Chicago

With reported Parker addition, Sky's title window wide open

Chicago
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Thursday afternoon, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported that Candace Parker has committed to join the Sky in free agency after 13 years with the Los Angeles Sparks.

A nice homecoming story for Parker, who starred at Naperville Central High School to the tune of two state titles and is entering her age-35 season. And a big-name free agent snag for a Sky team which already boasts an exciting core.

But let's not bury the lede here: This move, first and foremost, telegraphs unabashed championship aspirations for the Sky -- and their window is wide open.

2020 began with similar, lofty talk, but injuries derailed their time in the "Wubble." Before the season even began, Jantel Lavendar, who started at center for the breakout 2019 squad, was termed out for the year after foot surgery in June (she was eventually traded for Stephanie Mavunga to try and shore up the frontcourt). Diamond DeShields, who appeared ripe for a leap in her third season after an All-Star berth in the second, was hampered by nagging knee issues and left the bubble after 13 games for personal reasons. Azurá Stevens, acquired last offseason via trade, was also lost after 13 games due to a knee injury.

Even as Courtney Vandersloot shattered assist records by the bushel in an MVP-caliber campaign, Kahleah Copper broke out and Allie Quigley posted another strong year, the Sky finished 12-10 and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs to the Connecticut Sun.

 

But in 2021... Picture it. Adding a two-time MVP and five-time All-Star with championship pedigree -- that would be Parker, who won Finals MVP honors for the Sparks in 2016 -- to a refreshed DeShields, Vandersloot, Quigley, Stevens, Copper and superlative depth, including the under-contract Gabby Williams and Stefanie Dolson? With a high-level head coach in James Wade in tow? That's cause for fervent excitement.

Gravy: Parker is also the reigning WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, which has been a problem area for the Sky since their recent rise to prominence. Though they have finished each of Wade's first two seasons top-4 in the W in offensive rating, pace and field goal percentage, they finished 2020 eighth (of 12) in defensive rating and rebounding rate.

Parker last season averaged 14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds (first in the league), 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals and blocks (ninth) apiece en route to her sixth career All-WNBA first team selection. A perfectly-tailored addition that allows the Sky to maintain their established identity while addressing a weak spot.

And, of course, the type of superstar swing that can vault a team from promising to powerhouse. The hunt for the Sky's first championship in franchise history continues in earnest.

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