Tuesday’s trade of franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to Phoenix came as a shock to many Chicago Sky fans. Just four months earlier, Copper was sitting next to new head coach Teresa Weatherspoon at her introductory press conference at Wintrust Arena. Weatherspoon cited Copper as one of the reasons she took the job and praised their immediate connection and matching energy.
So less than a week into free agency, how is Copper now a member of the Mercury?
“We had two plans in place,” said first-year Sky general manager Jeff Pagliocca in his first sit-down interview since the trade. “We had Plan A which was let’s attack and take some big swings at some veteran free agents where we could compete immediately and contend and that was always the plan to build around Kahleah with some vets.
“When we were not successful there, we moved immediately to Plan B, which we had to make a difficult decision to move the franchise player of Kahleah Copper. But we had these plans in place from the get-go, it wasn’t a last-minute decision. It was a tough one, but we were able to do what was necessary. We were able to get younger, bring in some great new players we were targeting and also rebuild our draft capital.”
Pagliocca said there was a ton of transparency with Weatherspoon and Copper through the process. The team was reportedly in the running for All-Star free agents Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike, but when they chose different destinations, Pagliocca moved swiftly to the backup plan.
He sent Copper to Phoenix along with Morgan Bertsch for Michaela Onyenwere, Brianna Turner, the No. 3 pick in the 2024 WNBA drat, two 2025 second-round picks and a 2026 first round selection. It helped restock the Sky’s draft capital after former head coach and GM James Wade traded away the team’s 1st round picks in 2023, 2024 and the rights to swap 1st round picks in 2025 with Dallas.
“The message to the fans is that we wanted to get younger, wanted to move forward and rebuild our draft capital because these drafts, ’24-’26, are maybe the strongest ever,” Pagliocca said. “So now we’ve rebuilt our draft capital, we have 1st round picks moving forward in the next three drafts, we have multiple 2nd round picks, multiple 1st round picks in 2026, and the core is strong as it is.”
Pagliocca doesn’t call this a “rebuild” instead using an old Chicago Bulls term “re-tool.” So, are the playoffs still a realistically possibility in 2024?
“Yes,” Pagliocca said. “We are still gunning for all of those goals. Nothing has changed at all for our direction. We feel extremely confident, look at our roster. We have real players, real depth, and we have great players coming in and draft capital now. We are excited and we want everyone to be as excited as we are.”