one-year contract for a similar amount as her 2021 contract, and the Sky have their version of the last dance for both of their hometown heroes.

Kahleah Copper

Copper knows her value after her All-Star, Finals MVP year and she’s worth a max contract. Wade has explicitly stated he’s doing whatever it takes to get Copper back and that starts with using the core designation. Her relationship with Candace Parker is valuable to her on a personal level and in her continued development as a franchise player.

Prediction: Copper signs a three-year max contract with the Sky on February 1.

Stef Dolson

Dolson has said she loves playing in Chicago. She’s a proven big-market player, enjoying the lifestyle that comes with being on a team in a large city. Dolson said on the Sun-Times podcast ‘‘Equal Play’’ that taking less money to remain part of a championship-contending team is not an unrealistic concept. She even went as far as saying, “We just won a championship, it’s hard to not come back.”

Prediction: Wade re-signs Dolson for an amount less than what she made last season, leaving room to make an offer to one more key player in his team’s championship run and the franchise’s future.

Astou Ndour-Fall

Ndour-Fall’s role coming off the bench for the Sky was critical. Wade had a player he could rely on to not only get players rest but also who could score in the post and from three and who was a talented rim protector.

Ndour-Fall plays well in Wade’s system and was vocal about the year she spent with Dallas not being a great fit. The Wings bought out the final two years of Ndour-Fall’s three-year contract. They will be paying her through the 2022 season.

Prediction: Wade likely won’t be able to offer more than the league minimum if he brings back Vandersloot, Quigley, Copper and Dolson. Ndour-Fall won’t be back next year, freeing up cap space to resign another member of the Sky’s core.

Diamond DeShields (restricted)

Despite DeShields’ offensive inconsistencies, she was a defensive catalyst throughout the year. No one has more confidence in her ability to return to her 2019 form than she does. Her priority overseas is establishing more consistency offensively, regaining some lost confidence and as she put it: “getting back to me.”

There is a huge upside to DeShields’ game, especially playing alongside Copper. As a restricted free agent, the Sky have the right of first refusal. DeShields certainly will be pursued, and one potential landing spot is the Atlanta Dream. She went to high school 20 miles outside of Atlanta, so the possibility of her being a key player in their rebuild is intriguing.

The free agency possibilities are endless with DeShields.

Prediction: DeShields gets an offer from the Dream, Wade matches, and she signs a two-year contract with the Sky, setting up a comeback season and the possibility of being a key in the Sky’s future alongside Copper.

Lexie Brown (restricted)

Brown was an asset when the Sky were working to establish who would be the backup point guard to Vandersloot early in the year. When Dana Evans started playing more minutes after arriving from Dallas, she solidified herself as that player. In 2022, Evans’ role is going to expand, which doesn’t leave much room for Brown.

Prediction: Brown proved her value as a backup point guard in this league and will get an offer that Wade won’t match.