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2022 WNBA Free Agency: Chicago Sky have work to do to defend title

The Chicago Sky had their best season ever in 2021, winning the WNBA championship. However, the majority of the players are unrestricted free agents so James Wade will have to give an MVP performance as GM if he wants a good shot at back-to-back titles.

2021 WNBA Finals - Phoenix Mercury v Chicago Sky
Candace Parker (jersey #3)
Photo by Kena Krutsinger/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Sky are WNBA champions. Being world champs comes at a cost. Certain players will want to get paid more, and others will want to leave for more prominent roles. Given that the Sky currently only have four players under contract for the 2022 season, James Wade will have a lot of tough decisions to make as he figures out which players to bring back, which to let go, and which to add to the team via free agency or trades.


By the numbers*

Free agents (type) (2021 average salary) (qualifying offer)

  • Stefanie Dolson (unrestricted) ($175,00)
  • Kahleah Copper (unrestricted) ($165,00)
  • Astou Ndour-Fall (unrestricted) ($70,040)
  • Courtney Vandersloot (unrestricted) ($200,00)
  • Allie Quigley (unrestricted) (194,000)
  • Marie Conde (unrestricted)
  • Diamond DeShields (restricted) ($70,040) ($73,542)
  • Lexie Brown (restricted) ($47,185) ($72,141)

Team figures

Total average salary of free agents: $949,723

Total team salary (including Candace Parker, Azura Stevens, Ruthy Hebard, and Dana Evans, but none of the other players above): $470,985

Cap Space: $908,215

Analysis

2021 WNBA Finals - Phoenix Mercury v Chicago Sky
Kahleah Copper has emerged as one of the best players in the WNBA.
Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

With the four players the Sky have returning, the unrestricted free agents, and the restricted free agents, the numbers are just not there for the Sky to bring everyone back. While that might be a tough thing for Skytown to hear, it is the truth. The Sky will have to spend wisely. It is likely that Vandersloot and Quigley will either both stay or go. They are teammates in Chicago, at UMMC in Russia, and even in life as they are married to each other. So, bringing back your starting point guard and a key shooter would be ideal. However, that will cost you around $400,00 dollars, so you do have to decide if it’s worth keeping the duo together or saving that money and using it to go in a different direction.

Kahleah Copper will likely be a main priority. She was phenomenal all season long and was the WNBA Finals MVP. The Sky do have the option to core a player meaning they can give them a one-year supermax contract. That player will have to sign with the team regardless of their free agency status. Doing so would come at a hefty price tag; this season the supermax is $228,094, which would take a huge chunk of salary cap space and make Copper the highest-paid player on the team. Given her play, it seems like if anyone deserves that money it’s KFC.

Now that the Sky have given qualifying offers to Diamond DeShields and Lexie Brown, we’ll have to wait and see if another team makes a higher offer and if the Sky will match. Lexie Brown is still very young and has room to grow. DeShields has had some huge highs like her All-Star year in 2019, but has also had some low lows. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds in the coming weeks.

Ultimately the Sky are in a great place. They are champs, they have a few key players returning, and have enough cap space to prioritize the players they feel are most valuable. The challenge will be on getting those players to return and picking the right ones to pursue. General manager/head coach James Wade has done an overall good job in respect to this throughout his tenure in Chicago. However, with so many rosters spots up in the air, he’ll have to hit more than he misses this off-season if he wants to be in a good position to defend his title.


* All salary numbers come from HerHoopStats