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The Chicago Sky were the last team into the 2023 WNBA Playoffs, but not many polls have the 2021 champions making the cut this year. Chicago, however, is already playing above expectations as the regular season approaches. 

Last season, the Sky drew the Las Vegas Aces in the first round of the postseason. The Aces swept the three-game series with an average 25-point margin. In the offseason, the Sky named a new general manager and head coach for what appeared to be a franchise rebuild. 

However, when the Sky traded their lone star from the 2021 championship season, Kahleah Copper, to the Phoenix Mercury, many wondered if Chicago was on track for a complete demolition. 

Even with a stacked draft, would new general manager Jeff Pagliocca and head coach Teresa Weatherspoon be able to make a splash in what appears to be the "superteam" era of the WNBA?

"We had our targets, we took some big swings, when when we didn't land them, we pivoted quickly Plan B," Pagliocca told CBS Sports last month. 

Plan B meant trading Copper five months after signing the guard to an extension. 

"That was the beginning of us rebuilding the draft capital -- that's where we got our No. 3 [pick]," Pagliocca added. "Soon after that, we made a move to L.A., traded a couple reserve players for their No. 8 pick. So that kind of set us up at three, eight and 13."

With those picks, the Sky landed two-time NCAA champion center Kamilla Cardoso of South Carolina, 2022 NCAA champion Angel Reese of LSU and Gonzaga guard Brynna Maxwell. The Sky gained two potential superstars in Cardoso and Reese, and the LSU star in particular was complimentary of Chicago's vision for the future. 

"I had a coach in Coach Mulkey that understood me," Reese told CBS Sports on draft night. "Coach Mulkey coached T-Spoon.

"Having those conversations with [Weatherspoon], I knew I would love Chicago, and I wanted to go to Chicago as soon as I got off the phone with her. ... Chicago's a great city to play in, a great place to live in."

With the future presumably in tact, how will the Chicago Sky compete in the here and now? Despite the star power of Reese and Cardoso, there are limitations on paper. 

In their fist game against the Minnesota Lynx, the Sky fell 92-81 on the road. Guard Lindsay Allen led the Sky with 17 points off the bench, while starters Reese and Dana Evans tallied 13 points each in the loss. The Lynx held Chicago to a 43% shooting percentage and forced 22 Sky turnovers. 

"Minnesota came out and they were really, really aggressive," Weatherspoon said. "We must understand where we must be to run our offensive sets."

In addition to falling short of their potential offensively, the Sky left Minnesota banged up. Cardoso was only available for 13 minutes in her first WNBA game after suffering a shoulder injury. 

Chicago then announced Cardoso's injury would sideline her for 4-6 weeks. 

"It's truly an unfortunate situation because [Cardoso] was doing extremely well," Weatherspoon said Tuesday. "We've been told 4-6 weeks, but she's pretty tough. That's a tough young lady, so it could very well be before that." 

The Sky would also be without Taya Reimer (concussion protocol) and Maxwell (knee) for their second preseason game against the New York Liberty. Diamond DeShields, Brianna Turner and Isabelle Harrison were also listed on the injury report, but were able to compete Tuesday. 

The Sky were no worse for the wear against the Liberty. The team soared to a 101-53 win in their second and final preseason game. Chicago shot over 50% from the floor and scored roughly 30% of offense in transition. Despite a short bench, the Sky showed tenacity in their final tune-up before the season opener next Wednesday. 

The 48-point win is the best in franchise history and showed glimpses into the vision and execution of a new-look Chicago Sky team. After crawling into the 2023 WNBA playoffs with a 18-22 record last season, this retooled roster is looking to prove it can once again be a contender. 

"We were in tuned with details," Weatherspoon said Wednesday. "Offensively, we were executing. Do we want to get better? Absolutely. But this was a great start for us last night."

The Chicago frontcourt is secure with a nice balance of veterans like Elizabeth Williams and Harrison working alongside Cardoso,  when she's back from her injury, and Reese. However, there have been concerns about the backcourt having trouble spacing the floor. 

In two preseason games, though, the Sky seem to have a more balanced offense than they're getting credit for. 

"You can't play with a bunch of size, and that's it," Pagliocca told CBS Sports. "We have to make sure we felt really good at the guard positions. We want players that can play in the pick and roll when the time comes. We want players that can space the floor."

The Sky shot an average of 41% from 3-point range in the preseason, including a combined 7-11 from guards Marina Mabrey and Kysre Gondrezick. Evans went 2-4 from the arc en route to 19 points, bested only by Mabrey's 20 points. Evans and guard Chennedy Carter also did a great job blowing by Liberty defenders for good looks in the paint for themselves and their teammates. 

If anything, Pagliocca and Weatherspoon will have to decide what they value more: the shooting abilities of Mabrey and Gondrezick or the downhill engine of Carter and Evans. More than likely, the Sky will pick a combination of speed and shooting. 

Evans and Mabrey may have a slight upper hand since both played in the league last season. Carter and Gondrezick have faced a variety of bumps along their WNBA careers, but both are healthy and focused on making the most of their opportunities in Chicago. 

Gondrezick was initially drafted fourth overall by the Indiana Fever in 2021. She was waived by the Fever the following January and invited to Sky camp in 2022 before being waived by the Sky before the '22 season. 

Carter was selected fourth overall by the Atlanta Dream in 2020. The Dream suspended Carter midway through the following season for "conduct detrimental to the team." In February 2022, the Dream traded Carter to the Los Angeles Sparks, where she averaged less than nine points in 16 minutes per game. The Sparks waived Carter the following March. 

"There's experience in both of them. They both know what the WNBA is like. Incredible athletes," Weatherspoon told CBS Sports. "Those two on this team has been absolutely amazing for us, and we just want to continue with the greatness that they bring every night."