What’s next for Sky after qualifying offers?

Before Jan. 1 was over, GM James Wade extended qualifying offers to Diamond DeShields and Lexie Brown for the applicable minimum salary.

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The Sky’ extended qualifying offers to Diamond DeShields (1) and Lexie Brown.

The Sky’ extended qualifying offers to Diamond DeShields (1) and Lexie Brown.

Paul Beaty/AP

Sky coach/general manager James Wade didn’t let Jan. 1 pass before making his first move of the 2022 WNBA free agency period. He extended qualifying offers to the Sky’s two restricted free agents, Diamond DeShields and Lexie Brown on Saturday night.

Both offers are one-year contracts for the applicable minimum which totals $73,542 for DeShields and $72,141 for Brown, according to HerHoopStats.

This offer maintains both players restricted free agent status, allowing Wade and the Sky right of first refusal when negotiations begin on Jan. 15. Right of first refusal means that Wade can match any offer DeShields or Brown receives from another team and wants to accept. It also opens up other potential scenarios like a sign-and-trade deal, in which case both players would have to approve their landing spots.

DeShields, who averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals in 27 minutes last season, is currently playing overseas for Famila Wuber Schio. Before leaving for her overseas assignment, she was open about her desire to return to Chicago.

If she does end up in a new uniform next season, one potential landing spot for DeShields is Atlanta.

The Dream, who went 8-24 in 2021 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2018, are in a rebuilding stage. They have four contracted players ahead of the 2022 season, including DeShields former teammate Cheyenne Parker. DeShields, who played high school basketball 20 miles from Atlanta, would provide instant All-Star energy and have the added fan appeal of being a hometown product.

Brown joined the Sky in 2021, first on a hardship contract before signing a rest-of-season contract in June. Brown averaged just under 10 minutes in 17 games for the Sky, but her versatility as a two-way guard allowed her to shine in big moments for them.

With qualifying offers extended, that leaves the core designation as a possible chip for Wade to use. Each team can use this designation on one player by extending a core qualifying offer. That offer is a one-year, supermax deal.

Wade told the Sun-Times that he is pretty confident he will use the core designation but didn’t specify which player he’d core.

Reigning WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper will be heavily pursued once negotiations begin on Jan. 15. She has indicated she will return to Chicago in various interviews, but there’s no guarantee that happens unless Wade uses the core designation.

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