The Chicago Sky are in an interesting place when it comes to their forwards, employing a heavy rotation last season that got Cheyenne Parker — who only started five times — a career-high 19.7 minutes per game. One of just three Sky players to appear in all 34 games, Parker proved in 2018 that she is a consistent and therefore indispensable part of a team that needs more good games.
It’s clear that the reason the team decided to bring Parker back in 2019 — her increased playing time combined with her increased output — leads to what they plan to do with her next season: get her out on the floor even more.
Looking back at Parker’s breakout 2018 season, here’s what she can bring to the Sky in 2019:
She’s a hot shooter ...
Parker averaged 10 points per game in 2018, another career-high that was good for fourth-highest on the Sky, also making her the highest-scoring forward on the team. In a season with plenty of competition from rookie starter Gabby Williams, three-year center Stefanie Dolson and the rest of the Sky’s many talented forwards on the bench, Parker established herself as a reliable presence on the scoring end. Her team second-best 53.1 percent field-goal percentage, also a career-high, certainly didn’t hurt matters.
The risk, of course, is that on the scoring end, Parker didn’t just improve — she crushed her previous career-bests. Some of this is due to her getting more minutes than prior seasons and playing in more games, but while jumping from 3.8 points per game in 2017 to 10 points per game in 2018 is admirable, it will be interesting to see if Parker can maintain this level of output.
In any case, there’s one as of yet unbroken constant in Parker’s shooting game: In all three games last season where she hit her career-high of 20 points, the Sky won. Maybe leaving her in a little longer and testing that out in 2019 isn’t the worst idea in the world.
... and a crafty rebounder ...
Last season, Parker led the Sky in rebounding with yet another career-high of 5.8 boards per game, which led to three double-doubles. But the story isn’t just that she’s become a solid rebounder for this Sky team — it’s that given the opportunity, she could become an even better one.
Parker’s last double-double of the 2018 season came on June 17, which was also her last time grabbing double-digit rebounds. Leading up to and including that game, Parker had double-digit rebounds in four of her past five games, her only four times doing so all season. She came close a few more times throughout the summer, putting up 8s and 9s next to double-digit outputs on the scoring end. But if Parker can continue to blossom as the team’s leading rebounder and improve her consistency on the glass, not only will that per-game average rise, but the Sky’s overall performance compared to other teams could, too.
In 2018, the Sky came up short on the glass, allowing opponents to out-rebound them 36.5 to 33.1 and coming in at eighth in the league in that area. With the amount of potential that Parker still has to improve her rebounding despite already being the team’s best, she won’t close that gap on her own, but she could help make the Sky more competitive overall on both ends of the floor.
... but most of all, Parker can adapt to whatever’s next
The Sky’s new head coach James Wade has made it clear that the team has all the basic pieces they need to continue to improve — they’re not rebuilding, but instead using their current players as efficiently as they can.
Parker’s versatility was a big part of Wade’s decision to re-sign her.
“One thing about Cheyenne, one gift that she has, is that she can [be both quick and agile],” Wade told the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 4. “There’s going to be nights she has to match up with [the Storm’s] Tasha Howard, there’s going to be nights she has to match up with [the Lynx’s] Sylvia Fowles. But she should have [a size advantage] over the smaller post players and have the quickness advantage over the bigger post players.”
With one big season under her belt, Parker should now have increased confidence in what she’s able to do on the court, but her teammates also know now more than ever that they can rely on her in a wide variety of game situations. Having shown her worth in 2018, Parker should improve even more and emerge as a team leader as the Sky grows into its new-look — but, importantly, also old-look — dynamic, together.