For the second consecutive year, WNBA free agency was a dizzying frenzy with a lot of high-profile player movement.
The Sky were easily one of the biggest winners after signing future Hall of Famer Candace Parker to a multiyear deal. The move transforms the Sky from being an above-average team to one of the top contenders in the league.
Another team that made a big improvement was the Aces, who signed elite playmaker Chelsea Gray. And the Sparks avoided taking a big step backward by re-signing six-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike.
With free agency starting to cool off, here are three observations on the Sky’s offseason as teams shift their attention to the draft next month:
1. One Parker comes as another goes
In the biggest free-agency move in franchise history, the Sky signed Candace Parker to a two-year, $385,000 deal last month.
Coming off two consecutive postseason appearances, the Sky were in desperate need of an MVP-caliber player to take them to the next level. Parker makes the Sky early WNBA Finals favorites.
Parker joins a loaded lineup that also features All-Stars Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields. She also can serve as a mentor to some of the team’s budding young players, including Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams and Kahleah Copper.
Parker, who’s from Naperville, could end up playing her final seasons for her hometown team. Winning a championship in Chicago would be a storybook ending to her illustrious career.
But the acquisition of Parker came at the expense of a player with the same surname. Cheyenne Parker intended to return to the Sky for her seventh WNBA season, but the signing of Candace Parker left little salary-cap room for that to happen.
Ultimately, Cheyenne Parker signed a three-year deal with the Dream, starting at $185,000. Parker, whose natural ability to connect with fans made her a favorite, will miss her teammates and the city she has adopted as her second home, but she’s excited about her new beginning in Atlanta.
2. Stevens’ extension
Coach James Wade said he’s looking forward to a healthy competition among his players this season with the majority of the roster on expiring contracts.
One player, however, secured her future last month.
Stevens signed a one-year contract extension, joining Candace Parker, 2020 first-round pick Ruthy Hebard and international player Marie Conde, who has yet to report to the team, as the only players committed to the Sky for the 2022 season.
Wade sees Stevens being a key player for the Sky moving forward because of her offensive versatility and defensive toughness. She put together an impressive first half of the season in 2020 before a knee injury sidelined her for the second half.
It will be worth watching to see whether the Sky move to re-sign other pending restricted free agents, such as Williams. It’s unlikely DeShields, who’s on the last year of her rookie deal, would accept an extension because she could possibly earn more money next offseason based on her performance in 2021, a league source said.
3. Who will back up Vandersloot?
The biggest question remaining for the Sky is, who will back up Vandersloot? The Sky are looking for a playmaking guard and solid defender who would mesh well with Williams on the second unit.
Last month, the Sky signed former first-round pick Brittany Boyd to a training-camp contract, giving her an opportunity to fill that need.
Boyd, the ninth overall pick of the 2015 draft, averaged 6.3 points, 3.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in five seasons with the Liberty, who waived her last April.
Boyd could be a good backup option for the Sky, although they also might consider using their eighth overall pick to draft a versatile guard, such as Arizona star Aari McDonald.