The Sky is falling in Chicago.
We knew this would be a crucial offseason for them, with four of their top five players hitting free agency. The worst case scenario — at least in terms of next season's record — is currently playing out. None of the four will suit up for the Sky next season.
In a shocking twist, Candace Parker has joined the Las Vegas Aces. Courtney Vandersloot, the franchise's greatest player and one of the best point guards the WNBA has ever seen, announced in a statement that she wouldn't be returning to the franchise; sharpshooter Allie Quigley, her wife, is reportedly sitting out the 2023 season.
Most devastatingly, per multiple reports (both ESPN's Alexa Philippou and Winsidr's Rachel Galligan tweeted out the news on Thursday at 10:28 am ET, so I have no idea who technically reported it first), versatile center Azurá Stevens will be joining the Los Angeles Sparks.
Stevens is coming off the healthiest campaign of her young career, appearing in a career-high 35 games while averaging 10.6 points (53.5% on twos, 36.2% on threes), 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest in a primary bench role.
The upside for Stevens is immeasurable. She's the rare big (listed at 6-foot-6) with true spacing and handling capabilities. Her intersection of size and skill makes her difficult to defend; the blend of length and mobility allows her to be a factor in multiple defensive coverages.
With the acquisition of Stevens, the Sparks have added to one of the most versatile frontcourts in The W. They re-signed superstar forward Nneka Ogwumike, with her sister Chiney Ogwumike expected to be back as well. We're not far removed from the Sparks trading for All-Star and former Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby.
With the Ogwumikes, Stevens and Hamby, the Sparks will be able to tinker with all types of frontcourt pairings. Stevens has plenty of experience in two-big lineups, with her shooting prowess opening up the floor for whoever she's paired with. Hamby has played 3-through-5, and the Ogwumikes have toggled between both frontcourt spots in their careers.
There's potential for some funky-but-effective three-big lineups here. Considering what the New York Liberty have done this offseason — and even what Aces experimented with last regular season — that could be a worthwhile investment.
It helps that the Sparks' new head coach, Curt Miller, has his own experience with three-big alignments. He had no issue playing his three star bigs — Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and Jonquel Jones — together last season with the Connecticut Sun. That unit was fruitful; per PBP Stats, they outscored opponents by 70 points (plus-13.6 net rating) in 263 minutes together.