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Sky Wed Apr 07 2010

Big Three-Way Trade, Upcoming Draft Kickoff WNBA Season for Chicago Sky

2009 wasn't a banner year for Chicago's professional sports teams, and that goes for the ladies as well. Last year was the Chicago Sky's best season yet, but the WNBA's second-youngest team still couldn't extend their average to .500. Now, as the Sky and the rest of the WNBA gear up for the league's fourteenth season, a host of free agents, trades, and a guard-heavy draft are poised to change things up. Today saw some big moves for the Sky, as a three-way trade with the New York Liberty and the Phoenix Mercury netted them two new star players.

WNBA All-Star forward Shameka Christon is the cornerstone of this trade from the Sky's perspective. Christon, who scored an average of 16.1 points per game last year (11.6 is her career average), is ranked #2 in the league for three-point field goals made. She also has an impressive .81 career field goal percentage. She's played with the Liberty for her entire professional career, since 2004. Her addition to the team boosts the Sky's WNBA All-Star count to three, along with center Sylvia Fowles and guard Jia Perkins.

Also heading to Chicago after a five-year run in New York is forward Cathrine Kraayveld. Kraayveld was a strong player for the Liberty in 2009, averaging 26 minutes, 9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. At 6'4", Kraayveld also adds even more height to Chicago's already-towering roster, which could help propel them a little closer to their first-ever WNBA championship.

Of course, you can't get something for nothing; in exchange for Christon and Kraayeveld, the Sky sent Candice Dupree to the 2009 WNBA Champions, Phoenix. Chicago also gave up their second-round pick in tomorrow's draft to the Liberty, adding the 16th slot to NY's 13 and 25 spots. Chicago still retains its 4th overall pick.

The biggest news of the trade comes in the Phoenix-NY arm of the deal; All-Star Cappie Pondexter will leave the Mercury to be the new guard for the Liberty, who hopes the superstar player will help the struggling team power back to their former glory.

Hot on the tail of Connecticut's win over Stanford in the NCAA Women's championship, the WNBA draft will begin tomorrow, April 8, at 2:00 p.m. CT. If you tune in to ESPN 2 to catch the live broadcast, look for Chicago's first-round pick to add size and post-scoring ability to the Sky lineup. ESPN's Rebecca Lobo has Kelsey Griffin, Nebraska's 6'2" forward, pegged as Chicago's best bet.

Elsewhere in the league, eyes are on UConn's Tina Charles, who was just named an All-American as well as the Associated Press women's player of the year. Charles helped UConn's women achieve two straight undefeated championship seasons. If Charles is picked first, she'll be staying in Connecticut; the Minnesota Lynx traded their number one spot to the Connecticut Sun earlier this year. The Lynx retain both the second and third picks, and might scoop up second-place Stanford's All-American, Jayne Appel.

All in all, it's a tough year for players to be in the draft, and a bountiful one for scouts and teams. After the collapse of Sacramento's Monarchs (which brought Courtney Paris to Chicago), the number of teams in the WNBA has been reduced to 11. But the WNBA has seen its share of relocations, folding franchises, shake-ups, and new team formations in its history. As NCAA Women's Division growing fan base starts to follow its favorite players into the pros, their viewership could help solidify a WNBA that has already outgrown its infancy. The addition of a star collegiate player like Griffin and reinforcements from New York might be the fuel that rockets the Sky into the hearts of sports-loving Chicagoans. A team that wins...wouldn't that be nice?

 
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