James Wade assembled Sky’s roster poorly, and it’s showing

It’s not that the Sky are playing below their capabilities. This team was not built to be successful. At its best, the Sky could barely make the playoffs. If the season ended today, they wouldn’t.

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The Sky’s Courtney Williams ranks fourth in the league with a career-high 6.1 assists per game.

The Sky’s Courtney Williams ranks fourth in the league with a career-high 6.1 assists per game.

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

The message being preached by the Sky to start the week was simple.

“Today’s the day to kick-start our playoff run,” Ruthy Hebard said Sunday.

By the end of their 79-73 loss to the Sun, their fifth consecutive defeat, the message was once again null and void.

The problem with the Sky is not just that they’re playing poorly. It’s that they were poorly constructed by former Sky coach/general manager James Wade as his championship roster fell apart.

Wade went into the free-agent market and signed an off-ball guard, Courtney Williams, and made her a point guard after acquiring another two guard, Marina Mabrey. That left Dana Evans — who for the last two seasons had played behind one of the league’s most prolific point guards — to bide her time coming off the bench once again.

Williams has capably fulfilled the role asked of her, running the Sky’s offense. She logged her first career triple-double in the Sky’s 86-78 win over the Sparks in July — Wade’s last game with the team, coincidentally — and is fourth in the league with a career-high 6.1 assists per game. Still, she’s being asked to succeed in a new role, and that points back to the problem.

It’s not that the Sky are playing below their capabilities. This team was not built to be successful. At its best, the Sky could barely make the playoffs. If the season ended today, they wouldn’t.

Wade’s trade for Mabrey changed the dynamic of the Sky’s roster and the future of the team, regardless of its playoff fate.

Wade’s inability to acknowledge the team was heading for a rebuild didn’t make it any less true. Instead of giving Evans an opportunity to develop at point guard, he added Mabrey to a roster already heavy with two guards.

Through 32 games, the offense has been run by committee, with Williams getting the most reps at the point. The Sky’s biggest issue has been their inability to establish any consistency, which perhaps is a byproduct of a roster that does not have clearly defined roles.

Missing the playoffs two years after winning the title and a year after reaching the semifinals is a swift fall from the top. But the bigger blow will be if the Sky fail to climb out of the depths of the WNBA standings with eight games remaining and give up a lottery pick to the Wings as a result of the Mabrey trade.

The league’s lottery odds are a culmination of the previous two seasons. If the season ended today, the Fever would be in the best position to win the No. 1 overall pick.

After finishing the 2022 season with the best record in the league, even with the nosedive they’ve taken this season, the Sky’s odds for getting the No. 1 pick if the season ended today would be below 20% — but not zero.

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