This week was always going to be a huge one for the Chicago Sky.
They started the week at third in the WNBA standings after absolutely spanking the Connecticut Sun by 18 points Sunday and had games against three more contenders (the Mystics, Storm and Sparks) within a seven-day span to show just what this Chicago team was made up.
Well, after a seven-point loss to Washington on Wednesday and Friday’s three-point loss to Seattle—in which Chicago battled back from giving up 33 points in the first quarter but ultimately failed to close out in a 79-76 loss—it feels safe to say that this Sky team has a definite limit.
Diamond DeShields’s progression from freshman phenom to one of the best players in this league is all but undeniable. Courtney Vandersloot, who appeared to twist her ankle early on Friday but dutifully gutted through the rest of the game, is still the assist queen of the W, slinging passes to teammates and pulling the strings of one of the more entertaining offenses in the league. Allie Quigley is still a walking three-point bucket.
But can this team get more from the rest of its roster to truly make it stand apart from the rest of the teams stuck in the middle of the WNBA standings? Well, that answer is complicated.
The Sky have already exceeded the expectations of many’s preseason expectations. Chicago was bottom of the league in defensive rating last season at 109.9, which is 2.7 points worse than the Indiana Fever, who the Sky won seven more games than.
That defense has more or less been league average since James Wade’s appointment this year, but games like Friday’s against the Storm show that there are still improvements to be made.
Seattle seemed to get just about anything it wanted on offense in the first quarter, dropping a smooth 33 points. Five Storm players ended up in double digits, and Sami Whitcomb wasn’t far off with nine. And they did it all without the injured Jewell Loyd—and Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird.
Chicago has another chance to prove itself against a would-be contender when it travels to Staples Center to play the Sparks, who are still trying to figure themselves out after the return of Candace Parker.
The Sky have the potential to be something special. The combination of DeShields, Vandersloot and Quigley is something that any offensive-minded fan should drool over. Add the constant threat of Stefanie Dolson and Cheyenne Parker, Gabby Williams showing flashes of improvement and Jantel Lavender looking like she can step up when given minutes—like she did in scoring 13 points in 32 minutes against the Storm—and this looks like a surefire playoff team.
But the Sky will have to prove it if they want WNBA postseason basketball for the first time since Elena Delle Donne departed for Washington. A lot can change in a week—like going from third place in the league on Sunday to sixth on Friday—but a win against the Sparks to break a two-game losing streak could be just what Chicago needs. And it could prove that the team capable of looking world class against the Sun but shaky against other contenders is here to stay in the playoff race as we approach the halfway mark of the season.