As season opens, Chicago Sky will lean on its depth
Not to get too deep on you Chicago Sky fans, but let's talk about ... depth.
The Sky starts a new season Saturday in Indianapolis against the Indiana Fever, and then comes back to Chicago on Sunday (6 p.m.) to host the New York Liberty at its new home, Wintrust Arena.
Something to watch for in these early games is the Sky's depth. Second-year coach Amber Stocks thinks depth will be the Sky's single-biggest advantage over most teams this summer as a return to the playoffs is a top priority after last season's miss.
"Depth is one thing that we have that few teams do," Stocks said. "A lot of teams will have a seven-player rotation and I think we will be able to get productive minutes from 10 players every game."
In fact, Stocks is so committed to playing a deep bench that she is already planning on a slightly unusual rotation that includes two sets of starters.
"We really have six starters, but they will split time," Stocks said. "It will kind of be like a (platoon) system so that we can substitute with strength."
With veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot temporarily out of the equation due to her continued obligations with her off-season team in Turkey over the next two weeks, Stocks says her "six starters" at the moment, and for today's opener against the Fever, are: guards Allie Quigley, Jamierra Faulkner and Alex Montgomery as well as forwards Kahleah Copper, Cheyenne Parker and Stefanie Dolson.
Stocks envisions grouping the starters, likely in groups of three in most situations. Three of those players will quite literally start the game with two reserves while the other three will get a similar number of minutes with two other reserves.
"It won't always be three and three, one game we might have four starters together in one group and two in the other," Stocks said. "It really depends. It really depends on what we need. But it's a way for us to take advantage of our depth and to not have all of our rookies in the game at the same time.
The Sky is loaded with newbies, including four rookies: Alaina Coates, the Sky's top pick last year who is back from an ankle injury that kept her out all of 2017, Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams, the Sky's two first-round picks from the 2018 draft and Linnae Harper, a diamond-in-the-rough pick up in free agency who hails from Chicago.
Stocks said that two veterans in particular have shown great leadership with the young players, Quigley and Montgomery.
Quigley, generally the quiet type, has been much more outgoing and vocal than usual during the preseason. And Montgomery was brought to Chicago specifically for her ability to lead.
"Alex has a great reputation in the league for being a leader and a fighter and a really good person to coach and play with. She's vocal and she can lead and that's specifically why I targeted her and tried to acquire her: for her leadership skills and maturity. That's her biggest strength and we need Alex to bring that to the table."
The Sky also needs to get back to the playoffs.
After four straight playoff appearances from 2013 to 2016, the Sky missed the postseason last year.
"I'd say our one long-term goal is to get one of the top six seeds in the playoffs," Stocks said. "I think we have a playoff- (caliber) team."
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw