The Sky aced WNBA free agency.
Taking a look around the league, it’s easy to see that James Wade’s squad got stronger — even with the departures of Stefanie Dolson and Diamond DeShields.
Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley are officially back in the fold rounding out Wade’s championship starting five (along with Kahleah Copper, Candace Parker and Azurá Stevens).
But beyond the starters, a lot of the players will be new in 2022.
Not only did Wade add a new coach in Ann Wauters to replace Olaf Lange, who is expected to join Sandy Brondello’s staff in New York, but at least five new reserves have signed contracts.
Kysre Gondrezick, Rebekah Gardner and Kamiah Smalls signed training-camp contracts, while Julie Allemand and Crystal Bradford are on long-term deals. Emma Meesseman, who officially signed a one-year deal with the Sky Friday, rounds out the new faces.
Signing the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP is the most significant of the Sky’s new additions because of her already established chemistry with UMMC Ekaterinburg teammates Vandersloot and Quigley and her ability to fill the hole that Dolson left. Meesseman was a consistent part of the Mystics in her seven seasons there. She averaged 13 points in 31 minutes for the Mystics in 2020.
Dolson averaged 7.5 points coming off the bench for the Sky last season, but her impact on the Sky’s offense was more significant than the numbers. She was Quigley’s primary screen-setter and was a threat from three, which helped space the floor, a key in the Sky’s offensive success. Meesseman will fit seamlessly into Wade’s system and surely see an increase in offensive production playing alongside the league’s best facilitator in Vandersloot.
Astou Ndour-Fall announced this week that she will not play this season to get some much-needed rest after playing year-round for over a decade. Her absence will open up more playing time for Ruthy Hebard, who proved her value when Parker was injured, and Ndour-Fall and Dolson were unavailable because of national-team duties last season.
Allemand adds experienced depth at point guard, plus has a developed relationship with Meesseman and Wauters. Her ability to take contact and get to the rim is similar to Vandersloot’s, as is her court vision. In 2020 she finished second in the league in assists behind Vandersloot.
Allemand will give the Sky a capable backup allowing Vandersloot, who averaged 31 minutes last season, to get more rest.
With limited free-agent options at the wing, signing Bradford meets all the Sky’s needs. When DeShields transitioned from a starting role to a bench role last year, there was an apparent disconnect in what she wanted and what Wade needed. Bradford won’t have that same issue. She averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24 games for the Dream last season.
The three players on training-camp contracts are vying for one available roster spot.
Gondrezick has experience running point and playing at shooting guard, which will be an advantage for her. Dana Evans has proven her value as a backup point guard in Wade’s system, but there’s still room for a combo guard on the roster.
Wade once again will be tasked with playing cap gymnastics early in the season because of players’ late arrivals due to overseas commitments. It’s very possible Sky fans will see more than one of these players on short-term contracts early in the season.