What does it take for Sky to keep Vandersloot in the picture?

There will be two major dominoes falling in the WNBA free agency this year, creating a ripple effect in the league. They are Brenna Stewart and Candace Parker.

Over the next week, speculation about what all the key players in free agency — including Courtney Vandersloot — will decide is rampant. But what WNBA champion, four-time All-Star and No. 3 player in league history chooses for his career will depend largely on whether Stewart stays with the Storm and Parker returns to the skies.

Stewart reportedly held a meeting with Liberty’s front office staff, along with coach Sandy Brundello and owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, as an unrestricted free agent in 2022. But it came on the heels of a storm making Jewell Lloyd a starter and Sue Bird said she She’ll be back for another season, so the possibility of Stewart leaving to play in her home state of New York wasn’t that high last year.

But 2023 is a completely different story. Liberty has just $382,915 in salary cap space, more than just the Aces ($138,804) and Wings ($363,396), according to HerHoopStats.com. So it will take some movement at the end of Liberty to make room for Stewart and they can still fill out the rest of their roster. The Storm, on the other hand, have the most cash in the league ($1,025,564) and only have two players under contract in Loyd and Mercedes Russell.

She helped Stewart bring two championships to the Storm (2018 and 2020), but what awaits her with Liberty is a chance to build a new dynasty. One lesson to be learned from Parker’s decision to leave the Sparks for the Sky in 2021 is that there is a lot of glory associated with winning a championship at home. Even though Stewart grew up in North Syracuse, four hours from the city, that can’t be overstated.

As far as Parker is concerned, there appears to be only two potential relegation spots, and they are the two teams she has played for in her career. For many, Los Angeles is a closed chapter for Parker, no matter what new system the Sparks have hired to lead the franchise into the future. But with nearly a million dollars to spend in free agency, the Sparks’ ability to build a winning team that might tempt Parker shouldn’t be overlooked.

“We’re just as interested as any party in what Candace might decide she wants to do,” said Karen Bryant, Sparks’ general manager. “When the time is right, we look forward to taking an interest and participating in the talks if the opportunity arises.”

If we were in on the assumptions and Stewart signed with Liberty, that immediately puts them in contention for the title. Depending on the contract, this could be the case for years to come. Another team with title aspirations in 2023, based on their roster, is the defending champion Aces.

The point is, if Stewart leaves the Storm, Vandersloot will need to sign a team that has a roster capable of beating those two franchises in a series. If Parker re-signs with Sky, they are on the verge of getting a roster that could make them more attractive to Vandersloot.

But Vandersloot would be a coveted commodity in the free agency behind Storm and Sky. Last year, she met up with Lynx as well as Storm and Sky.

What Sky ownership should be considering is how to invest in the franchise in a way that makes Chicago a prime destination for free agency.

Parker signed with Sky in 2021, of course, but that had more to do with Vandersloot, Ally Quigley and the rest of the roster than it did with the franchise being among the best in terms of player experience.

Team Sky has been billed as a Chicago team, but they practice about an hour away at Deerfield. And while principal owner Michael Alter said the franchise is interested in investing in a training facility someday, other teams are now doing so. Parker told the Sun-Times last summer that the only thing that would raise the sky more is if they were based exclusively in Chicago.

Coach and General Manager James Wade’s priority is to ensure that the organization has the right coaches and staff to continue developing a culture that appeals to the players. He told the Sun Times that Sky will appoint a second player development coach this season to work with Jeff Pagliuca, who was brought in by the team last year. Wade’s coaching staff of Tonya Edwards, Emre Fatansifer and Anne Waters will remain the same.

There are a few WNBA greats who have won multiple championships in one jersey. Vandersloot has the ability to do that, too. But gone are the days when she was so blindly loyal to the privilege that forged her.

Wade has dominated free agency the past two years, signing Parker and winning a championship in 2021, then following it up with a free agency class that earned him Executive of the Year in 2022. And as far as track records go, he should offer fans some relief.

But if the heavens aren’t careful, they’ll lose Vandersloot and be in a position to play catch-up with the rest of the league — on and off the field.

Note:The WNBA period for eligible shows is January 11-20. On January 21, free agents can begin negotiations. The Sun-Times’ free agency tracking webpage listing all 12 WNBA teams’ free agents will go live on January 11.

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