3 key stats from the Sky’s record-breaking 2022 season

The Sky will enter the 2022 WNBA playoffs an even better team than last year. Here’s a look at some notable numbers from a record-breaking year.

SHARE 3 key stats from the Sky’s record-breaking 2022 season
Courtney Vandersloot, Candace Parker and Kahleah Copper celebrate together in black uniforms.

Courtney Vandersloot, Candace Parker and Kahleah Copper have been critical contributors to the Sky’s emergence over the last two years.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When the dust cleared from the Sky’s celebration of their first WNBA championship, coach and general manager James Wade faced a tall task in deciding how to approach building the roster for a 2022 title defense.

Wade largely had assembled his team for a two-year championship window in 2020-21, a vision the team delivered on after adding Candace Parker. But in the wake of that triumph, the Sky couldn’t simply “run things back” like many title teams aim to do. Too many key players were set to hit free agency. Hard decisions would need to be made.

So Wade went to work, retaining certain core veterans while turning over a significant portion of the roster that won a championship. 

Out were Diamond DeShields, Stefanie Dolson and Astou Ndour-Fall, all key contributors last year. In came Emma Meesseman, Julie Allemand and Rebekah Gardner.

The result? An even better team than the one that won a title.

With less than a week before the start of the 2022 WNBA postseason, here’s a look at some key numbers from the best regular season in Sky history.

Best passing team in WNBA history?

While it was the Seattle Storm who recently set the WNBA’s single-game assist record with 37 in a win at Wintrust Arena, it’s the Sky who will hold the league record for most assists per game in a single season.

As of Wednesday, the Sky have averaged 24.3 assists per game in 2022, by far the most in league history. The Storm, now at 22.4 per game, likely will end up second in the record books.

The WNBA has become increasingly offense-oriented over its history — 20 years ago, teams averaged fewer than 68 points per game; this season, they average 82 — but nobody has been better at sharing the ball than the 2022 Sky.

Easy buckets

All that nimble ball movement, especially from gifted frontcourt playmakers such as Parker and Meesseman, means the Sky feast on teams with buckets in the post.

Even without a dominant go-to scorer — the Sky’s leading scorer, Copper, ranks 13th in the league — only one team in WNBA history (the 2020 Aces) has averaged more points in the paint than the Sky’s 42.2.

The go-to lineup of Vandersloot-Quigley-Copper-Meesseman-Parker — which has played 314 minutes together in 2022, by far the most on the team — doesn’t have anyone the defense can lay off.

Give Quigley an opening, and she’ll drain a three. Leave Copper alone, and she’ll dart to the basket, where her finishing ability is among the best in the league. And good luck stopping Meesseman and Parker in the high post with so many options at their disposal.

The Sky easily lead the league in shooting percentage. It’s no surprise given how they strain defenses with such a balanced attack.

Vandersloot’s defense

Parker, a former WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, might be the fulcrum of the Sky’s above-average defense, but don’t sleep on the immense contributions Vandersloot makes as the lead perimeter defender. According to Basketball Reference, the Sky allow just 98.2 points per 100 possessions with Vandersloot on the floor. When she leaves, that defensive rating balloons to 107.5 points per 100.

Some of that should be attributed to the minutes she shares with Parker, one of the smartest defenders in the league, and a struggling bench group, but even Parker doesn’t swing the Sky’s numbers as much whether she’s on the court or not. With all the focus on Vandersloot’s playmaking, her exceptional defense can fly under the radar.

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