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posted: 9/28/2012 8:08 PM

Sky could be poised to finally walk down the aisle next year

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  • Baylor center Brittney Griner figures to be taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the top pick in the WNBA draft next year. But the Chicago Sky could move up if the Mercury decides to go in another direction.

      Baylor center Brittney Griner figures to be taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the top pick in the WNBA draft next year. But the Chicago Sky could move up if the Mercury decides to go in another direction.
    Associated Press

 
 

If the Chicago Sky had a walk-in closet, it might feel like there were almost "27 Dresses" stuffed inside.

The 2008 romantic comedy movie "27 Dresses," in which actress Katherine Heigl's character is a single woman who has served as a bridesmaid a painstaking 27 times, is the perfect metaphor for the Sky's seven-year odyssey of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride.

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Since tipping off its inaugural season in 2006, the Sky has never had the chance to be a bride (WNBA champion) because it has never even made it to the church (the playoffs).

In fact, the Sky is the only franchise in WNBA history that has never made the postseason.

On top of that, despite being in the draft lottery every year of its existence, the Sky also has never been the belle of that ball because it has never earned the No 1 pick.

That includes the most recent draft lottery Wednesday, when the Phoenix Mercury stole the top pick for the 2013 draft and the Sky got the No. 2 pick.

The good news here, though, is that maybe putting another bridesmaid's dress in the closet might not be such a bad thing after all. At least not this time.

The 2013 draft class is loaded at the top with superstars such as Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne. They are projected to be some of the most impactful rookies in WNBA history.

The Sky, through the draft or a trade, is certain at No. 2 to add a top-tier player, one who could even help us hear wedding bells around Allstate Arena next summer.

It's not far-fetched. Remember what the Minnesota Lynx did. After missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, the Lynx won the WNBA championship last season and had the best record in the league this season.

Don't tell me that the addition last summer of rookie forward Maya Moore, one of the best players in the history of women's college basketball, wasn't an overwhelming game changer for the Lynx.

One player, the right player, even a rookie, can have that kind of impact in the WNBA.

Griner, the 6-foot-8 dunker and shot blocker out of Baylor, and the most well-known name in the women's game right now, is a big-time impact player. She likely will be taken by the Mercury with that No. 1 pick.

But if for some reason the Mercury goes in another direction, watch out. The thought of Griner playing alongside 6-foot-6 Sky center Sylvia Fowles is enough to make one's head explode. It would be the most formidable and intimidating frontcourt in WNBA history.

"I love that idea," Fowles told me with a gigantic smile after the Sky's season finale last weekend. "It would be like, 'Pick your poison.' They (defenses) couldn't double or triple me anymore. I think we'd work well together."

So does Sky coach and general manager Pokey Chatman, who told me this week that playing two centers at once might be a bit unconventional but that it could work given the unusual athleticism of both Fowles and Griner.

Speaking of athleticism, how about Delaware's Delle Donne? She was highly recruited out of high school and had been planning to play at perennial power Connecticut. But a family situation forced her to stay closer to home.

Even though she's playing on a smaller stage, it's clear to many that Delle Donne is a major-leaguer. Her unique combination of size (6-feet-5), speed and sharp shooting skills makes her an attractive option at the forward spot, which has been the Sky's most suspect area in recent years.

It almost has been a position by committee as Chatman has used different players and different combinations depending on matchups and situations.

Tamera Young has been valued for her tenacious defense at the forward spot, while Shay Murphy has been valued for her sparks of energy as well as her long-range shooting binges. Veteran Swin Cash has helped with her leadership, savvy and rebounding.

It would be nice to find all or most of those qualities in one player.

"We've been looking to fill holes at forward for a couple of years now," Chatman said. "Elena has the height of a (power forward) and the skills set of a (small forward or guard). She can stretch a defense and has so much length herself. She has incredible skills."

But there are perhaps no skills that Chatman appreciates more than those of a point guard. She was one herself back in the 1980s at LSU.

The Sky already has a budding young point guard in Courtney Vandersloot, who just finished her second season. And Epiphanny Prince has proved to be a reliable ballhandler and floor general as well.

But I'm convinced that Chatman wants to see Prince focused exclusively on her natural position of shooting guard so that she can be the go-to scorer she is capable of being.

I also think Chatman believes that Vandersloot, who has been prone to turnovers, is at her best when the weight of the entire offense isn't always on her shoulders.

Having another talented and reliable point guard such as Notre Dame's Diggins in the mix would give the Sky much-needed depth and stability on the perimeter.

Like Vandersloot, Diggins can do a little bit of everything. She is a scoring point guard who also does a nice job of running the offense and finding teammates. She might also be a bit more durable than Vandersloot.

"The point guard position is a precious position where so much is on you and where every mistake, every move is magnified," Chatman said. "If you can have a situation where you don't have to put so much pressure on one player in that spot, that could be a really good thing."

A good thing will happen in the off-season for the Sky. There's no doubt about that. The big question is, will it finally be enough to put this franchise into, shall we say, "wedding mode?"

"These last few days have been so disappointing for us, with missing the playoffs," Chatman said. "The positive thing is, we did see some nice growth as we were trying to win games at the end to get in. It just wasn't quite enough.

"I think it just motivates us even more for next year, and the nice thing is we're in a really good position in the draft. It will be exciting."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

•Patricia Babcock McGraw has been covering the Sky since its inaugural season in 2006. She also is the color analyst for all Sky television games, which are broadcast on Comcast CN100.

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