Sky’s backcourt hinges on Vandersloot’s decision in free agency

As the Sky brace for a free-agency period in which five of Wade’s players, including Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Candace Parker, will become unrestricted free agents, there are even bigger questions on the table. They start with the Sky’s backcourt.

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Dana Evans dribbles the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times, Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

One of the Sky’s greatest attributes during the 2022 season was their depth.

That quality was so impressive it earned coach/GM James Wade executive of the year honors, adding to his resume which includes 2019 WNBA coach of the year. But as the Sky came undone in the playoffs — losing to the Connecticut Sun in Game 5 of the semifinals after holding an 11-point lead with seven minutes to play — the question of whether that depth was effectively used came into question.

Now, as the Sky brace for a free-agency period in which five of Wade’s players, including Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Candace Parker, will become unrestricted free agents, there are even bigger questions on the table. They start with the Sky’s backcourt.

Dana Evans averaged 11.5 minutes per game in 2022, and in that time displayed her potential to be an elite combo guard. But she hasn’t been given enough reps yet to prove that potential can be sustained, a side effect of playing behind Vandersloot. The addition of Julie Allemand added to the crowded depth chart.

Allemand was used as the first substitution for Vandersloot in Wade’s rotation with Evans coming in to play alongside Allemand or as the third option at point guard. Next year, Evans wants to see her role evolve.

“I want to be on the court,” Evans said during exit interviews. “I want to show what I can do. I want to be a factor. I don’t want to be a cheerleader on the bench.”

Evans is playing overseas in Turkey for Besiktas JK and leads the team in scoring, averaging 19 points to go with her 4.4 assists, three rebounds and 1.6 steals. The two-time ACC player of the year at Louisville has earned a more solidified role in the WNBA. The question is, will it be with the Sky?

The answer depends in large part on Vandersloot’s future in Chicago.

The guards are substantially different. Vandersloot is an unparalleled passer, while Evans in her first two seasons has shown an aggressive scoring mentality that could continue to blossom if given more playing time. What’s similar, though, is how Sky fans have embraced both players.

Vandersloot is the face of the franchise, but Evans could very well be the future.

It might be easy to chalk Evans’ fast-growing fan base to the fact that she grew up in Gary, Indiana. Or it could be the way Evans plays. Like Vandersloot, Evans is all grit and heart when she steps on the court.

There are a lot of potential scenarios for the backcourt in 2023.

Vandersloot could leave, opening the door to a preseason competition for the vacant spot at starting point guard. Allemand also could opt not to return for the 2023 WNBA season. Playing in Europe is Allemand’s preference, she told the Sun-Times in July. She evaluates her participation in the WNBA year by year.

“You never know with injuries and mentally,” Allemand said in July. “It’s hard to play all year and never stop. Sometimes you need a break. I can’t say for sure I will be here, but I am still under contract, and if I have the opportunity I will come back.”

Although Evans and Allemand weren’t a backcourt combination that was heavily used last season, they showed their potential as the Sky’s guard combo of the future. Whether that future is imminent is contingent on Wade’s moves in free agency, beginning with whether or not he can re-sign Vandersloot.

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