Four Keys to the Sky’s 7-3 Start


If last season was any indication, great starts don’t guarantee championship finishes. After all, the Chicago Sky began a championship campaign with a 3-7 record — the opposite of today. But it’s tough to argue that they aren’t a sign of good outcomes to come.

Ten games into the season, the Sky have placed themselves in an enviable position to run it back and win another championship. Admittedly, the squad may look a bit different — sans Stefanie Dolson and Diamond DeShields with a new starter in Emma Meesseman. But the core is intact, and the team appears to be competing correctly.

Here are four keys to the Sky’s 7-3 start:

Candace Parker Continues to Do Candace Parker Things

Let’s start with the obvious: Candace Parker, the Sky’s star and a significant reason for the team’s success thus far.

She has scored in double figures in all but two games and is the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.3 points per game. Her 4.7 assists average is good for second behind elite passer Courtney Vandersloot, and her 8.7 rebounds per game easily leads the team.

Albeit still early in the season, Parker has done a stellar job at showing the all-around impact she can have. She’s also proving that, even in her 15th season, she has got plenty of game left to offer.

Not to mention that, on May 22, Parker made league history. Her triple-double of 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists was more than just the highlight performance of Chicago’s win over the Washington Mystics. It was the stat line that made her, at 36 years old, the oldest player to post a triple-double in the WNBA.

Rebekah Gardner, the Sky’s Bench Spark

Gardner may be a rookie, but at 31 years old with a decade’s worth of overseas experience, she’s not your standard rookie. She has wasted no time proving her worth in the league and on this Chicago team.

At nine points per game, Gardner is the leader in bench play, slightly besting Dana Evans’ 8.9 points per game. But Gardner’s impact is much more than second-unit scoring. It’s about the overall effect she can have on the game.

Following Chicago’s win over the Atlanta Dream on Friday, head coach James Wade lauded her defensive abilities in particular.

Offensive Efficiency

At 100.7, the Sky’s offensive rating puts them about average in the WNBA. It’s not bad but also nothing special.

The Sky are also experiencing struggles with its three-point shooting — their 31.6% downtown percentage is second-to-last, better than only the New York Liberty. As a whole on offense? They’re faring better than before and learning to make the most of the offense they can produce.

Reigning Finals MVP Kahleah Copper is back with the team after fulfilling her overseas commitment. In six games, she has become the Sky’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. Her return and offensive offerings have helped boost Chicago in that area. But given an average offensive rating it’s their offensive efficiency that’s setting them apart.

A simple stat that says a lot, Chicago leads the league with an average of 22.5 assists per game. The Sky are approaching their offense strategically and with purpose. They’re trying to take what the flow of the game gives them. Their efficiency is proved further with a 45.6% field goal percentage — good enough for fourth-best in the W.

Defensive Dominance

Where the Sky lack in offense, they make up for in defense.

Over the course of 10 games, the Sky have held their opponent to under 80 points six times. Just one of those instances occurred during a loss. Matched up against the rest of the league, Chicago is more than holding its own.

Second in rebounds per game at 35.8. Second defensive rating at 94.8. Second in opponents’ field goal percentage at 40.5%. Third in opponents’ points per game at 76.3 points.

Albeit a team effort, it’s worth highlighting how much of an impact Meesseman has on the Sky’s defensive achievements. Her 2.2 steals per game are a team-best, and her defensive effort was a highlight in Chicago’s win over the Mystics on Sunday.

While there’s still work to do, the Sky’s season is progressing impressively. Improvement is clear, and further success should be near. Whether that success will include another championship? To be determined. But a few All-Star selections for the host team would be an excellent next step.

Stats Courtesy and Basketball Reference

About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Filipina American writer and Illinois journalism graduate based in the Chicago suburbs. She has a decade's worth of sports writing experience, having been published in several online publications. She writes about the Bulls, the Sky, and general NBA content for The Lead.

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