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How can the team build a new championship era?


The championship era is over for the Chicago Sky.

When Kahleah Copper traded with Phoenix Mercury Last week, she took the final leg of the 2021 WNBA champions with her; this was a clear punctuation mark for the series at the end of that episode.

This in itself is worth mourning for the city; ultimately, the Sky brought home Chicago’s first championship since the 2016 Cubs.

But for new coach Teresa Weatherspoon and general manager Jeff Pagliocca also clarify Copper’s departure. They inherited the struggles of the previous regime when they took office in October, splitting the coach and GM positions for the first time in team history.

At the center of these struggles was Copper, a talented wing and the league’s rising star, who chose to give Sky another chance. the sudden departure of his last coach. Copper two-year contract extension created an incredibly short runway; Rebuild around the three-time All-Star at breakneck speed or risk losing him again in 2026.

No team would be better without Copper on its roster. But now Weatherspoon and Pagliocca’s task turns into a more reasonable challenge: building a roster through the draft and making the Sky a more attractive destination for free agents.

Come 2021, Sky has been incredibly lucky. Players had this to say: How many .500 teams make it all the way to the finals? Under the old playoff structure, they beat the Dallas Wings and Minnesota Lynx in single elimination in the first two rounds to advance to the semifinals.

None of this detracts from the quality of the team in 2022, which is bolstered by a 26-10 regular season best. But it reflects how much luck comes into play to win a single championship.

Building a dynasty, on the other hand, is not luck. This requires patience, pragmatism and a lot of work behind the scenes. And if Sky aims to build something close to that under Weatherspoon, the restructuring required by Copper’s exit will offer a clear runway to start that long process.

There are a few obvious steps to start this process effectively from both the front office and ownership perspective.

1. Make the most of the 2024 draft.

Stanford’s Cameron Brink reacts after scoring against USC on February 2, 2024 in Palo Alto, Calif. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Sky re-entered the Copper trade after former coach and general manager James Wade agreed to trade Copper. The majority of their draft capital is in the deal for Marina Mabrey last year. While Pagliocca will need to continue to sort out the kinks of this trade, the Sky are in good position with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 draft.

It’s difficult to predict who will be in this year’s draft, given that many players are weighing the option of taking an additional year of COVID eligibility. However, the class still needs to be stacked.

Sky do not have a single player selected from their current squad, reflecting a history of poor selection. This is the first year they had a first-round pick since 2021, when they drafted Shyla Heal with the No. 8 pick and then in less than three weeks traded her for Dana Evans, who was available when the Sky selected Heal.

The sky won’t take it Caitlin Clark is poised to be the No. 1 pick. However, the top 10 will feature league-ready players who can contribute as rookies; especially bigs like Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Aaliyah Edwards, Rickea Jackson and Alissa Pilli.

2. Determine the quarterback position.

Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans (11) tries to pass Connecticut Sun guard Tyasha Harris (52) during a game at Wintrust Arena on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.  (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)
Sky guard Dana Evans tries to pass Sun guard Tyasha Harris at Wintrust Arena on July 12, 2023. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

The Sky lost the position last season in an unsuccessful attempt to bring in Courtney Williams into the role for her eighth season and move Evans off the bench. They cannot afford to make the same mistake this season.

The core of the starting lineup, Mabrey, wing Diamond DeShields and center Elizabeth Williams, thrive in a spread offense where they can play off the ball and separate teams with inside-out ball movement. This could be a successful outlook for the Sky, but it requires an on-ball guard who can prevent stagnation and feed his teammates.

Solidifying the quarterback position will be one of Weatherspoon’s first major personnel decisions. Is Evans ready for his debut gig? If not, where can Sky find a reliable facilitator?

This is where the WNBA’s lack of roster space could be an asset for rebuilding teams. The Sky invited two former No. 4 draft picks, guard Chennedy Carter (2020) and Kysre Gondrezick (2021), to training camp. They could also extend an invitation to former No. 1 pick Charli Collier (2021), the 6-foot-11 center the Wings waived before last season to diversify their options.

While Pagliocca and Weatherspoon carry out these tasks, Sky’s ownership group and Chief Operating Officer Nadia Rawlinson face a hurdle of their own: delivering on investment promises.


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