Sky are going for back-to-back titles in WNBA’s 26th season

The Sky are trying to become the third team in WNBA history to win back-to-back titles, and the first since the Sparks in 2001-2002. To accomplish that, they will have to go through a league that will see even more parity in 2022.

SHARE Sky are going for back-to-back titles in WNBA’s 26th season
WNBA Finals - Game Four

Sky look to become third team in WNBA to win back-to-back titles, and first since the Sparks did it in 2001-2002.

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

On Friday, the Sky begin the defense of their WNBA title with their season opener at Wintrust Arena against the Los Angeles Sparks.

Sky coach/general manager James Wade concluded another blockbuster free-agency period that ensured his team wouldn’t skip a beat after the departures of Stefanie Dolson and Diamond DeShields. He signed Julie Allemand and 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman.

The Sky’s core, 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Candace Parker, all are back.

Wade’s coaching staff, which already touted Emre Vatansaver and retired WNBA player Tonya Edwards, was made even stronger with the hiring of WNBA champion and international basketball star Ann Wauters.

This time last year, the Sky were selected second in the league’s GM poll on which team was most likely to win a championship, and Parker was viewed as the acquisition that would make the most significant impact. One of those predictions was true, proven by the fact that without Parker, the Sky had their worst losing stretch since 2012.

They went into the playoffs with a .500 record, but with Parker’s leadership, historic performances from Vandersloot and Copper, and Quigley’s three-point accuracy, the sixth-seeded Sky erased a double-digit deficit to beat the No. 5 Phoenix Mercury in Game 4 of the Finals to secure the title.

The Sky are trying to become the third team in WNBA history to win back-to-back titles, and the first since the Sparks in 2001-2002.

The league’s GM poll isn’t out yet, but there’s little question that the Sky will be a heavy favorite to return to the Finals. To accomplish that, they will have to go through a league that will see even more parity in 2022.

Some of the biggest offseason moves include Becky Hammon accepting a head-coaching job with the Las Vegas Aces that came with a seven-figure salary, and Liz Cambage signing with the Sparks. Both moves bring value to the franchises and the league as Hammon and Cambage are not only talented but two of the most recognizable names in the women’s game in markets that will capitalize on their presence.

Jonquel Jones, the league’s MVP last year, re-signed with the Connecticut Sun and Alyssa Thomas is back playing at 100%, making them one of the Sky’s toughest opponents this season. Fans won’t see a semifinals rematch between these two teams until June 10 when the Sky head to Connecticut. They’ll play each other three more times in 2022.

The Seattle Storm, along with re-signing Sue Bird at the veteran minimum for what’s expected to be her final season, re-signed Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. The big three will be in pursuit of a record fifth WNBA title. The Sky play the Storm three times, with the first meeting scheduled for May 18 on the road.

Hammon’s Aces squad, led by 2020 league MVP A’Ja Wilson, is one of the most exciting teams in the league. They have a good mixture of young talent and experienced players, including Parker’s former Sparks teammate Chelsea Gray as well as Kelsey Plum and Dearica Hamby. Through training camp, the guard-heavy roster has looked like a team that will get out and push the ball in transition and look to control the pace of games. Their first meeting against the Sky is May 28 at Wintrust Arena.

Vanessa Nygaard enters her first year as coach of the Phoenix Mercury with a loaded roste Diana Taurasi, voted by fans as the WNBA’s G.O.A.T. The most critical matter the team and league faces is the detainment of star Brittney Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis. Griner’s detention has been extended to May 19, and commissioner Cathy Engelbert said ahead of the WNBA Draft that the league is doing all it can to bring her home.

Sylvia Fowles leads a Minnesota Lynx team that finished third in the league last year in what will be the 2017 MVP’s final season. Coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve signed five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry. The Lynx have a deep roster of talent heading into the 2022 season.

A healthy Elena Delle Donne instantly raises expectations for the Washington Mystics. The New York Liberty welcomed a new coach, Sandy Brondello, who led the Mercury to the Finals last year and coached them to a championship in 2014. Cambage joined a core in Los Angeles that includes 2016 league MVP Nneka Ogwumike, her sister Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, along with young talents like Jordin Canada and Chennedy Carter.

The Dallas Wings made few offseason moves but did sign Arike Ogunbowale to a three-year supermax contract, ensuring that the franchise is headed in a great direction with players like Allisha Gray, Isabelle Harrison and Satou Sabally in the mix.

The Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever are likely still in rebuild mode. The Dream drafted Rhyne Howard with the No. 1 overall pick, and the Fever enter the season in the midst of a five-year playoff drought.

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