WNBA midseason check-in: Chicago Sky

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT- JULY 25: The Chicago Sky team high five before the Connecticut Sun Vs Chicago Sky, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 25, 2017 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT- JULY 25: The Chicago Sky team high five before the Connecticut Sun Vs Chicago Sky, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 25, 2017 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) /

How different would the tone of a post of this nature have been before the calendar turned to July? The Chicago Sky are just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot with 12 WNBA regular season games to play and have won 5 of 7.

Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson were selected as Eastern Conference All-Stars. Back in June, some fans may have been rightfully frustrated by the idea that Chicago would get two All-Stars. We know now that the Sky won’t be packing it in early to better their draft pick. The schedule is also on Chicago’s side right now—6 of their next 7 games will be played at home.

Quigley lit up All-Star weekend in the 3PT contest with a final round score of 27 to take home the hardware. She’s been lights out all season for a team that has been desperate at times for outside shooting.

Quigley has been the rock for a Chicago team in a transition phase with a new coach. She’s shooting 51% from the floor, 45% from three and 85% from the line. Quigley is 10th in the league in scoring and on pace to double her career-best assist output:

A late push just to make the playoffs is easily dismissed by some. But consider: Amber Stocks had to navigate the start to the season with Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot both finishing up their overseas seasons. Vandersloot missed a second stint of time for EuroBasket.

Tamera Young has been another rock for the Sky on the wing, shooting a career-best 36% from deep on more attempts than ever. Young has been the lynch pin allowing Stocks to try out different lineups.

“Coach Stocks definitely tried a lot of different things in the beginning but there’s a huge learning curve when you have almost a whole new team and a new coach,” Dolson said to The Summitt at All-Star practice in Seattle, “so the fact that it’s been working as of late, we’re just kind of rolling with that.”

The normal configuration has included Dolson, Jessica Breland, Quigley, Young and a point guard. The Sky have also gone small with Young at the four both to start and for stretches later on in games.

Dolson, too, opens up the floor and makes it easier for Stocks to try different things. Dolson is at 41% from deep already at a career high in attempts in her first season with the team. 

“It was hard for a second for sure to get out of that hole,” Dolson said, “but I think once we finally figured some stuff out, we’ve just been clicking.”

Dolson is a smart player with a very high skill level. She rolls well/ducks in for timely post ups to flash her polished inside game.

On her role and fit with a new team, Dolson said, “It’s just a matter of learning how to play with different people, definitely the post.” She continued, saying, “with this team, I’m almost more of a 4 and it’s been fun to learn how to play with different people.”

Dolson’s face up game and shooting touch have also been on display all season whether she’s the nominal four or five:

Cappie Pondexter filled in admirably while Vandersloot was gone. She appears to have been transitioned to a much more limited role of late. In either capacity, she attacks the rim fearlessly and is a credible source of offense late in the shot clock.

The Sky lead the league in blocks, which can be chalked up to Breland and Imani Boyette, but not Dolson (averaging a block per game) if you ask her. “I’m not really a shot blocker. If I block shots it’s cause they just throw it into my hands,” she said with a smile and hint of self-deprecation. 

Dolson went on in crediting her shot-blocking teammates, saying, “I’m not like Imani and Jess Breland who actually know how to time up a block. I just kind of stand there straight up.”

Offensively, the Sky are reliant on Quigley for most of their outside shooting. Pondexter can get in the lane and draw two defenders several times a game to create open looks for her teammates. Vandersloot is a wizard with the basketball to collapse the defense and do the same.

The Sky are 12th in free throw rate—they take and make the fewest free throws in the W. Chicago also has the third highest turnover percentage. Every possession late in the season will be even more valuable to a team that doesn’t get to the line often or have a host of big time 3PT shooters.

I’d bet Vandersloot has not yet reached the crest of this wave she’s on right now. Quigley and Dolson didn’t become All-Stars by accident. The presence of those two players alongside her will open up creases to attack.

Dolson was very high on Vandersloot. “I’ve never played with a point guard like her.” The All-Star forward continued: “I told her I was like, ‘I really gotta learn to watch you all the time!’ and she’s made the game so much more fun.”

Kahleah Copper, acquired with Dolson in the Elena Delle Donne trade, could swing things in a big way if she knocks down jumpers down the stretch. Playoffs or not, Sky fans can be encouraged by the approach Stocks has taken to the season. 

Who do you like to sneak into those final few playoff spots? Which players will have the most to say in those races? When will we see the debut of #2 pick Alaina Coates?

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