Sky’s draft stock depleted after four-team trade to acquire Marina Mabrey

The Sky traded away three first round picks and three others.

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Sky acquired Marina Mabrey Saturday afternoon in a four-team trade.

Kamil Krzaczynski, AP Photos

Sky coach/GM James Wade has drawn criticism for his draft picks during his tenure with the franchise.

Between Katie Lou Samuelson and Shyla Heal, Wade’s draft choices have been questionable to say the least. The only player Wade drafted who remains on his roster is Ruthy Hebard, whom he selected with the eighth overall pick in 2020. Still, Wade’s draft misses over the last four years don’t explain trading three first-round picks in a four-team trade to acquire Wings guard Marina Mabrey and the Mercury’s second-round pick in 2024.

Wade’s talked a lot about his belief in the roster he’s building for the 2023 season despite the departures of three franchise players.

Saturday afternoon, he backed his words with action, proving he was willing to risk a potential future lottery pick in what’s being described as the best class the WNBA has seen in years to add depth to his backcourt.

“We cannot wait to welcome Marina into the Chicago Sky family,” Wade said in a statement. “Adding a player such as Marina who can play both guard positions, is a talented sharpshooter and gives her all every single game will all be vital for our team this year. We are looking forward to having her as a big addition to our roster.”

The four-team trade with the Liberty, Mercury and Wings leaves Wade’s draft stock completely depleted.

Along with sending his 2024 first-round pick to the Wings, Wade gave them his fifth overall pick in the 2023 draft. The Sky’s 2024 second-round pick went to the Liberty and the 2024 third-round pick and the 2025 second-round pick to the Mercury. Wade also gave the Wings the right to swap 2025 first-round picks and the Liberty the rights to forward Leonie Fiebich.

Mabrey — originally drafted by the Sparks with the 19th overall pick in the 2019 draft — spent the last three seasons with the Wings averaging 12.7 points, 3.1 assists and one steal in 85 games, 52 of which she started. There’s no question that Mabrey brings value to the Sky’s backcourt after losing Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, but at what cost?

With her scoring abilities, she quickly can shift the momentum of games as the Sky saw on multiple occasions last year. She led the Wings in scoring in two of their three meetings against Wade’s team, including scoring a game-high 26 in their victory in August. In the absence of Arike Ogunbowale, who dealt with an abdomen injury at the end of the 2022 season, Mabrey proved her ability to run an offense.

She was the second-leading scorer for the Wings behind Ogunbowale, averaging 13.6 points last season. She spent four days this week with Wade and two-time All-Star Kahleah Copper in Minneapolis at a USA Basketball minicamp.

Mabrey was a restricted free agent who was looking for a fresh start, according to sources. While the move signals Wade’s confidence in his 2023 roster, he has risked a lot by giving up three first-round draft picks over the next three years, especially considering the talent of those classes. The depth of the 2024 draft class alone already has the league on notice with players such as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards available.

Diamond DeShields, once marked as the future of the Sky, was dealt to the Wings in the trade a year after the Sky swapped her to the Mercury in a three-team trade to acquire Julie Allemand. On paper, the Wings were the clear winners of this deal while the Sky’s -future was brought further into question.

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