Let’s Appreciate Courtney Vandersloot's Underrated Career
By Chris Kwiecinski
Courtney Vandersloot was dead tired after beating the Dallas Wings, 114-99, on Friday. She stopped mid-answer during the Sky’s postgame press conference to say as much.
“Sorry, I am so tired, oh my gosh,” she said. “I’m like talking like so slow.”
And who could blame her? She had a historic night.
Her final line: 13 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. That was good for the seventh triple-double in WNBA history, the first in Chicago Sky history and one assist shy of tying the WNBA single-game record.
But it’s a disservice to say that’s what should make the WNBA appreciate her career. In fact, she’s had the best career of any Sky player in franchise history.
When I asked if Friday was the best game of her career, the ever-humble Vandersloot said “possibly” before thanking her teammates. A classy act we’ve come to see from one of the best players in Sky history.
“It feels good to finally get a triple-double,” she said. “What a fun game you know to be a part of in all aspects.”
Fun wasn’t the half of it.
While Vandersloot flirted with a WNBA record, she broke the Sky single-game record for assists that she set one year ago on July 20 against the Sparks. She also led a team to a win over the hottest team in the WNBA, out shooting the team which featured Liz Cambage who scored 53 points just three days before.
It was the best game from a Sky player since Elena Delle Donne dropped 45 points and 11 rebounds against Tulsa, who would ironically relocate to Dallas, in 2015.
No one sees the court like Vandersloot does, and when she’s seeing the court the Sky are tough to beat. Evidence of this is Chicago’s 4-0 record when Vandersloot records 10 assists.
I’ve noticed this year Vandersloot does one of three things when she has the ball on offense:
1. She’ll run the given offensive play.
2. If that doesn’t work, she dribbles through or around the defense and draw defenders to her and opens up looks on the perimeter.
3. She beats her matchup with a quick drive to the rim and gets a layup.
Her work in transition is vastly underrated as well, where her passing skills seemingly have a bleeding effect into any teammate in a 10-foot radius. That was on display Friday, as the Sky scored 26 fast break points.
Sky rookie Diamond DeShields, who struggles as a passer at times, even had a career-high eight assists against Dallas. It’s fair to say Vandersloot, whom Dallas coach Fred Williams called the John Stockton of the WNBA, has had a strong influence.
It would also be fair to say the Wings were fatigued from a delayed late flight and playing back-to-back games. But Dallas guard Skylar Diggins-Smith seemed insulted that I even mentioned fatigue to her, and I’ll take her word that fatigue wasn’t a factor.
Mostly because I watched Vandersloot carve teams up before this season with her vision. Specifically against the Phoenix Mercury, which sits in second in the current WNBA standings.
“She’s one of the best point guards in this league,” Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said of Vandersloot. “When you have such a playmaker like that leading the team, it helps everyone, puts them in the right spots, and feel settled.”
Vandersloot has been putting teammates in the right spots for her entire career. She’s the Sky’s all-time assists leader, has 1,271 career assists and holds the WNBA record for assist average in a season with 8.1.
In a league where exalted names like Taurasi, Swoopes, Catchings, Leslie, Parker and Moore make the front page every game, players like Vandersloot wrongfully get overlooked.
Friday’s historic night was a reminder that she’s the best player in Sky history, and one of the best point guards the WNBA has seen.