CHICAGO — It’s a much different feeling around the team than it was a year ago – and all you have to do is look at the roster.

Most of the players from the 2022 team and the one that captured the 2021 WNBA championship are no longer with the Chicago Sky.

Now with a few returners, including one of the emerging stars in the league, along with a host of new players, the new-look group moves forward with a 2023 season that features a lot of unknowns.

Head coach James Wade, who built the team in his role as general manager, will try to defy expectations and return the Sky to the WNBA playoffs for the fifth year in a row.

That road starts tonight as they open the regular season against the Minnesota Lynx at the Target Center in Minneapolis at 7 p.m.

Here are a few storylines around the team as they open up their 40-game schedule.

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

A host of roster changes & goodbyes

A look at the Sky’s opening night roster shows the enormity of changes they’ve made since the team’s elimination from the WNBA Playoffs last fall.

Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, and Azura Stevens, who were part of the 2021 championship team core, are gone. Emma Meesseman, who was a 2022 WNBA All-Star, is also no longer on the roster.

In fact, only four players from last year’s team remain on the roster, when the Sky had a franchise-best 26-10 record and advanced to the WNBA Semifinals, where they lost to the Sun in five games.

Ruthie Hebert, who is entering her fourth year with the Sky, is currently on maternity leave.

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Kahleah Copper’s time to lead

One of the emerging faces of the WNBA will now get the chance to step in and lead this new-look Sky team for the 2023 season.

Kahleah Copper, a two-time All-Star and 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, is the best player on the squad as she continues to emerge as one of the stars of women’s basketball. The guard averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 31 regular season games in 2022 then had 16.8 points a contest in the playoffs.

“As a leader of this team, I’m just giving grace,” said Copper of her expanded role in 2023. “Everything is so new and it’s a lot of information at the same time. My thing is I want to get better one percent every day. We’re not making the same mistakes as yesterday and we’re making the day.

“I think we’re going to be a better team in June than we are now and we’re gonna be a better team in July than we are in June.”

Marina Mabrey shoots during a minicamp for the U.S women’s national basketball team, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

A few new faces for a new era of Sky basketball

As one might imagine, the Sky are featuring a number of new players on their roster who will take on prominent roles with the team.

Marina Mabrey, who was acquired in a trade with the Wings in the offseason, is one of the biggest additions as she’ll take the other guard spot next to Copper in the lineup.

The former Notre Dame star started 32 of 34 games in her fourth WNBA season, registering career-highs in points (13.6) and assists (3.7) per game.

Courtney Williams brings seven years of WNBA experience to the backcourt, coming to Chicago after spending the 2022 season with the Sun. She had 11.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per contest last season and will bolster the roster with her experience.

Elizabeth Williams arrives with eight years of experience and some size to the team for 2023 a year after playing 30 games as a reserve for the Mystics. She started 54 games for the Dream in 2020 and 2021.

Guard Sika Koné was just awarded off waivers to the team and will be on the roster on opening night against the Lynx.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A chance to shine

With a number of player departures, two returning members of the team will have the chance to see their spotlight get brighter as they continue in their early WNBA years.

Rebekah Gardner, who made the WNBA’s All-Rookie team and was one of the stories of the year for the Sky, will get extended minutes as she takes on a more prominent role in her second season.

Guard and Gary native Dana Evans also figures to see a spike in her time on the floor after seeing the floor for just 13 regular season games in her first two seasons.