Women's Watch: What the Sky should look for in offseason

 
 
Updated 10/8/2016 7:17 PM
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  • There's already change in the air with the Chicago Sky, which was eliminated from the WNBA playoffs just a few days ago. Longtime assistant coach Christie Sides just took a job at Northwestern. What else should the Sky change up before next season to make a better run at a WNBA Championship?

    There's already change in the air with the Chicago Sky, which was eliminated from the WNBA playoffs just a few days ago. Longtime assistant coach Christie Sides just took a job at Northwestern. What else should the Sky change up before next season to make a better run at a WNBA Championship? Associated Press

The season has been over for only a few days, and there's already been one big change to the Chicago Sky roster.

On Thursday, two days after Los Angeles eliminated the Sky in the WNBA semifinals, assistant coach Christie Sides was named an assistant coach at Northwestern.

Sides has been head coach Pokey Chatman's trusted and top assistant for the past six years. Together, they helped to lead the Sky to its first Eastern Conference championship and its first WNBA Finals appearance in 2014.

With 12 years of coaching experience at the collegiate, international and professional levels, Sides will be missed.

For Chatman, it's important that she hires a defensive-minded coach. While the Sky has been scoring a lot in recent years, and has ranked among WNBA leaders in scoring (82.4 ppg this season), the team also has given up a lot of points, too (90.6 ppg).

The Sky must get stingier on defense. Here's what else the Sky should be looking for in the offseason:

Another interior enforcer:

The Sky's defense in one-on-one situations is decent, and Tamara Young remains a reliable perimeter stopper. But when players get beat, the Sky's second wave of defense isn't always very strong.

That's where the Sky misses Sylvia Fowles, who was traded last year. Fowles, the WNBA's defensive player of the year this season, made up for a lot of defensive mistakes with her intimidating presence and shot-blocking abilities.

Sky center Imani Boyette, who made the all-rookie team, has the potential to be a Fowles-like enforcer. She is a good shot-blocker, averaging 1.4 per game. She just needs more experience and a little more girth and muscle to make opponents think twice about attacking the basket.

Another double-figure scorer:

Both teams in the WNBA Finals, Minnesota and Los Angeles, have a "Big 3." That's three players who are go-to players, particularly in the scoring department. Minnesota has three players who average double-figures, and so does Los Angeles.

The Sky has superstar forward Elena Delle Donne, who was among the leading scorers in the league at around 21 points per game, and Cappie Pondexter, who was up and down with her shot this season, but finished averaging about 13 points per game. No other player averaged double-figures for the Sky.

Part of the reason the Sky puts up a lot of points is that the offense is diverse. Seven players score around 7 points per game or more.

That's good. But to be a finals-caliber team, there needs to be at least three players consistently providing clutch offense and scoring in double figures.

Another 3-point shooter:

It was an off year for Allie Quigley, the Sky's 3-point bomber who won WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year awards in 2014 and 2015. This season Quigley took nearly 25 fewer 3-pointers than each of the previous two seasons. She hit only 30 after converting on 41 and 36 the previous two seasons.

As a team, the Sky connected on 27 percent of its 3-pointers, ranking near the bottom of the league this year. More long-range fire power could help balance the offense.

Clearly, Chatman has a lot of work to do this offseason. It's not a short, or easy, wish list.

But the good news is this franchise is getting closer to winning that elusive championship.

With a few of the right tweaks here and there and a healthy Delle Donne (who sat out the last 10 games with a thumb injury), next year finally could be the year.

• Follow Patricia on Twitter @babcockmcgraw and contact her by email at pbabcock@dailyherald.com.

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