WNBA daily fantasy preview: Chicago Sky

UNCASVILLE, CT - AUGUST 12: Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields (1) defends Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) during a WNBA game between Chicago Sky and Connecticut Sun on August 12, 2018, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Connecticut won 82-75. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
UNCASVILLE, CT - AUGUST 12: Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields (1) defends Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams (10) during a WNBA game between Chicago Sky and Connecticut Sun on August 12, 2018, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Connecticut won 82-75. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Who will score biggest for James Wade?

The Chicago Sky’s 2018 season was one of development. A couple of rookie starters alongside two veteran guards lead the team to 13 wins, and ended just outside of the playoff hunt.

The hope for James Wade, the new coach and GM, is that another year under the belts of the rookies, along with another highly touted draft pick is enough to propel the Sky to the playoffs. Last year, the Sky were a gold mine for daily fantasy value, as the rookies as well as the high pace the Sky choose to play at presented great opportunities to both choose opposing players, or take advantage of the rookies being priced far lower than they should have been. Hopefully this year remains the same!

Pace Pace Pace!

As stated previously, the place to start with the Sky’s team statistics last year is with both pace and defense. The Sky played at 81.3 possessions per game, coming in the top third of the league in that area. This quick pace allowed opposing players to accrue more fantasy points as there are more trips down the floor, and thus more shot attempts, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. This high pace coupled with the worst defense in the league by net rating created daily fantasy heaven for the opposition’s players last year.

This defensive rating of 109.4 was almost 3 points worse than the second worst team, the Indiana Fever, in the WNBA last year. Opponents scored an above average amount of two pointers, three pointers, and free throws per possession against Chicago last season. There was not an area that was better or worse than another. They just could not get it done on the defensive end, one reason Amber Stocks was replaced by Wade.

In terms of offense, the team was actually fairly average. A 101.5 offensive rating put them above the Lynx and Sparks last year. While defensive improvements could be made from some younger players such as Gabby Williams (a highly touted defender coming out of UConn) and Diamond DeShields, it is unlikely that Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot make huge jumps in this area. All in all, this should be a team in which we will be looking to the oppositions players as a result of this high pace and suspect defense.

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The Squad

Though opposition players will be great against the Sky, there are some tremendous DFS targets playing for the Sky. To start, I am expecting Vandersloot – Quigley – DeShields – Williams – Dolson. This is the lineup they ended last year with, and aside from Katie Lou Samuelson, there are not many changes I can foresee.

The star in this starting lineup is Courtney Vandersloot. She averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 assists and 4 rebounds per game last year, even notching a triple double. This production puts her just over 1 fantasy point per minute, but her upside is extremely high, as seen in the triple double game against Dallas. Riding shotgun with Vandersloot will be Allie Quigley, and Diamond DeShields. DeShields is likely the better option, putting up 0.86 fpm last year versus Quigley’s 0.8 fpm. Notably, DeShields did this in her rookie year, so I would definitely expect some improvement as she has some more experience.

It should be noted that Quigley loves to take three pointers (she took 5.5 threes per game), and this willingness to shoot (and score, she made 43% of those threes) makes her a significantly better option on DraftKings, where threes are worth 3.5 fantasy points, than FanDuel, where threes are worth 3 fantasy points.

The other starters, Gabby Williams and Stefanie Dolson, produce at around 0.8 fpm. I would expect Williams to be a little bit higher than this, as it seemed to take some time for her to adjust last year, but towards the end of the year it seemed as though she was figuring the WNBA out. Contrary to Quigley, Williams makes a better play on FanDuel, as she is very good at getting steals and blocks, where they are worth 3 fantasy points as opposed to 2 fantasy points on DraftKings. Not to be ignored off the bench, Cheyenne Parker was a revelation last year when she began to get minutes. She was an absolute monster on the glass (especially offensive) and produces fantasy points at a 1.1 fpm. If Parker is able to snatch mid twenties minutes off the bench (or even start) she will be a great play on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

The Draft Pick

The Chicago Sky selected Katie Lou Samuelson 4th overall in the 2019 WNBA Draft. I was super high on Samuelson going into the draft, but I almost wish she was on a team where she could jump in and start right away. She has a skill at a premium in the WNBA, representing a new-age player who can play inside and out.

Samuelson is 6’3, and in her senior year made 37% of her threes (on 237 attempts) and 88% of her free throws. Ridiculously, in her junior year she made 47.5% of her three pointers, albeit on a lower (but still significant) amount of attempts. If Samuelson is able to jump ahead of Williams, I believe she could be a DFS star. Alternatively, there could be an avenue to minutes if Chicago chooses to go small, and Samuelson pushes Dolson off the floor. Though this is fairly unlikely, as Samuelson profiles more as a wing than a center, the possibility remains. We will have to wait and see what  Wade chooses to do with his rotation.

Despite not being the best team in the league, Chicago will be one of the more important teams in Daily Fantasy WNBA. Their quick pace and suspect defense leads to opportunities for players on the opposing team to rack up a lot of fantasy points, but the Sky also have a nice crew of young players, along with others like Vandersloot and Quigley, who will certainly be in play throughout the year. The starting lineup is fairly set in stone, but projecting improvement from the sophomores DeShields and Williams should present a lot of value early in the year.

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