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Thursday, August 11

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Sky Thu Jun 06 2013

Sky Rockets To Best Start In Franchise History

Thumbnail image for chicago sky logo.gifAfter having their way with the Phoenix Mercury in front of a nationally televised audience on Memorial Day (it was highest rated WNBA game on ESPN 2 in nine years), the Sky have continued to steamroll their foes and are off to their best start in franchise history at 3-0. The hoops community outside Chicago is starting to take notice, too. Maxwell Ogden of Bleacher Report even shared a tweet by yours truly when breaking down the Sky's 22-point win in Phoenix to start the season. There's a lot to get excited about with a team who's average margin of victory is 18 points, especially since it's against the likes of Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins and last year's WNBA MVP Tina Charles. Chicago's own trio of stars are getting it done, and they're just getting started (all three made the WNBA's top 10 MVP power rankings this week).

Elena Delle Donne looks unafraid and borderline dominant. You have to guard her at the three-point line (6-for-8 from deep), and she's basically a mismatch in either size or speed when the defense tries to go at her one-on-one. She loves drawing contact and getting to the line (9-for-9 from the charity stripe). But most impressive of all, she spreads the floor for her more than capable teammates. She creates offense for herself with ease, and in doing so, she's opening space for Sylvia Fowles down low, or Epiphanny Prince up top to score. To nitpick, she settles on jumpers too frequently, but she'll figure that out if the Sky ever play a tight game in the fourth quarter... if.

And while everyone has fallen for Delle Donne, there's plenty of place to share the love after the first week of play within the Sky's big three.

Fowles took it to Connecticut's Charles by posting a bloated 24-point and 22-rebound game. Everyone knows the former defensive player of the year and two-time gold medalist is good, but nobody expected her to play this inspired, this early in the season. She finally doesn't have to be the focal point of the offense, which now allows her to roam the blocks. On offense she can rip down rebounds and lay in uncontested put-backs. She will now have even more energy on defense compared to previous years, and that should be pretty scary to any team the Sky play.

Epiphanny Prince is going back (to play for) the U.S.S.R. Prince, and her averages of 20 points and two steals (which leads the team in each category), is contractually obligated to play for mother Russia in the EuroBasket tournament.

Prince moves with the ball better than anyone on the team and it's not even close. Her crossover is crazy quick and even when she picks up her dribble, she'll duck and dive through double-teams and will get a good-look leaner towards the rim. Tamera Young and her sweet pull-up mid-range jumper will most likely see a big boost in minutes with Prince's departure. Young and Prince have looked really good sharing the backcourt together, with Prince creating for Young when she draws the opponents' help defense. Young averages half the points and steals that Prince provides (10 and one), but what's a little unsettling is that she hasn't even attempted a three this season and Prince knocks down at least three a game. The drop off won't be too dramatic as far as production, but there will be a dip in the style points department. Prince is fun to watch, and all any of us can hope is that she stays healthy overseas.

As a team, the Sky are lighting up the sky from deep, and are there to get the rebound just in case the ball doesn't find the bottom of the net. They're shooting 45 percent from three and leading the league in rebound differential at plus 17.

As great as they're playing, there's always room for improvement. The turnovers are a concern. They give up the ball over three times more per game than their opponent does. Said opponents throw a block party at the Sky's expense, getting shots denied five times a game, which is third in the WNBA. The cause from trepidation can also be linked to last year's squad, who started the year 7-1 and finished 14-20. Obviously this was before we all could genuflect to scoring-deity Delle Donne, and Fowles and Prince both missed a significant number of games due to injury. So barring any 2012-13 Chicago Bulls-esque injury reports, the Sky will be safe when they tread water briefly due to Prince's absence. This gives them a month to work on their defensive intensity while they keep scoring a lot of points, and that's just what'll do: score.

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