Sky head into training camp with more flexibility than in 2021

Coach/general manager James Wade’s roster includes a league-high eight players on training-camp contracts.

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Chicago Sky head coach James Wade greets fans with teammates as they celebrate their 2021 WNBA Championship during a rally at Millennium Park on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton) ORG XMIT: ILMM102

Matt Marton, AP Photos

The Sky are scheduled to begin training camp April 17, and they’re gearing up to have a competitive environment.

Coach and general manager James Wade’s roster includes a league-high eight players on training-camp contracts. According to Her Hoop Stats, Wade has $132,166 in salary-cap space for two open roster spots.

All eight would make the veteran minimum if signed to a standard contract, but Imani McGee-Stafford and Kaela Davis have more than three years of experience. Their contracts are for $72,141 compared to the $60,471 that a player with two years or less of WNBA experience earns.

Each team can have a maximum of 12 players on the roster and no fewer than 11 at any point in the season. The Sky will likely have a roster size of 11 in 2022.

Early last season, Wade had to play cap gymnastics to keep his team at the 11-player minimum when he lost players to injury and national-team commitments. He signed multiple players to hardship contracts before waiving them, including 2022 restricted free agent Lexie Brown. Wade eventually signed Brown to a rest-of-season contract in June.

This year will be different because Wade is working with more cap room than he had at this time last year and won’t be working around players’ Olympic schedules.

Wade’s roster was strengthened with the addition of 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman, though the Sky lost Diamond DeShields, who played valuable minutes off the bench last season. But the starting lineup is set with Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper re-signing.

The Sky need a dependable reserve who also can move into a starting role. Crystal Bradford was expected to fill that but was waived last week. Julie Allemand is a guard Wade expects to play alongside Vandersloot, not as her backup. Adding another combo guard will help solidify the Sky’s depth on the wing.

Another hole that needs filling is the one left by Astou Ndour-Fall, who opted out of the season to rest. She gave the Sky length off the bench and played vital minutes early in the season when Candace Parker was injured.

Meesseman’s ability in the pick-and-roll with Vandersloot and Quigley will mirror a lot of what Stefanie Dolson did in Wade’s system. Ruthy Hebard should see more playing time after Dolson’s departure, but adding another lengthy big who can stretch the floor, protect the rim and score in the post is essential.

McGee-Stafford was drafted by the Sky in 2016 and traded to the Dream in 2017. She spent 2018 with the Dream before being acquired by the Wings in 2019.

She stepped away from the WNBA in 2020 and 2021 to pursue her law degree and played in Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural season in February. She’ll need to prove she’s WNBA-ready, but if she does, McGee-Stafford looks like the most obvious fit of the eight players on training-camp contracts.

Because McGee-Stafford’s would be a veteran minimum contract, the Sky can’t afford to sign her for the entire season, keep all of their players on unprotected contracts and sign another training camp player.

Of Wade’s nine players on regular contracts, three are unprotected: Hebard, Dana Evans and Allemand. Hypothetically, Wade could end up waiving one of these three players, sign a player to a veteran minimum contract and have room for two players with less than three years of league experience at the lowest base salary. There are a lot of

Although these eight will get the first crack at making the roster, Wade said he’s keeping all possibilities open.

Training Camp contracts

Kathleen Doyle, 5’9 guard

Rebekah Gardner, 6’1 guard

Kysre Gondrezick, 5’9 guard

Tina Krajisnik, 6’3 forward/center

Anneli Maley, 6’2 guard

Imani McGee-Stafford, 6’7 center

Kaela Davis, 6’2 forward

Kamiah Smalls, 5’10 guard

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