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Breaking down the Chicago Sky’s trade for Dana Evans

The Chicago Sky traded 2021 first-round draft pick Shyla Heal to the Dallas Wings for Dana Evans in an attempt to bolster their backcourt depth and give themselves more flexibility under the salary cap. Additional moves are expected from the Sky, who suddenly find themselves in an unfavorable position in the WNBA standings.

Chicago Sky v Phoenix Mercury
In trading for Dana Evans, the Chicago Sky signaled an all-in approach to the 2021 season, though it has more to do with the team’s salary cap situation than Evans herself.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Sky’s rollercoaster season continued last Wednesday when the team traded rookie point guard Shyla Heal to the Dallas Wings for fellow 2021 draftee Dana Evans. Heal was subsequently waived by the Wings, who elected not to take on her salary. Chicago also sent a 2022 third-round draft pick to Dallas in the deal, as well as the option to swap 2022 first-round draft picks, should the Wings choose to do so.

Heal, who the Sky drafted at No. 8 overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft, was initially lauded by management as a player who could both contribute right away while remaining a piece of the team’s core in future seasons. The 19-year old Heal struggled mightily, however, averaging 2.5 turnovers in 7.9 minutes of action and making just a single field goal during her time in Chicago.

With Heal clearly not ready to handle the speed and physicality of WNBA defenses, Sky head coach and general manager James Wade decided to make a change, shipping his recent investment off to Dallas in exchange for Evans. While Evans is just as raw as Heal, her rookie scale contract of $61,543 is worth less (compared to Heal’s $67,208, according to Her Hoop Stats), allowing Chicago to free up precious salary in order to sign another player later in the season.

“Trading [Heal’s] salary allows for us to bring in more veterans, which we will do, allowing our team to be more complete and also protecting us from anything that could happen down the road,” Wade explained. He cited Chicago’s unstable and injury-prone roster as part of the reason for the trade, saying that “this team isn’t the same team we initially expected Shyla to play with” and calling the situation with the Sky “unfair” to the native Australian.

Phoenix Mercury v Chicago Sky
The main goal of the trade from the Sky’s perspective was to open up room for Lexie Brown to return to the team. They’ll have to wait a few more days in order to have the cap space, however.
Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

Chances are one of the veteran players Wade is referring to is Lexie Brown. Brown was in training camp with the Sky earlier in the year, and though she was cut in favor of Heal before the regular season, Chicago appears to have now reversed course, choosing to go through the salary cap gymnastics required to bring her back.

Oddly, Brown was previously brought back to the Sky on a hardship contract, which was terminated one day (and one game) later. According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Annie Constable, the team expects to re-sign Brown for the rest of the season on June 13, which is the earliest possible date the Sky will be able to do so.

Until then, Evans will be asked to back up Courtney Vandersloot. Chicago’s reserve point guard spot has been unstable in recent seasons, and Evans isn’t exactly going to have time to get her feet wet; it’s hard enough for rookies to learn the position, much less after being traded to a new team midseason, and the Sky had little time to practice prior to each of Evans’ first two games with her new squad. She’ll be learning everything on the fly, although it’s anyone’s guess as to what her role will be once Brown rejoins the team.

This whole process may seem needlessly complicated just to replace one bench player with another, but given Chicago’s lack of guard depth combined with its increasingly perilous situation (the Sky have lost seven straight games and are in 11th place in the WNBA standings), it’s one that that Wade felt like he had to make in order to keep his team afloat. An early-season stretch without Candace Parker (ankle), Allie Quigley (hamstring) and Stefanie Dolson (competing for Team USA in FIBA’s 3x3 Olympic qualifiers) left Chicago shorthanded, and Wade clearly wants to avoid similar troubles as the Sky try to climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves.

All statistics for the 2021 WNBA season are current through June 8, 2021.