As trade deadline approaches, Sky don’t appear to be active despite clear need for changes

Former coach/GM James Wade’s hurried attempt to stop the bleeding in the wake of the departures of Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley not only failed to prevent a rebuild, but it also poses a realistic hindrance to the Sky’s future success.

SHARE As trade deadline approaches, Sky don’t appear to be active despite clear need for changes
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Chicago Sky interim head coach Emre Vatansever directs his team during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Seattle Storm, Friday, July 28, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: ILCA120

Charles Rex Arbogast, AP Photos

When former Sky coach/general manager James Wade dealt a bundle of the team’s future draft picks in a four-team trade for Marina Mabrey, he was adamant the move would prevent the franchise from entering a full rebuild.

To him, trading away two first-round draft picks (2023, 2024) and the rights to swap a third (2025) was a ‘‘no-brainer.’’ When pressed about why, his retort seemed to brim with confidence.

‘‘I’m not [expletive] planning on losing,’’ Wade said during the news conference introducing Mabrey.

More than halfway through the season, however, the Sky (9-15) are dangerously close to failing to make the playoffs. If that happens, they would send a 2024 lottery pick to the Wings.

Upon further review, it wasn’t confidence in Wade’s tone; it was defensiveness about a desperate move to prevent the inevitable after he failed to re-sign a single franchise star. The Sky, meanwhile, are locked into a three-year deal with Mabrey that is costing them $202,000 this season, $208,000 next season and $210,000 in 2025.

As a point of reference, three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper signed her first $200,000 contract after being named the MVP of the 2021 WNBA Finals. She’s making $205,000 this season.

The addition of Mabrey made little sense when Wade traded for her, and it makes even less sense now. On June 1, Wade left the Sky for an assistant coaching job in the NBA. His midseason resignation was a clear indication that, at the very least, he no longer had the desire to see his ill-conceived idea through even to the end of the year.

Left to make sense of a roster that clearly doesn’t fit together is interim coach/GM Emre Vatansever, who continues to claim the Sky will ‘‘put it together.’’

But after dropping back-to-back games at Wintrust Arena, including one Friday to the last-place Storm, the Sky are running out of time. After the game, however, Vatansever said he has no concerns.

‘‘Why?’’ Vatansever asked in response to a question about whether he’s worried about the shortening runway to solidify a playoff spot. ‘‘We have how many games left?’’

The Sky have 16 games left in the regular season, starting with their home game Sunday against the Mercury, who recently beat them by 18 points in Phoenix.

In one sense, Vatansever is right: There is plenty of time for the Sky to turn things around and easily secure a spot in the playoffs. But they have failed to show any consistent success, are 2-6 under Vatansever and have lost even to the bottom-tier teams in the league.

While the Storm and Mercury are navigating the slow breakdown of their once Hall of Fame-laden rosters, the Fever are showing glimpses of the contending franchise they could return to if they continue to build around Aliyah Boston. The next two draft lotteries are primed with future WNBA stars and a perfect place for tanking franchises to start.

Wade’s hurried attempt to stop the bleeding in the wake of the departures of Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley not only failed to prevent a rebuild, but it also poses a realistic hindrance to the Sky’s future success.

Vatansever is technically the person in charge of making roster moves that could help mitigate Wade’s failings, and the WNBA’s trade deadline is coming up Aug. 7. Unfortunately for the Sky, Vatansever has said he isn’t focused on making any moves as GM.

NOTE: The Mercury said star center Brittney Griner didn’t make the trip to face the Sky on Sunday at Wintrust Arena to focus on her mental health. The team said Griner also will miss the game Tuesday against the Fever in Indianapolis.

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