After three years, how do Sky GM James Wade’s draft picks stack up?
In three years worth of draft picks, Wade has kept one of his original first-round selections, Ruthy Hebard who he took with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Less than two months after Sky general manager and coach James Wade drafted Shyla Heal with the eighth overall pick in the WNBA Draft, she was traded to and immediately waived by the Dallas Wings.
On draft night, Wade raved about Heal’s ceiling. Wade thought her professional experience in Australia combined with her style of play, which he said was similar to Courtney Vandersloot’s, made her a great fit for the Sky’s system.
After four games and just 31 WNBA minutes, Heal was gone.
In three years worth of draft picks, Wade has kept one of his original first-round selections, Ruthy Hebard, whom he took with the eighth overall pick last year.
In his first draft in 2019, Wade selected Katie Lou Samuelson with the fourth overall pick, passing on eventual Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier and runner-up Arike Ogunbowale. Similar to his expectations for Heal to develop behind Vandersloot, Wade was looking for Samuelson to be a solution to an impending problem in Allie Quigley’s eventual retirement.
Less than a year later, Samuelson was gone as was a 2021 first-round draft pick in a trade to the Wings for forward Azurá Stevens.
Stevens’ full potential remains to be seen. Last season, she left the Bubble early after suffering a season-ending left knee injury. She started in all 13 games she appeared in for the Sky, averaging career highs in points (11.5 per game) and rebounds (5.9 per game) while shooting 50% from the field.
She started this season on a minutes restriction. In five games, she has averaged 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19.8 minutes. Her minutes off the bench have been critical with Candace Parker out because of an ankle injury she suffered after the season opener.
Still, Hebard is Wade’s only draft pick that’s made an impact.
“We’ve been a playoff team every year,” Wade said. “You have to look at the sum of everything. I don’t think you can just go by we traded our draft picks early. That remains to be seen.”
Wade’s decision to trade Heal for Dana Evans in order to make room to sign experienced guard Lexie Brown to a rest-of-season contract on June 13 makes sense. Heal looked outmatched to start the season. With Brown on the court against the Mercury, the Sky had their lowest number of turnovers all season.
Still, the trade is a response to a problem that drafting Heal didn’t solve. The Sky need a backup point guard for Vandersloot.
Wade is one of five people in the WNBA who plays the dual role of general manager and coach.
The Sky have a severely limited front office staff with three basketball operations positions outside of Wade’s assistant coaching staff. The reigning WNBA champion Storm in comparison have 12 basketball operations staff members outside of their coaching staff. The Mystics have nine.
Strength and conditioning coach Ann Crosby, who also serves as the director of basketball operations, has long been described as someone who does it all. The team doesn’t have a director of player development or an assistant general manager.
Will this staff be able to build a championship-caliber team is a question that remains to be answered.
“You make the team that you want to coach,” Wade said. “I took the job because I wanted the job. Sometimes decisions have to be made that are tough decisions. At the same time, you’re the only one who has a gauge on your team.”