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2023 WNBA Free Agency: Can James Wade and the Chicago Sky make the right moves to contend once again?

After a disappointing end to their title defense, the Chicago Sky have some tough decisions to make in free agency, starting with Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot.

2022 WNBA Playoffs - Connecticut Sun v Chicago Sky
Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot
Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Sky’s title defense ended unsuccessfully in a Game 5 collapse against the Connecticut Sun on their home floor. With so many of their core players now becoming unrestricted free agents, head coach and general manager James Wade will have to figure out who he wants to bring back, who wants to come back and who he can bring in to improve the team enough to make another deep playoff run in 2023. So, before we get into all the scenarios, let’s take a look at the numbers.

By the numbers*

Free agents (type) (2022 average salary)

  • Candace Parker (unrestricted) ($195,000)
  • Courtney Vandersloot (unrestricted) ($195,000)
  • Emma Messeman (unrestricted) ($185,000)
  • Azurá Stevens (unrestricted) ($140,00)
  • Allie Quigley (unrestricted) ($135,000)
  • Rebekah Gardner (reserved) ($60,471)

Total average salary of free agents: $910,471

Total team salary: $488,699

Cap space: $931,801


The good news is the Sky can run it back with the team they had last season, which went 26-10 for a franchise-best winning percentage. The question is do they want to and how many players would opt-in? I think Emma Meesseman and Azurá Stevens are likely to return. They have good roles on the team and seem well-liked by the players and coaches. and with other players likely gone they can have bigger roles and more opportunities.

Connecticut Sun v Chicago Sky - Game Five Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Vanderquigs seem to be a package deal so either you bring back the couple or just move on. If I had to bet on it, I would say they are gone. It seems to have been year-by-year with them and with the title win in 2021 and the defense of it in 2022, I think a new challenge is set for them in 2023. Maybe the rumors of Quigley retiring and Vandersloot heading to Seattle come true and in that case, the Sky will have to replace their starting point guard and their 3-point shooter. Will they go with a defensive guard like Brittney Sykes or Erica Wheeler? Or maybe pick up a player overseas that’s been overlooked? Wade is known for his extensive knowledge of basketball in Europe and I’m sure he has players in mind in case the Vanderquigs era is no more.

Does Candace Parker want to play basketball anymore? And if she does, will it be in Chicago, Los Angeles or elsewhere? We are so close to free agency and we are no closer to knowing which way she will go. If Parker and the Vanderquigs are gone, I think the Sky still have enough cap space to create a Top 4 roster. James Wade was Coach of the Year in 2019 and Executive of the Year in 2022 and he’s made the playoffs every season he’s been in charge in Chicago. He’s made that place a destination and after paying Meesseman and Stevens, he’d still have four to five roster spots available and over half a million in cap space left.

Connecticut Sun v Chicago Sky - Game Two Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Last year the Sky were bystanders on draft night. This year they will be active participants. They have three draft picks, including the No. 5 pick. They can improve roster turnover with a lottery pick or use those picks to make a trade. We’ve seen Wade do both. Last season he used draft picks and Diamond DeShields to acquire Julie Allemand and in 2020 he drafted Ruthy Hebard, a role player who has continued to improve each season and may have a chance at a bigger role if Parker is gone. It may be cloudy skies in the City of Wind right now, but with the cap space, draft picks and staring spots up for grabs, anything is possible for Chicago. If they make the right moves, they’ll have as good a chance as any to compete for a championship in 2023.