What the Sky roster could look like in 2023
A new year always means a new team, but for the Chicago Sky, it could very much be a whole new group.
The 2023 season begs a lot of questions for general manager and head coach James Wade when looking at what the roster could possibly be.
Who’s a free agent?
- Candace Parker (C)
- Emma Meesseman (C, F)
- Azurá Stevens (C, F)
- Allie Quigley (G/F)
- Courtney Vandersloot (G)
Kahleah Copper, Ruthy Hebard and Julie Allemand all have one year remaining on their respective contracts. Li Yeuru has two years left on her contract.
Dana Evans is still under contract but has to resolve the team option this season. Rebekah Gardner is now a reserved player.
A reserved player is a player with three years of service or less in the league that receives a qualifying offer, giving the player’s prior team exclusive negotiating rights.
Players can also be restricted or unrestricted free agents. All players listed above are unrestricted free agents, meaning they all have five or more years of service with expired contracts. Players with less than five years experience can also become unrestricted if they do not receive a qualifying offer.
Restricted free agents are players with four years of service who receive qualifying offers. The RFA gives the prior team the right to sign the player by matching an offer from another team. If the team doesn’t match the offer, the player will sign with the offering team.
New rules could mean goodbye to some players
What does this mean for the Sky? With free agency negotiations set to start on Jan. 21, there’s a multitude of ways the roster could pan out.
In a perfect world, fans could see a repeat of the 2022 season with the core group signing another round of 1-year contracts to stay in Chicago.
However, retirement rumors have been swirling around Parker, Quigley and Vandersloot since the end of 2022. While Parker has announced her intent to return to the league, Quigley and Vandersloot have stayed mum on whether their days on the court are done.
The new prioritization rule also is playing a part in whether or not the Sky could see the return of the Belgium connection of Allemand and Meesseman.
The prioritization rule was part of the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement that lasts until 2027. The clause lines out a timeline of new deadlines and penalties that go into effect in the 2023 season.
Starting this offseason, players with more than two years of WNBA experience must report to their team by the start of training camp or May 1st, whichever comes later. If they miss the start of training camp, they will be fined. If they miss the start of the regular season, they will be suspended for the year.
Meeseman has shared her frustration with the new rule, saying that it’s not “friendly for non-American players.” With both Meesseman and Allemand playing on some competitive Euroleague teams that could vie for the title, there’s a possibility that they accept the one-year suspension.
Looking towards the WNBA draft
There are many unknowns, but the one thing that is guaranteed is the draft. The WNBA Draft is set for April 10th, and the Sky have 3 picks: No. 5, 15, and 35. There are two options that stand out as great fits for Chicago to get in that No. 5 spot: Iowa State guard/forward Ashley Joens and Indiana guard Grace Berger.
Joens made a statement in the 2022 NCAA tournament, scoring 33 points against Michigan State in the opening round, breaking a school record of most points scored in an NCAA tournament game.
Her scoring has the range of a traditional small forward, averaging around 20 points a game. She also has the length to keep up with the free-flying type of offense Wade likes to run. She brings scoring versatility, endurance and length that the Sky need more of, especially if Meeseman or Stevens decide not to resign.
Berger is another option that would fill the more traditional point guard spot, something that the Sky would need if Vandersloot or Allemand decide not to return. In fact, she’s similar to Vandersloot’s guard presence as a facilitator.
In the 2021-22 season, Berger led the Hoosiers with 16.2 points and 4.7 assists per game while chipping in 6.2 rebounds on average. While the perimeter shot would need some work, the court IQ and vision is top tier, making it a smooth transition in the Sky’s style of play.
Who could the Sky target in free agency?
Update: Brionna Jones was cored by Connecticut, Alysha Clark will be joining the Las Vegas Aces, and Brittany Sykes will be signing with the Washington Mystics.
Outside of the draft, there are other free agents that the Sky could woo to Chicago . While a big chunk of free agency comes out of the Windy City, there are some top names that are up for grabs, including Breanna Stewart, Brionna Jones, Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike and Alysha Clark, to name a few.
Of the big names, one that Wade could bring in is Washington Mystics forward Clark.
Clark plays a very traditional forward; she’ll have her high scoring games with some double-digit points every now and then but brings consistency in crashing the glass and disrupting passing lanes. She contributes in ways that won’t show on a stat sheet, such as IQ and speed, two things that Wade values highly in his offense.
She also brings 9 years of WNBA experience with her, spending a majority of her career in Seattle. That experiential add would take a great burden off Copper’s shoulders if the core doesn’t return for 2023.
While she may not be one of the top names in free agency, one other possible addition could be Brittany Sykes. Sykes spent the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, and she found her groove this past season offensively, finishing as one of the top 3 scorers on the team. However, there’s a lot of turnover with LA: a new head coach, multiple free agents and a new acquisition of Jasmine Thomas from the Sun.
With Sykes starting to enter a new era of her game, a new team could be the option; her scoring ability is improving, her defensive efforts are stellar as the No. 1 player in the league in steals on average, and with the Sky possibly losing their entire backcourt, it’s a name that fans should keep on their radar.
All of this considered, Jan. 21 is when conversations with free agents can begin, and contract signings can start as soon as Feb. 1.
2023 Roster Prediction
C – Azurá Stevens / Li Yeuru
C/F – Ruthy Hebard / Ashley Joens / International player TBD
G/F – Allie Quigley / International player TBD
G – Kahleah Copper / Rebekah Gardner
PG – Julie Allemand / Dana Evans
With so much up in the air, the Sky have a lot of different paths they can take. Here is one option.
Fans should prepare to say goodbye to the 2021 Championship core. Parker and Vandersloot aren’t done playing but may be done here in Chicago. Parker could easily head back to her original team and end her career in a Sparks uniform.
The rumor mills are swirling with Vandersloot heading to New York to play for the Liberty to help bring a championship to the city. If that happens, the Vanderquigs may be doing some long distance for a season with Quigley re-signing to end her career in a Sky uniform.
Meesseman could easily take the year of suspension; however with the loss of Vandersloot, Allemand will return and be the leading point guard.
While the big names fans are used to will be leaving, don’t be surprised if Wade brings in some other big names as replacements, like Jones.
Wade also has a large connection to names from overseas, and he could easily bring in more international names than current players in the league – similar to Gardner’s journey to the WNBA – to add to the roster.