Predictions for Sky’s new starting five

Slow starts and a lack of energy have James Wade mulling a new starting lineup.

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Azura Stevens

Azura Stevens #30 of the Chicago Sky runs out before the game against the Dallas Wings on August 17 2021 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago

Randy Belice, Getty Images

James Wade is done giving out chances.

At least, that’s what he said after the Sky’s 80-76 loss to the Dallas Wings earlier in the week.

Against the Minnesota Lynx Saturday there will be a new lineup for the Sky.

“I expect us to [have a different starting five] for the next game,” Wade said. “We’ve given our lineup a chance the last two games and I really don’t like the slow starts.”

The Sky have struggled to come up with an answer for the slow starts all season, but in the last two games the lack of energy has been more pronounced.

During the team’s seven-game skid at the start of the season, even when the Sky were down they kept the energy high. The Sky team that returned from the Olympic break has had an energy issue.

The issue is, they’ve lacked it entirely.

In both games to start the second portion of the season, the Sky have opened games scoring under 10 points until Allie Quigley comes off the bench.

Against the Seattle Storm, Quigley came in and hit three quick three-pointers. She had two more to close the fourth quarter and send the game to overtime and an eventual two-point win.

Tuesday night it was a similar story. But her best efforts from behind the arc weren’t enough to make up for a defense that showed up in spurts, allowing 17 second-chance points.

“If you watch the game you can tell [there’s an energy issue],” Quigley said. “As professionals, we can’t ever have that.”

The Sky’s starting five before the Olympic break was Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper, Diamond DeShields, Candace Parker and Stefanie Dolson.

Wade has been playing around at center, substituting Astou Ndour-Fall for Dolson against the Storm and Azurá Stevens against the Wings.

Saturday, the Sky could potentially be without Parker, who went down in the third quarter with an injury to the same ankle she injured at the beginning of the season. DeShields has not looked like herself since the season resumed.

Against the Storm, she put up 13 points but went 0-for-4 from three. Tuesday night she had eight points on 33% shooting.

Swapping Quigley for DeShields on the wing and Stevens and Ndour-Fall down low is a possibility. Quigley would add a spark offensively while Stevens and Ndour-Fall together would maintain Parker’s rebounding production and ability to create transition offense. Stevens and Ndour-Fall would also be great answers defensively for the team’s upcoming matchup against Sylvia Fowles and the Lynx.

Wade said he met with Stevens before the season resumed and told her he envisioned her playing a larger role. One reason for her decreased minutes was her health. Stevens was returning from a knee injury and played on a minutes restriction early in the season.

Wade expects her role to evolve into a similar one she was playing before she left the WNBA bubble. In 13 games during the 2020 season, Stevens averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in 30 minutes.

This year she’s averaging 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18 minutes. Against the Wings, in her first start of the season, she had 14 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

“We expect big things out of Azurá,” Wade said during the Olympic break. “She’s in a good place. We expect to move forward with her having a more featured role.”

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