Sky coach/general manager James Wade took the first big step toward solidifying his roster for 2022 after submitting the core nomination for WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper on Wednesday night, the team confirmed to the Sun-Times.
This core designation means that the Sky controls Copper’s rights for the upcoming season, but can still sign and trade her. This scenario is highly unlikely as Copper has said she wants to return to Chicago and Wade said the first All-Star is synonymous with the Sky.
The main qualifying offer is a one-year Supermax deal totaling $228,094, but both parties could begin negotiating on various terms on January 15.
Copper was part of the trade deal that sent Elena Delle Donne to the Washington Mystics in 2017. The Sky also acquired All-Star center and Olympic gold medalist Stefanie Dolson in trade.
In her first three seasons with the Sky, Copper started 12 games, averaging nearly 7 points per game. By 2020, she earned a starting role and exploded into Wade’s system averaging 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 31 minutes played.
Ahead of the 2021 season, she spoke to Wade about a list of goals she had. At the top was winning a WNBA championship and becoming an All-Star.
Copper led the Sky by scoring all season and driving an improvement in the playoffs, averaging 17.7 points en route to the Sky’s first title. After she achieves her goals, Copper has a new list that motivates her, which includes getting all the defensive team honors and, of course, helping the Sky achieve consecutive titles.
Wade expanded qualifying offers to both of his limited free agents, Diamond DeShields and Lexie Brown, on January 1. With the core designation out of the way, January 15th and its unlimited free agents are left to focus on.
Top priority is to bring back his starting five, which include Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. The Sky’s remaining starters, Candace Parker and Azurá Stevens, have a contract until 2022.