Courtney Vanderslott is trans all the time. Now she’s a clutch scorer, too.

To find a WNBA champion who successfully defended his title, you have to go back two decades 2001-02 Los Angeles Sparks. But Chicago Sky aims to change the history of the league this season — and they’ve found a new level as they pursue their first-ever franchise championship. Sky’s current win percentage of 0.750 is in full swing for Highest mark in the team’s regular season ever.

This is good before Chicago record .500 During last year’s regular season, he overturned the switch by scoring 8-2 in the playoffs. A big reason for the improvement revolves around the team’s ability to win on the sidelines in clutch situations.

Enter veteran point guard Courtney Vanderslot, exceptionally late in the game. While Vandersloot has missed the past four games concussionHeaven is anxious to get it back – and not just for her usual prowess in traffic. Odd enough for the franchise Help captain all the timeIt was Vanderslott Scoring In the stressful situations that helped raise the roof of Chicago in 2022.

Last year, Chicago became the first WNBA champion to finish the regular season with a win percentage of 0.500 or worse. In large part, this had to do with Team Sky only lagging behind the lottery-related Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever in the clutch point difference (-18, According to WNBA Advanced Statistics). They had trouble completing the deal, at least during the regular season.

this season? Chicago’s 12 victories in clutch time positions are nearly twice its total victories in 2021 (seven). Vandersloot, a four-times All-Star in the sky, deserves her share of the credit. I tripled it Output scoring time clutch This season compared to last year with her photography also improving by 30 percentage points. It was played in 61 of 81 minutes late in Chicago so far, which leaves Sky in a position to trust the most reliable playmaker when the moment matters the most. While that security blanket was hidden away when Vanderslot concussion She stopped her personal line From 88 consecutive appearances, she should soon be back as Chicago’s prime-time anchor.

Vandersloot has settled into the clutch this season

Clutch time stats for Courtney Vandersloot in the 2021 and 2022 WNBA seasons

category 2021 2022
Minutes 80 61
points* 14 42
field target ratio 17% 47%
Plus minus -15th +35

* Tied for fourth in 2022 (Skylar Diggins-Smith: 53 points; Brianna Stewart: 48 points; Sabrina Ionescu: 46 points).

Source: WNBA Advanced Stats

“I think a lot of her time in the WNBA has been overshadowed by other great players, but it shows you the level of talent we have,” Chicago Sky said in year four. Head coach James Wade said of Vanderslott: in June.

“She will probably go down as one of the guys we barely talked about.”

Although Vandersloot is known for being one of the best passers in league history, her late career development as a scorer has been fascinating to watch this season. to her Current average assists per match (6.2) put it on track for its lowest level in a single season since 2016 (4.7), although this reflects Chicago’s fortune from other passersby As much as anything else. She is currently tied with Sabrina Ionescu for second in the league in average passing after Finish first from each of the previous five seasonsOne shy of the longest streak in WNBA history.

Despite Vandersloot’s dip in dimes, their rate of use (20.4 percent, According to WNBA Advanced Statistics) is approaching the highest employment level (20.7 per cent in 2012). And that surge in scoring hasn’t come at the expense of efficiency: Vandersloot’s effective field goal percentage (51.9 percent) is on track to surpass its mark from last season.

This offensive growth by the Chicago floor team is an extension of the team’s collective strides on this side of the ball. Sky leads all teams this season with six players with a double-digit point average, a key element behind Chicago’s jump to the top Tie second place in offensive efficiency after, after Ranked 7th in 2021.

Chicago has trusted Vandersloot’s gaming industry ability to drive the pace ever since Its third formulation in general In 2011, but personnel choices under the leadership of Wade, who is also the general manager of Sky, cemented the core of the tournament around it. Three of the aforementioned Chicago scorers this season have previously won the MVP award at the Finals. (Kahleh Cooper, Candice Parker, Emma Messiman)which gives Vandersloot plenty of options when balancing recording or creating for others.

Last month against the Minnesota Links, Vanderslott had to hold her dribble after she sought an open teammate in the final seconds of a tie game. The ball was eventually handed to Meesseman, who immediately returned the favor after a double-team draw, leaving Vandersloot open for the match winner.

She capped her buzzer beat for six games in which Vandersloot averaged 17.0 points while having an effective field goal percentage of 67.6. As a result, Vandersloot was named Player of the Week for the seventh time in her career.

Less than two weeks after the Vandersloot tournaments in timeChicago was on the other end of a close end when Minnesota responded with a three-point win after Alley Quigley missed Possible game-related shot with the expiration of time.

So, no, the sky isn’t exactly bulletproof in times of crisis. It is also not without flaws in general. As evidenced by the 40-28 point deficit in the paint during that loss to Minnesota, teams feel comfortable attacking the defending champions for easy looks. In the season, Sky leads all WNBA teams in indoor scoring, but the Chicago defense ranks only 10th in these points allowed, providing a glimpse into one of the few weaknesses of a strong defending champion.

But championship pedigree certainly helps take tough lessons from losses in stride, especially when it comes to the bigger picture of recurrence. While only Sparks (2001-2002) and the extinct Houston comets (1997-2000) Won consecutive episodes in the WVandersloot is confident there is still plenty of room for Chicago to cement its name in league traditions.

“I want to win more championships in Chicago,” Vanderslott He said last month.

“I think everyone will say after their first meeting, they are looking for more. You are never satisfied and that is why we do it, is to keep getting trophies. I am lucky to have one, but we are always looking to get more.

Armed with their newly discovered crunch times closer again and Top 33 percent title odds According to FiveThirtyEight’s model, there’s a good chance Vandersloot will get her wish this season.

Check out the latest WNBA Predictions.