The Chicago Sky maximize their competitiveness while also planning for the future with their re-signing of Kahleah Copper
The answer to the Chicago Sky’s biggest free agency question has arrived: Kahleah Copper is here to stay.
Copper’s deal is good for two years at $165,000 each year, per High Post Hoops’ Howard Megdal. The athletic scorer was the most buzzed-about Sky free agent heading into this off-season in large part due to the untapped potential many around the league see in her.
“We are thrilled to have Kah back home where she should be, in a Sky uniform,” Sky General Manager and Head Coach James Wade said in a press release. “I know she will do great things this year. The Sky is truly the limit for her.”
Wade has managed to return most of last year’s core for the 2020 season, save for forwards Katie Lou Samuelson and Astou Ndour, both of whom were traded last week. While much of the league’s elite teams have doubled down on top-end talent through blockbuster trades and signings, the Sky are hoping to take their continuity and depth deep into the postseason.
“Last season didn’t end the way we wanted, but with the chemistry we have I can’t help but be anxious and excited to have another year together,” Copper said in the release.
The length of the deal allows the Sky to have its cake and eat it too. Betting on Copper’s potential with a three-year deal now makes little sense since it could make things difficult for the Sky financially in 2022 when Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams hit restricted free agency.
Considering that DeShields, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot will all start and play 30 minutes a game for the next few seasons, it’s an unnecessary bet for the Sky to make—there are only so many minutes for Copper to play right now. If Copper continues to be a solid bench scorer, but perhaps not a starter, then the Sky still benefit from depth on the wing for the next two years and can try to re-sign her on a team-friendly deal.
But if Copper, who will only be 27 at the end of her contract, cements herself as a starting-caliber option, Wade can then try and keep her as a long-term running mate with DeShields. While Copper is entering her fifth WNBA season this year, she is less than a year older than DeShields and fits the same timeline.
In the immediate future, Copper will continue to provide a scoring burst and defensive upside. Pushing Copper to be Chicago’s first player off the bench could be the minutes bump that allows her to take the next step forward. A reliable three ball and better rebounding are two realistic improvements Copper could make that would allow her to fit into more lineups and get those minutes. Moving Gabby Williams to the front court could also open up more opportunities for Copper.
Even if you don’t buy the Sky’s status as contenders—a fair assessment considering just how cutthroat the league is now—they’ve at least found a way to stay competitive while also fostering young players and financial flexibility. And if the teams that brought in big stars this off-season struggle to retain their role players in 2021 free agency, Chicago’s depth and continuity may end up paying dividends.
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