The Chicago Sky will play two preseason games against the Indiana Fever before the regular season gears up, with one tipping off today at 11:00 a.m. Central Time and one Thursday, May 16.
The preseason will provide our first look at new head coach James Wade’s iteration of the Chicago Sky‘s offense.
While preseason games generally do not carry a ton of weight — players generally have not spent much time at all with their teammates yet thus far this offseason — they do provide a quick look at offseason progress and schematic changes.
With Wade at the reigns for the Sky, the team could be playing a lot different this season. Here are three questions looking for an answer during this run up to the regular season.
How big of a role does the three ball play in the offense?
Wade has emphasized the need to spread the floor both in the half court and in transition all offseason, and he will have no shortage of shooters to turn to. Whether or not that means a small increase in 3-point attempts or a complete shift in play style remains to be seen.
Last year the Sky got 25.7% of their points from deep, fifth-highest in the league. For comparison, the Seattle Storm set a WNBA record last season with 31.1% of their points coming off of 3-pointers.
The Sky averaged 19.7 attempts per game while the Storm took a league-leading 24 attempts from three per game. Look to see if Chicago moves the dial closer or beyond Seattle’s numbers in their two preseason games. Chicago, at least theoretically, has the makeup to head that direction, if Wade wants to push the team there.
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Watch out for Allie Quigley, who hit 42% of her threes last season on 5.4 attempts per game, to up her numbers this season in Wade’s offense. Courtney Vandersloot could also continue her steady increase in volume while Stefanie Dolson has transformed herself into a reliable stretch big. Diamond DeShields already shot the ball at a decent volume her rookie season, and will force defenses to respect her even if her percentage stays around her 32.8% mark from last year.
The obvious wild card to look out for with the Sky will be Katie Lou Samuelson. Samuelson was an elite shooter in college who will be a nightmare to stop on the perimeter, and should be able to slot in at a number of positions. The only question mark will be just how many minutes Wade opts to play her early on.
Even if the Sky take a hit on efficiency because of an increased volume from deep, the payoff could still be what finally separates them from the back of the pack. It is only a matter of time before a WNBA team takes the three ball to its extreme. While Wade might not be the one to push past the game’s limits, he just might put Chicago on the edge.
Can Allie Quigley and Diamond DeShields be the WNBA’s next great one-two punch?
DeShields and Quigley already had a promising season together last year, despite the season’s results coming up well short. The Sky’s two leading scorers both fit the bill to excel in Chicago’s new offense, and could take a leap on offense to push the team into the postseason.
DeShields is entering just her second season, but has already shown flashes of greatness. In her rookie year she averaged 14.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 42.5% from the field. DeShields is a true slasher and only nine players got to the line more than her last season. More floor spacing will leave more room for DeShields to attack the basket and create kickout opportunities for her teammates.
The next step for DeShields is improving her efficiency scoring the ball. DeShields shot below league average from most spots on the floor last season, per Positive Residual. It is not at all uncommon for young players in the league to take some time before they can become efficient scorers, the question is whether or not DeShields can get there in just her second year.
While DeShields struggled with efficiency in most spots on the floor, Quigley’s shot profile tells a different story. The reigning WNBA 3-Point Contest champion is a deadeye shooter from deep, and has a great mid range game. Quigley averaged 15.4 points last season while shooting 46.6% from the field and continuing her onslaught from three.
Although Quigley’s efficiency is invaluable, a bigger emphasis on her shot total could transform this team. Whether that change comes in the form of more field goal attempts overall or just giving her the greenest light possible to launch from the deep, a higher volume Quigley could give us an historic season for a guard, at least offensively.
It will be intriguing to see if the Sky’s playoff push will come on the backs of DeShields and Quigley’s production, or if it will be more of an egalitarian effort. Look to see just how much Wade’s new offense features the dynamic duo, and if either of them get a bump in usage.
Will Wade experiment with a tall ball lineup?
The Sky have a roster with an intriguing combination of height, length and skill sets. One thing to look out for in preseason will be to see if Wade experiments with taller lineups, particularly when 5-foot-8 point guard Vandersloot takes a breather.
Confidence in rolling this lineup out relies heavily on believing in DeShields as the primary ball handler and playmaker. While DeShields only averaged 2.2 assists per game last season, that was in a role that mostly asked her to score. She has potential to be able to distribute the ball at a high level as well, and may be asked to at points with the backup point guard spot up in the air.
That lineup would not be Wade’s first choice to spread the floor, but is not a bad compromise between size and range either. Parker is the only player in that lineup who has not shot the three ball much at all in her career, and she would likely play more of a traditional post role on offense, with Dolson spread the floor and popping on pick and rolls.
Opposing team would have to pick their poison on help defense with so many options for kickouts. While the defensive fit of those five together is questionable, it is worth noting just how difficult it would be for coaches to try and get players on the floor to match up with such a big lineup.
Wade could also keep a smaller point guard such as rookie Chloe Jackson or second-year guard Linnae Harper in the lineup, which TheSkyShowChi pointed out on Twitter that the head coach was already playing around with in training camp.
In any case, that core three of DeShields, Dolson and Samuelson, all of whom possess unique offensive tools for their size, could form the basis for any number of interesting lineups. Keep an eye out for any playtime that trio get to play together during this week’s preseason slate.
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