Several WNBA teams enter the 2021 free agency period with great roster and cap flexibility, but the Chicago Sky aren’t one of them. The Sky are faced with one major to-do: re-sign Cheyenne Parker, who was one of the team’s most dependable players in 2020.
The Chicago Sky started strong in 2020, opening the season with a 10-4 record and looking like a team that could compete for a top-four playoff seed.
Chicago ran into some bad injury luck, however, and when both forward Azurá Stevens and wing Diamond DeShields left the team, its lack of depth — particularly in the frontcourt — was exposed. The Sky lost six of their last eight games of the 2020 regular season and were beaten soundly in the playoffs by the Connecticut Sun.
The Sky are in a relatively stable position heading into free agency, needing to re-sign forward Cheyenne Parker, who averaged a career-high 13.1 points per game as a full-time starter in 2020. Bringing her back, however, leaves little room for the franchise to do much else — barring a trade or two.
Backup point guard Sydney Colson could be brought back on a veteran minimum contract, but with several talented guards highlighting the 2021 WNBA Draft class (from which the Sky will be selecting at No. 8 overall), Chicago will likely keep its options open there.
By the numbers*
2021 Free Agents (type) (salary)
- Cheyenne Parker (Unrestricted) ($110,000)
- Sydney Colson (Unrestricted) ($70,000)
- Alexis Prince (Reserved) ($9,120)
- Total salary of free agents: $189,120
- Total team salary (not including above players): $1,080,715
- Cap space: $258,285
Chicago doesn’t have much room under the cap to maneuver, making its offseason mission fairly straightforward: re-sign Parker, sign its 2021 first-round draft pick and call it a day.
That, of course, assumes the Sky will use their first-round pick on a player who will actually be playing in the WNBA in 2021. Alternatively, they could draft an international player and stash her for the future.
In Parker’s case, the Sky will have enough room to offer her the 2021 maximum salary of $190,550 after waiving 2020 third-round pick Kiah Gillespie and suspending 2019 third-round pick Maria Conde. After Parker’s 2020 season, one would surmise that her services will be highly coveted by other teams, hence, the Sky clearing enough space to retain her.
After that, if the Sky choose to draft a rookie for the 2021 roster, they’ll owe her a first-year salary of $67,208. Combined with the theoretical Parker figure of $190,550 and the rest of the team’s projected salary, that would put Chicago at $1,338,473 — achingly close to 2021’s salary cap of $1,339,000.
In this scenario, Colson and Prince (who was signed as a replacement player late in the 2020 season) are left out of the equation. Chicago also could choose to waive one of its players on unprotected contracts (Stephanie Mavunga and her 2021 salary of $70,040 seem like the most realistic case here) and use that money to either re-sign Colson or bring in another veteran player on a similar contract.
While Chicago is a team with obvious depth issues at several positions, it’s also a team with enviable talent elsewhere on the roster. The Sky, perhaps, were a healthy Stevens and/or DeShields away from making a deep playoff run in 2020.
Fans may be clamoring for Chicago to make a big splash in free agency, but in order to do so, the team would likely need to trade one or more players.