In three years worth of draft picks, Wade has kept one of his original first-round selections, Ruthy Hebard who he took with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Less than two months after Sky coach and general manager James Wade drafted Shyla Heal with the eighth overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft, she was traded to and immediately waived by the Dallas Wings.
On draft night, Wade raved about Heal’s ceiling. After scouting her, Wade thought her professional experience in Australia combined with her style of play, which he said was similar to Courtney Vandersloot’s, made her a great fit for the Sky’s system.
After four games and just 31 WNBA minutes, Heal was gone.
In three years worth of draft picks, Wade has kept one of his original first-round selections, Ruthy Hebard whom he took with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
In his first draft at the helm of the Chicago Sky organization in 2019, Wade selected Katie Lou Samuelson with the fourth overall pick, passing on eventual Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier and runner-up Arike Ogunbowale. Similar to his expectation for Heal to develop behind Vandersloot, Wade said toward the end of the 2019 season he was looking for Samuelson to be a solution to an impending problem in Allie Quigley’s eventual retirement.
Less than a year later, Samuelson was gone as was a 2021 first-round draft pick in a trade to the Wings for forward Azurá Stevens.
Stevens’ full potential remains to be seen. During the 2020 WNBA season, she left the Bubble early after suffering a season-ending injury to her left knee. She started in all 13 games she appeared in for the Sky, averaging career highs in points (11.5 per game) and rebounds (5.9 per game) while shooting 50% from the field.
She started this season on a minutes restriction. In five games she’s averaged 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19.8 minutes. Her minutes off the bench have been critical with Candace Parker out due to an ankle injury she suffered after the Sky’s season opener.
Still, Hebard is Wade’s only draft pick that’s had an impact with this team.
“We’ve been a playoff team every year,” Wade said. “You have to look at the sum of everything. I don’t think you can just go by we traded our draft picks early. That remains to be seen.”
Wade’s decision to trade Heal for Dana Evans in order to make room to sign experienced guard Lexie Brown to a rest-of-season contract on June 13 makes sense. In her 31 minutes, Heal looked outmatched. With Brown on the court against the Phoenix Mercury, the Sky had their lowest number of turnovers all season.
Still, the trade is a response to a problem drafting Heal didn’t solve. The Sky need a backup point guard for Vandersloot.
Wade is one of five people in the WNBA who play the dual role of general manager and coach.
The Sky have a severely limited front office staff with three basketball operations positions outside of Wade’s assistant coaching staff. The reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm in comparison have 12 basketball operations staff members outside of their coaching staff. The Washington Mystics have nine.
Strength and conditioning coach Ann Crosby, who also serves as the director of basketball operations, has long been described as someone who does it all. The team doesn’t have a director of player development or an assistant general manager.
Is this staff conducive for building a WNBA championship-caliber team is a question that remains to be answered.
“You make the team that you want to coach,” Wade said. “I took the job because I wanted the job. Sometimes decisions have to be made that are tough decisions. At the same time, you’re the only one who has a gage on your team.”