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2024 WNBA Free Agency: The Chicago Sky’s reinvention continues with free agency

The future of the Chicago Sky as a potential contender relies upon how the team navigates free agency.

Chicago Sky v Las Vegas Aces - Game One
While Marina Mabrey and Elizabeth Williams are under contract with the Sky for 2024, Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith are unrestricted free agents.
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

2024 is anticipated to be a year of reinvention for the Chicago Sky.

After a season of uphill battles that resulted in a first-round playoff loss to the eventual-champion Las Vegas Aces, the Sky are changing things up, beginning at the top. They hired former WNBA player and Hall of Famer Theresa Weatherspoon as head coach and Jeff Pagliocca as general manager. In addition, they are bringing back a solid veteran core in Kahleah Copper, Elizabeth Williams, Dana Evans, Isabelle Harrison and Marina Mabrey.

But the futures of some notable free agents remain unclear. Their unrestricted free agents include Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith. Their only restricted free agent is Ruthy Hebard. Reserve free agents include Rebekah Gardner, Robyn Parks, and Morgan Bertsch. Sika Koné and Li Yueru are the two unprotected players who don’t have a base salary protection and could be cut at a moment’s notice.


Facts and figures*

Players under contract (contract status; 2024 salary)

  • Kahleah Copper (protected veteran; $241,984)
  • Dana Evans (protected rookie scale; $78,469)
  • Isabelle Harrison (protected veteran; $160,00)
  • Marina Mabrey (protected veteran; $208,000)
  • Elizabeth Williams (protected veteran; $135,000)

Free agent (type; 2023 salary)

  • Julie Allemand (suspended-contract expired; n/a)
  • Morgan Bertsch (reserved free agent; $62,285) [QO extended 1/17]
  • Maria Conde (suspended-contract expired; n/a)
  • Rebekah Gardner (reserved free agent; $100,000) [QO extended 1/17]
  • Ruthy Hebard (restricted free agent; $68,339)
  • Astou Ndour (suspended-contract expired; n/a)
  • Robyn Parks (reserved free agent; $62,285) [QO extended 1/17]
  • Alanna Smith (unrestricted free agent; $100,000)
  • Courtney Williams (unrestricted free agent; $160,000)

Total salary of free agents: $552,909

Total team salary: $951,752

Cap space: $511,448

2024 WNBA Draft picks (2024 salary)

  • Round 2, No. 1 ($67,249)

Analysis

Chicago Sky v Phoenix Mercury
After her breakout season, can the Sky retain Alanna Smith?
Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sky have $511,448 in salary cap space to work with. So, the free agency period should be an eventful one. The Sky should work diligently to bring back the players from last season who produced some strong numbers, took on greater roles and overcame so much to make it to the playoffs. It is incumbent upon the organization to take that approach when it comes to Courtney Williams, Rebekah Gardner and Alanna Smith.

C. Williams was able to utilize her veteran experience to become an effective playmaker, helping to command the offense alongside Copper. She finished 10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. She is known for her tenaciousness, vitality and leadership. Her re-signing would be crucial in those areas alone, especially if the team envisions her as the starting point guard.

However, there is the specter Dana Evans and whether she could assume the starting point guard role. A fan favorite who turned in some considerable performances from off the bench, Evans is coming off a solid season in which she averaged 9.0 points and 3.0 assists per game. She also has developed a reputation as a playmaker and a strong defender who can hold her opponent down on the perimeter. Her growth largely was attributable to her being used more under interim head coach Emre Vantasaver, compared to under previous head coach and general manager James Wade. She went from playing 8.6 minutes a game in the championship season of 2021 to 11.5 minutes in 2022 to 21.5 minutes in 2023.

Rebekah Gardner, who was out for the majority of last season due to a foot injury, is another fan favorite who possesses offensive versatility and defensive prowess. In her first season in the WNBA in 2022, she averaged 8.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. She can take it to the hole, shoot from the field effectively, shoot from 3 when needed and generate easy points at the free throw line. She also has enough grit to dive for loose balls and crash the boards.

Alanna Smith exploded in her first year in Chicago. She went from only playing nine games with the Indiana Fever in 2022 to playing in 38, including starting 35, in 2023. She finished with 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Her potential re-signing would be greatly needed to round out the versatility of the roster at both ends of the floor.

Can the Sky attract an outside free agent to Chicago?

Then, there is the likely long shot—but hope—of potentially acquiring a high profile free agent guard. The market includes Skylar Diggins-Smith, Layshia Clarendon and Natasha Cloud. Obviously, their potential presence would be enormous when it comes to filling the role of the starting point guard, and each of them have proven themselves worthy of that role. But it would come at the cost of forgoing possibly C. Williams or Evans.

Chicago Sky v Los Angeles Sparks
Is Layshia Clarendon the veteran point guard the Sky need?
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

A reminder of the Sky’s draft pick situation

The draft is where the Sky likely will run into the organization’s greatest hurdles.

The acquisition of Mabrey from the Dallas Wings in a trade in February 2023 stands out for a myriad of reasons in this context. While she is one of best shooters on the team, her standing has, ironically, put the Sky in a complicated position when it comes to the upcoming draft. To acquire her, the Sky traded away a couple of first-round picks to Dallas, New York and Phoenix. As a result, they will not have a first- or third-round pick in the 2024 draft, but will have the 13th pick.

But, the organization’s draft capital should not influence the ability to retain or attract free agents. The propsect of a huge blockbuster free agent coming to town is unlikely, but the team can ensure some notable contributors remain in Chicago if they play their cards right.


*Thanks to Her Hoop Stats for all salary numbers.