CHICAGO – In seven disappointing seasons, the Chicago Sky has never reached the WNBA playoffs or even posted a winning record.
But the addition of No. 2 draft pick Elena Delle Donne could be a game changer that helps the Sky finally turn the tide.
Della Donne, an 6-foot, 5-inch All-American from Delaware, brings a scoring touch and versatility for a Sky team that has talent but has lacked consistency.
"I think she's definitely key when you think about her talent, her skill set and her size," said Pokey Chatman, the team's third-year coach and general manager. "Then you talk about the deficiencies we had and she definitely addresses that. And (she's) a player who can swing to multiple positions."
The Sky are coming off a second straight 14-20 season. After winning seven of their first eight games, they dropped 15 of the next 17 and slipped out of playoff contention.
Delle Donne averaged 26 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, leading Delaware to its first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. A two-time All-American, she finished with 3,039 career points, fifth highest in NCAA women's basketball history.
Still, much of the Sky's fate rests with center Sylvia Fowles, a two-time WNBA All-Star who won a gold medal while playing for Team USA.
Now in her sixth season, the former LSU star averaged 16.2 points, was second in rebounding (10.4 per game) and led the league with a 63.8-percent field goal-shooting percentage. She was named to the all-WNBA second team, and also garnered first-team defensive honors.
Fowles is now the team's all-time leader in scoring, offensive rebounds, field goals and free throws.
Guard Epiphanny Prince (18.1 points per game) was fourth in league scoring despite missing eight games with a foot fracture. Now in her fourth Sky season, Prince became the first WNBA player since 1997 to score 30-plus points in three consecutive games.
But Prince could miss up to seven games in June while playing for the Russian national team.
Veteran forward Swin Cash started all 34 games and averaged 10.6 points per game. The three-time WNBA All-Star has scored more than 4,000 points in her 11-year career.
Courtney Vandersloot, another likely starter, averaged 8.9 points and was sixth in the league in assists (4.6 per game).
Last year, Chicago led the league in turnovers (17.8) and ranked in the league's bottom third in scoring, overall field goal shooting, free throws and three-point shooting.
But hope springs eternal. There is a new look, a new feel and a new season to change things. The Sky open Monday at Phoenix.
"I like the new pieces," Chatman said. "But I also like some of the work that the returning players did in the offseason, not just on the court but in the weight room. I like what I'm seeing.
"We're moving in the right direction."