Vandersloot, exactly what Chicago is missing

 

By Nicholas LeTourneau

 

The Sky sport a .500 record in large part because of the play of Allie Quigley and rookie Diamond DeShields. But when Quigley went down with a strained hip, it looked like Chicago might be in trouble. Thankfully, Courtney Vandersloot came back at the perfect time.

 Photo: Associated Press

Photo: Associated Press

Vandersloot has long been the glue that holds things together for Chicago ever since she was picked third overall by them out of Gonzaga in 2011. She has been an All-Star, an All-WNBA performer, twice led the league in assists and played a crucial role in leading Chicago to the 2014 Finals.

This season, her presence and passing is needed more than ever with the addition of DeShields. Having someone to pace the team and a steady hand to distribute the ball is going to be very important.

In a short sample size so far this season, Vandersloot has looked pretty good. In two games played she is averaging 15 points, 8 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1 block per game. In her first game back against the Sun, she looked to still be adjusting to her teammates. She was responsible for 8 turnovers against Connecticut, but in the following matchup against Las Vegas, Vandersloot looked more like her old self. She ended the game with 19 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and only 2 turnovers while shooting 55 percent from the floor and 66 percent from deep.

While Vandersloot’s scoring will be a welcomed addition, especially with Quigley out of the lineup, her veteran vision and passing is what could really put this lineup over to the next level. According to Synergy, over 48 percent of Chicago’s offense is created off of spot up, transition, off the cut, and off screens — all looks that generally come off of assists.

Spot up looks account for the most of these four shot types as Chicago generates 18.3 percent of their offense from it. With six games under their belt, the Sky are converting these attempts at a rate that is below league average but that should vastly improve with Vandersloot in the lineup distributing shots.

DeShields currently accounts for most of these looks, taking around 20 percent of the spot up attempts and hits on them around 41 percent of the time. When three-pointers are factored in, DeShields has an adjusted field goal percentage of just a hair under 53 percent. I fully expect this type of shot to only improve as Vandersloot assimilates with the team more.

Transition attempts are the next highest percentage of looks this team gets, with it accounting for 13 percent of the offense. The Sky are a top four team in the league when it comes to scoring in transition, scoring 1.216 points per possession and converting almost 63 percent of their attempts. Vandersloot’s passing will also help this cause.

This is another area that DeShields has a huge impact in. Currently, she accounts for 31.1 percent of the Sky’s transition attempts and scores almost 5 points per game from transition baskets alone. Whether it is on completed baskets or free throws, when DeShields is running down the floor, she scores over 65 percent of the time.

Baskets off the cut and off screens combine for 16.8 percent of the offense in Chicago, two things that are directly related to passing/assists in addition to having players that can knock down shots or move without the ball in their hands. The Sky rank fourth and second in scoring off the cut and off screens, relying heavily on a number of players off the cut while off screen scoring has been dominated by the injured Quigley. Gabby Williams, Alaina Coats and Stefanie Dolson combine for almost 59 percent of the attempts off the cut while Quigley alone accounts for 35 percent of the production off screens. DeShields is second in productions off screens but only knocks down 33 percent of her attempts.

The integration of Vandersloot into this core of players will help everyone. Her vision is pretty much second to none and has improved on her assists totals per game every single year she’s been in the WNBA. The Sky are 3-3 but all that means is they truly control their own fate. Only Washington and Connecticut have a better record in the East right now. Vandersloot’s return and presence on this team couldn’t be more perfect. The Sky got along alright without her and their weaknesses are all things that are her strengths. She balances the roster and gives them a fighting chance to be one of the top teams in the East.