What will late additions mean for Sky?
What last season proved to GM/coach James Wade and the Sky was that making it to the WNBA Finals is a marathon. During free agency, Wade made moves to bolster the Sky’s depth.
Through three games this season, the WNBA champion Sky’s depth has been their greatest attribute.
Second-year guard Dana Evans leads the Sky in scoring at 14.7 points per game, and 31-year-old rookie Rebekah Gardner has made significant contributions in her first two outings.
Allie Quigley played only 21 minutes in the Sky’s 82-78 victory Saturday against the Lynx, and Emma Meesseman is continuing to settle in with her new team, proving why she was the most consequential free-agent signing of 2022.
Sky coach/general manager James Wade has so many weapons at his disposal that Courtney Vandersloot’s and Candace Parker’s names haven’t even come up yet. In the first three games of the season, Wade has implemented a quicker substitution pattern, reflecting the talent on the roster from top to bottom.
‘‘We want to put as much accountability on the bench as we do on the starters,’’ Wade said recently on the Equal Play podcast. ‘‘By the time the game is played, you guys won’t recognize who is starting or not because we’re putting the same accountability on everyone.’’
The Sky (2-1) are coming off victories against the Liberty and Lynx, who have a combined record of 1-7. Road games against the Storm on Wednesday and the Mystics on Sunday will be more meaningful measuring sticks for the Sky.
Last season proved to Wade and the Sky that making it to the WNBA Finals is a marathon. During free agency, Wade made moves to bolster the Sky’s depth, allowing players such as Quigley, Vandersloot and Parker to rest without the team taking a hit.
The Sky are still without three starting-caliber players in 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, Julie Allemand and Li Yueru.
Unlike Copper, who will fit seamlessly back into Wade’s system, Allemand and Li will have to find their footing once they arrive in Chicago. Copper is expected to arrive after the game Wednesday, and Wade said he expects Li to be in town by the end of the week.
Wade has gone with a post-heavy starting five in the first three games. When Copper returns, she likely will play alongside Vandersloot at guard, with Azura Stevens, Meesseman and Parker in the frontcourt.
Allemand’s expected arrival is June 10, and Wade has said he plans to use her alongside Vandersloot, not as her backup. Evans and Gardner are playing great together right now, each averaging close to 30 minutes a game.
Wade’s guard rotation will be interesting when Allemand arrives. As likely as it is that Evans’ and Gardner’s minutes will be reduced, Vandersloot also might get more rest with Allemand in the fold.
With Astou Ndour-Fall opting to sit out the season, the Sky have been without a true rim protector. Li’s arrival will fill that hole, but there aren’t many available minutes based on what we’ve seen so far. If Wade continues to move forward with Stevens, Meesseman and Parker as his starting frontcourt, Li might cut into some of Ruthy Hebard’s playing time.
Li also might be used in the starting lineup against teams such the Sparks, Wings and Sun, all of whom have players taller than 6-6. Time will tell how Li and Allemand develop in Chicago.
One thing is certain, however: Wade didn’t bring anyone in to sit on the bench.
‘‘I want to make sure we keep our core players fresh,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I’m very confident in the players that are not considered part of that core five carrying us for long stretches.’’