Sky coach/general manager James Wade took the first big step toward solidifying his 2022 roster after sending in the core designation Wednesday evening for WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, the team told the Sun-Times.
This core designation means the Sky control Copper’s rights for the upcoming season, but could still sign and trade her. This scenario is highly unlikely as Copper has expressed that she wants to return to Chicago and Wade said the first-time All-Star is synonymous with the Sky.
The core qualifying offer is a one-year supermax deal totaling $228,094 but both sides could begin negotiating for different terms on Jan. 15.
“[With the core designation] you’re showing them they're the future of the franchise going forward,” Wade said. “I know sometimes people think the core designation limits you but it actually shows the organization's investment and belief in you.”
Copper was part of the trade deal that sent Elena Delle Donne to the Washington Mystics in 2017. The Sky also acquired All-Star center and Olympic gold medalist Stefanie Dolson in the trade.
In her first three seasons with the Sky, Copper started 12 games, averaging nearly 7 points per game. By 2020 she earned a starting role and exploded in Wade’s system averaging 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 31 minutes played.
Ahead of the 2021 season, she spoke with Wade about a list of goals she had. At the top was winning a WNBA championship and becoming an All-Star.
Copper led the Sky in scoring all season and turned things up a notch in the playoffs, averaging 17.7 points en route to the Sky’s first title. Having accomplished her goals, Copper has a new list motivating her that includes earning all-defensive team honors and, of course, helping lead the Sky to back-to-back titles.
Wade extended qualifying offers to both of his restricted free agents, Diamond DeShields and Lexie Brown, on Jan. 1. With the core designation out of the way, that leaves Jan. 15 and his unrestricted free agents to focus on.
Top priority will be bringing back his starting five, which includes Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. The Sky’s remaining starters, Candace Parker and Azurá Stevens are contracted through 2022.