What a thrilling season for the Chicago Sky. With a revamped roster, a first year head coach and unexpected injuries, the 2017 Sky turned what many thought would be “a rebuilding year” into a record-breaking year in individual and team career-highs and milestones. General Manager and Head Coach Amber Stocks, joined the Sky from the 2016 WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks coaching staff. Her winning ways and competitive edge brought a contagiously exciting atmosphere.
Once the season began, the team got off to a 3-12 start without three key veteran guards in Courtney Vandersloot (overseas play), Allie Quigley (overseas play) and Jamierra Faulkner (injury), but once Vandersloot and Quigley returned and became accustomed with Stocks’s system, the team made a sensational turnaround and went 9-10 the remainder of the season. The two veteran guard’s dazzling play and leadership not only propelled the Sky into having achievement, but it also led them to having career years along the way.
Quigley, in her 9th season, averaged career-highs in points (16.4), assists (3.6), steals (0.7), blocked shots (0.5) field-goal percentage (50.5%), three-point shooting (43%) and minutes played (32.3). A candidate for the WNBA’s Most Improved Player, Quigley also earned her first career All-Star selection and won the 2017 Three-Point Contest.
Vandersloot, in her 7th year, set new WNBA records for the highest assists average for an entire season (8.1) and most points/assists double-doubles in a row (6). Much like her backcourt mate Quigley, she too had career-highs in points (11.5), rebounds (3.7), field-goal percentage (51.6%), three-point shooting (38.2%), and minutes played (30.3). Vandersloot’s career-year in assists helped her jump from 24 to 16 on the WNBA’s all-time assists leaders (1126).
Cappie Pondexter was a steady spark off the bench all season for the Sky averaging 9.6 points and 4.3 assists. With her productive play, the future hall-of-famer became the fourth all-time leading scorer this season (6591), surpassing Lisa Leslie and Katie Smith. Her accolades don’t stop there, she is fourth all-time in field goals made (2361) and sixth in all-time assists (1524) and free throws made (1416).
There was no shortage at the Sky’s post positions either. Forward Jessica Breland, along with the Sky newcomers this season, Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper, made their presence known right away.
Breland started 33 out of 34 games averaging 9.5 points, 6.7 rebounds per a game and was the fourth leading shot-blocker in the WNBA (1.7). The sixth year forward showcased a new skill this season, Breland spread her game out to the three-point line for the first time in her career, and shot an extraordinary 38.1%.
Stefanie Dolson, was the Sky’s second leading scorer with 14.5 points per a game (career-high). At the center position she was a nightmare for opponents to handle with her three-point shooting capability. Dolson shot 43.7% from the distance (third in the WNBA) and 56.1% overall (fifth in the WNBA). Her awe-inspiring play earned Dolson a trip to her second All-Star game appearance and an invitation to the USA Women’s National Team training camp.
The Sky’s starting lineup received a shake-up more than half-way through the season when guard/forward Copper was promoted to a starting role. In her last two games of the season against the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm, she had a career-high 21 points followed by 18 points in the season finale. Her defender can’t blink when she has the ball in her hands because this promising second year player has lightning-quick moves to the basket.
The 2017 Sky finished 12-22, just a few games back from playoff contention, and toward the latter part of the season were right in the thick of the playoff race. Once the team began to jell, they found their success by being the epitome of selfless basketball. The pass-happy team set a new WNBA record for most assists in a single-season (718) surpassing the 2012 Minnesota Lynx (706). Their rim-protecting defense was equally as impressive as they led the league in blocked-shots (190).
The Sky’s formula of sharing the ball and stifling defense earned them wins against the league’s upper echelon teams when they routed the Minnesota Lynx (27-7) 100-76, handing them their worst loss deficit of the season. The Sky also handed the Los Angeles Sparks (26-8) their only home loss of the season.
With a core of veteran players and two 2018 first-round draft picks, Stocks has the perfect mesh of veteran guidance and young talent to bring an abundance of optimism to Chicago for years to come.