Sky center Sylvia Fowles hopes to get in the playoffs for the first time in 2013. - Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
The 2012 Chicago Sky had a record start with a 7-1 record led by the contributions of its center Sylvia Fowles and guard Epiphanny Prince. However after Prince suffered a foot injury in June, the Sky was never the same, never winning more than two games in a row for the rest of the season and even lost nine in a row in the middle of the year. The result was a third straight 14-20 finish and missing out in the 2012 Playoffs. The good news about missing the playoffs, if that's how we want to spin it, is that the Sky received the 2nd pick in the 2013 Draft despite having the worst odds for the #1 pick. Can Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman get this team to the playoffs and hopefully beyond that for the first time in the Sky's eighth season?
Some of these thoughts are derived from our post last October regarding how the 2nd pick in the 2013 Draft could be used for the Sky. But here we go:
1. Acquire additional backcourt support for Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot
The players on the 2012 team who provided most of the support for Piph and Courtney were Eshaya Murphy and Ticha Penicheiro, the latter who retired last season. I believe that Murphy is a player that the Sky should keep for 2013 (even though she is not a free agent) since she will provide some three point shooting support and has made 40% of her threes over each of the last two seasons.
In addition, ideally, this team needs to acquire players who are efficient with the ball. The Sky last year averaged 17.8 turnovers while opponents averaged 15.8 and this MUST improve. Guards generally have the best assist to turnover ratios and no player had a ratio close to 2 to 1 there. Prince did average over a 1.5 to 1 assist to turnover ratio which is okay, considering that much of the offense went through her last year. As for Vandersloot, she did have 4.6 assists a game but nearly 3.3 turnovers a game, and this needs to improve for 2013.
2. Acquire an additional true power forward who can play alongside Sylvia Fowles in the starting lineup
The Sky often started Ruth Riley, another center alongside Fowles toward the end of the season by having her at the power forward position though she played rather limited minutes. Toward the end of the season with Riley falling out of favor of the rotation, Swin Cash was often starting games at the power forward spot instead of her more natural small forward spot. After Cash and Riley, the only player who can possibly play the spot is Sonja Petrovic.
In essence, there really isn't a true power forward on the team and though the Sky did outrebound opponents by an average of over four rebounds a game (34.9 to 30.1), the team still needs to consider filling a position where there isn't much depth in.
3. Gauge the market demand and offers for the #2 pick in the 2013 Draft.
Like I said so far with Phoenix and Tulsa, the teams which hold the other two "Big Three" picks. the Sky needs to assess the demand for this pick by other teams. Perhaps the Sky may be able to accomplish its goals personnel wise by trading this pick for other impact players on other teams. It is no secret that Mystics fans, myself included would love to get this pick via trade, but other teams like New York, and Atlanta are likely eyeing an opportunity to get here. Should one of these teams offer enough on the table, maybe it is in the Sky's best interest to trade such a high pick for the second straight year.
And like our Sky draft piece last year indicated, if the Sky ultimately keeps this pick, then Coach Chatman has a problem, a good problem on her hands. Both Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins and Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne would satisfy one of these top two needs, #1 and #2 respectively. The voters in our poll at that time overall still favored Delle Donne over Diggins, presumably because there is a need to fill that power forward slot and she would presumably be a good complement to Sylvia Fowles. In addition, Delle Donne could stretch the floor with her shooting. While getting Diggins is another move that the Sky can't go wrong with, it would make Courtney Vandersloot expendable, or maybe as a full time backup since Skylar would presumably be the starting Sky point guard if that came to fruition.
The Sky last year had a team that was certainly ready to make the playoffs but an untimely injury to Epiphanny Prince, and later on Sylvia Fowles made the 2012 campaign another disappointing season . There is a major asset in Coach Chatman's hands right now with the #2 pick in the 2013 Draft. What she does with that pick will likely determine how long and how far this team can go not only for 2013 but for the foreseeable future.
CORRECTION on February 11, 2013, 9:00 AM ET: Epiphanny Prince did not suffer a hand injury in the season. She suffered a Jones fracture in her right foot. This change and a link to a Sky press release has been added to the piece. I apologize for the error.