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updated: 1/6/2012 9:22 PM

Will Swin be Cash in the Sky bank?

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  • The Sky is hoping that newly acquired Swin Cash will be the player needed to propel the team into the WNBA playoffs.

      The Sky is hoping that newly acquired Swin Cash will be the player needed to propel the team into the WNBA playoffs.
    Associated Press

 
 

It's too early to say with certainty, of course, but I'm thinking the Sky is probably right on the money with its most recent blockbuster deal.

You know, money as in cash. As in Swin Cash.

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On Tuesday, the Sky announced that it had acquired superstar 6-foot-1 forward Swin Cash along with veteran forward Le'Coe Willingham from the Seattle Storm in exchange for the Sky's second overall pick in April's 2012 WNBA draft.

To me, it almost feels like the Sky is getting away with something here.

Cash, who has scored more than 4,000 points over her 10-year career, is one of the best players in WNBA history. The 2012 draft class, meanwhile, could be one of the weakest.

There's definitely no Maya Moore in this next draft class, and Baylor's 6-foot-8 dunking center Brittney Griner is still just a junior.

Yes, there is some talent in the pool. Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumiki, Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen and Miami's Shenise Johnson all might be great WNBA players. But when?

I'm betting not right out of the box.

And that's what the Sky needs this season, as many players as possible making an impact right out the box so that the playoffs are a sure thing in September.

"This is a great opportunity for me and Le'Coe," Cash said. "The Sky needed veterans who could get them to the next level. I think our experience is more valuable to them right now than a high draft pick."

Let's play devil's advocate here: Yes, the 32-year-old Cash is a little older. And yes, she's had some significant injuries over her career, most notably back problems that required surgery several years ago.

But, I believe Cash's potential upside for the Sky and for what this franchise needs at this very moment far outweighs any risk being assumed because of her age or her potential for injuries.

"Injuries happen, that's true and I've had some," Cash said from China, where she is playing during the off-season. "But at the same time, if you roll the dice on me, what I bring is more than what I give up."

The fact is, Cash, who averaged more points (13.2 ppg) and rebounds (6.9 rpg) last season than her career averages, has been in great health the last few years, and is gunning for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team. That means she'll be fitter than usual heading into the WNBA season in May.

Cash also brings two other important assets to the table:

First, she can be a consistent go-to scorer on the wing, which is something the Sky has been craving the last few years as defenses collapse more and more on all-star center Sylvia Fowles in the lane.

Second, Cash is a perennial winner.

A perennial winner. It's important enough to repeat.

More than anything, that's probably what the Sky needs most right now in its quest to end what is the WNBA's worst record of postseason futility.

The Sky, which has yet to make the playoffs in its six years of existence, desperately needs someone on its roster who has been there, done that and climbed the WNBA mountain. The Sky needs that someone to help set the bar and show how it's done, both at practice and in games.

Cash, a three-time WNBA champion, not to mention an NCAA champion at Connecticut, is such a player.

A second overall pick and WNBA rookie, no matter how good she is ... or eventually will be, is no such player. At least not right now.

"The No. 2 pick in the draft is high and you're going to get a quality player," Sky head coach and general manager Pokey Chatman said. "But what we had to evaluate is how quickly that kind of quality could impact us. We thought a move like this, bringing on Swin and Le'Coe, would impact us faster."

Indeed, the Sky already has plenty of talented young players who can grow with the franchise for years to come, players such as Epiphanny Prince, Courtney Vandersloot -- and even Fowles to a certain extent.

Adding another young player from April's draft who needs to be developed and groomed for the pro game seems to be kicking the playoff can even further down the road.

The natives here are getting restless. Sky fans want, and deserve, a playoff team. Like yesterday.

Bringing in the seasoned Cash, as well as Willingham, who has won two WNBA titles of her own, may help Sky fans finally get their money's worth. In the form of playoff tickets.

Cha-ching!

•pbabcock@dailyherald.com

•Patricia Babcock McGraw, who covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald, provides color commentary for Chicago Sky broadcasts. She also is a color analyst for the Big Ten Network, the IHSA Television Network and DePaul women's basketball broadcasts.

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