Is The Sky Falling In Chicago?
By Brady Klopfer
The season started well for the Sky. They won their first two contests, and their young roster looked to be gelling early. Since then, the wheels have fallen off, and a narrow victory against the Aces stands as their only win over the last nine games.
So what’s going on with the young Sky? Are they simply devoid of talent in a league full of teams sporting two, three or even four All-Star candidates?
Yes and no. The Sky’s roster features an abundance of quality players, but their lack of a superstar is glaring on most nights. Allie Quigley is the closest thing they have to one. She is averaging 14.8 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from deep, which is talent personified, but it’s not earning any MVP votes. Without that one superstar, the Sky are forced to rely on a selfless, movement-centric offense.
In theory, that’s not a bad thing. In reality, the style and the results have yet to mesh. For all the times when the ball flits around the perimeter beautifully, Chicago often gets caught in stagnancy, with the ball ceasing to move, and the players forgetting to cut. As a result, the Sky struggle to get easy looks at the basket, as evidenced by shooting just 41.2 percent from the field, with an offensive rating of 98.1 - marks that are both 10th in the 12-team league.
Still, while that’s an area of struggle for the young Sky, it is unquestionably an area of expertise from time to time. When Chicago commits to moving the ball and cutting relentlessly, good things happen, and coach Amber Stocks is well aware of the potential that is unleashed by fluid offensive movement.
“We have to continue to play to our strengths,” Stocks said after a recent loss. “We’re one of the best passing teams in the league as far as moving the ball around. We have to continue to move and cut without the ball in order to open up some of those passing opportunities.”
These are, admittedly, adjustments that don’t happen overnight, especially for a young team. Rookies Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams are used to being more of a focal point in their team’s offense, and adjusting to fewer touches has taken a toll on their efficiency, as well as their movement. They must learn to create opportunities without the ball, and trust that their teammates will find them once they’re open. And for veterans like Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, and Jamierra Faulkner, trust in the system - and in their young teammates - is vital. Each of these players needs to understand that they can’t shoot the Sky out of their slump; only the team, acting as a cohesive unit, can.