One of the stories that captivated minds in 2020 was the activism of athletes.
The WNBA certainly was involved, taking a huge leap as a league and leading the way in taking a stand against racism.
The WNBA set the tone for its future in January with an unprecedented collective-bargaining agreement that “bet on women.”
The new CBA allowed for more player movement in free agency, which resulted in the offseason being packed with jaw-dropping moves. The Sky played it safe, keeping their 2019 playoff team relatively intact.
The momentum for the league and Sky was undeniable come late February. But the pandemic changed everything.
The WNBA managed to successfully have an abbreviated season, which players dedicated to social justice, in Bradenton, Florida. TV ratings skyrocketed.
As for the Sky, well, bringing the band back together didn’t pan out in 2020. They were relatively stagnant in terms of progression. Some of last season’s shortcomings can be attributed to injuries and the general oddities of the season-in-the-bubble. But after a first-round playoff exit, general manager and coach James Wade has a lot to think about this season.
While it’s hard to forecast anything after the curveballs 2020 threw at us, here are four bold predictions for the Sky in 2021:
Sky go after Griner
If the Sky want any chance of consistently competing against the league’s best, they’ll need to be aggressive this offseason in addressing their need to improve on defense.
The answer to their problem? Brittney Griner.
Griner has two years left on her contract in Phoenix. But her premature departure from the bubble for unexplained “personal reasons” and Mercury general manager Jim Pitman’s ambiguous comments to the Arizona Republic about Griner have put the six-time All-Star’s future in Phoenix in question.
Griner to the Sky makes sense, though Wade likely would need to incorporate a third team to pull off the deal. Stefanie Dolson and Stephanie Mavunga could be two possible trade candidates. Wade could choose to ship away some draft assets, too, if necessary.
Vandersloot does it again
Courtney Vandersloot has broken the WNBA’s single-season assist record in each of the last four seasons, so why not do it again in 2021?
Vandersloot, 31, became the first WNBA player to surpass 300 assists in a season in 2019 and averaged a record-setting 10 assists in 2020.
Averaging 10 or more assists for a full-length season is a tall order. Maybe Vandersloot won’t average double-digit assists, but she will surpass 300 for only the second time in WNBA history.
Sky draft a combo guard
Speaking of Vandersloot, the Sky still need to find her a suitable backup, who also needs to be compatible with Gabby Williams.
The Sky have the No. 8 pick in the 2021 draft. Barring Wade trading it away in free agency, the Sky should go after a combo guard.
There’s still plenty of college basketball to be played, but early assessments indicate guards Arella Guirantes of Rutgers, Evina Westbrook of UConn and Dana Evans of Louisville could be good possible options.
Fans in stands in some capacity
With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout beginning earlier this month, optimism abounds about what’s ahead in 2021.
The WNBA will continue to consult with scientists and experts regarding fan attendance in 2021. It’s possible that they’ll start without fans and gradually reopen arenas at a reduced capacity depending on the virus’ spread and vaccine availability.
It’s fair to assume that there will be fans in the stands in some capacity next year. Now, whether they’ll be living beings or cardboard cutouts is the question.