Game 1 against Aces exposes Sky ceiling with roster as currently constructed

Marina Mabrey is signed to a three-year deal, one of James Wade’s final moves as general manager before departing for the NBA. Courtney Williams will be an unrestricted free agent in the new year, as will Alanna Smith.

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LAS VEGAS — If Game 1 in the best-of-three first-round series between the Aces and the Sky were a prize fight, this would be the moment when the 10-count starts.

The reigning champs sent the Sky to the canvas with a 28-point thrashing. While the Sky look like they are fighting above their weight class, staying down isn’t an option.

The Sky have two days to stumble to their feet and attempt to prevent what appears inevitable — a knockout.

“We got another one,” Courtney Williams said. “We gotta go to the drawing board, watch the film and come back out and be better.”

The most significant takeaway following Game 1 has nothing to do with adjustments.

Whatever is done, the Sky will need perfection in order to even hang around with the Aces for four quarters. What Game 1 exposed are the adjustments that need to be made this offseason.

Interim coach/general manager Emre Vatansever inherited the position following James Wade’s midseason resignation. While credit is deserved for leading the team back to the playoffs, Vatansever was outmatched on the sidelines Wednesday night.

His inability to make in-game adjustments started with leaving Alanna Smith in the game despite the fact she picked up two fouls in the opening minutes. Before the start of the second quarter, Smith was headed to the bench with her third personal foul.

From there, he went with what he believed was his next best option in Morgan Berstch. She notched just five minutes and shot 0-for-2 from the field. Ruthy Hebard earned most of Smith’s backup minutes, while Sika Koné was tapped for just one minute of garbage time despite proving to be an asset off the bench in the Sky’s final eight games of the season.

When asked what his approach was to trying to rally his team, he said it was nothing special.

“We wanted to keep playing and keep playing hard and try to come back,” Vatansever said. “One possession at a time, we were trying to come back, and we tried, but you have to credit the Aces’ defense.”

Becky Hammon’s team completely disrupted the Sky on offense, forcing terrible shot selection all night, which they capitalized on with easy transition points. More significantly, the Aces’ defense exposed this Sky team’s ceiling as currently constructed.

Three-time All-Star Kahleah Copper said in a statement following her contract extension that she is excited to give Chicago and the franchise everything she has in order to secure another WNBA title. But, as was shown Wednesday, she alone won’t be able to lead the Sky out of the first round, let alone back to the Finals.

Marina Mabrey is signed to a three-year deal, one of Wade’s final moves as general manager before departing for the NBA. Courtney Williams will be an unrestricted free agent in the new year, as will Smith.

The Sky’s backcourt trio helped the team claw their way into the playoffs in the final stretch of the season. The way they were absolutely stifled by the Aces — combining for just 31 of the Sky’s 59 points — exposes the Sky’s need to add a true point guard to their backcourt in the new year.

Like Copper, Jewell Loyd signed a supermax extension to remain with the Storm, taking her off the free-agent market. Other top free agents in 2024 include Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brionna Jones, Natasha Cloud and Jonquel Jones.

Steps toward retooling the Sky’s roster with Copper once again as the centerpiece can’t be taken until the Sky hire a GM.

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