WNBA

What happens if Courtney Vandersloot leaves? Examining a few free-agency scenarios for the Chicago Sky. -Chicago Tribune

Rumors and reports of the franchise’s cornerstone meeting with other teams have left many wondering what the future of the Chicago Sky will look like in 2023 — and beyond.

Free agents can’t sign until Feb. 1, but the Sky’s all-time assists leader Courtney Vandersloot reportedly has interest in joining the Minnesota Lynx or New York Liberty. Candace Parker has met with the Las Vegas Aces and Los Angeles Sparks, while Azurá Stevens has generated interest throughout the league. Allie Quigley has also not made a decision about her future and is considering retirement.

Let’s examine a few scenarios for the sky.

If Vandersloot leaves, projecting the Sky’s backcourt is murky. Internally, they could roll with Julie Allemand or third-year guard Dana Evans. Allemand’s overseas pedigree makes her a solid candidate to take over Vandersloot’s role, but she – along with Skyand Team Belgium teammate Emma Meesseman – could opt out of the WNBA season to rest for FIBA’s EuroBasket tournament, which starts on June 15.

Even with Evans, Sky still needs more depth behind either her or Allemand. The front office could pick up a veteran guard on a cheaper deal as the team develops Evans as a distributor.

Like the backcourt, the number of high-end bigs on the open market is shrinking. Superstar Breanna Stewart takes meetings with just four teams, while the Connecticut Sun just applied the core designation to All-Star Brionna Jones. Without a commitment from Stevens and/or Parker, the Sky are looking at the big number two in free agency.

If Parker decides to move back west and Meesseman prioritizes rest, offering Stevens a max deal should be a priority for the Sky. Dealing — and extending — Stevens has been one of the best moves of James Wade’s tenure as general manager, as she checks all the boxes as a multi-faceted modern big. Stevens led the league in blocks at the rim in 2022 and improved as a spot-up shooter since coming to Chicago.

The Sky own the No. 5 pick in the April draft after trading Diamond DeShields to the Phoenix Mercury for a 2023 first-round pick as part of a three-team trade last offseason. There is little draft consensus past the No. 3 pick given how top-heavy the class is. If the Sky believe they can’t re-sign Vandersloot, targeting one of the top three picks via trade would make sense.

Could Himlen and Lynx be trading partners? The Lynx own the No. 2 pick and are poised to re-enter the competition. With Vandersloot meeting with the Lynx for the second time in as many years, it would be a logical fit for a Minnesota team that has lacked consistent production from its point guards over the past two seasons.

The Sky have $931,801 in cap room, according to HerHoopsStats.

They could absorb Natalie Achonwa’s $155,000 figure and complete a sign-and-trade that sends Vandersloot and No. 5 up to No. 2. The move would help the Sky target a player like Maryland’s Diamond Miller in the draft. Even in a draft class that features a transcendent prospect in South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, Miller has the potential to have the best WNBA career of anyone selected this spring. Miller, 6-foot-2, can guard multiple positions and has scored .957 points per game. half court possession, which ranked in the 91st percentile last season, according to Synergy Sports tracking.

The front office has a big decision coming up over the next week: blow up the roster and build toward the future, rebuild with the hopes of contending for the next few years, or go for another championship as the rest of the league gets stronger.

James Kay is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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