Elena Delle Donne is headed to Washington in one of the biggest trades in the WNBA’s history.
The 2015 MVP is joining the Mystics after being traded from the Chicago Sky on Thursday for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.
The move gets her closer to her Delaware home.
“I’m really excited about this next chapter in my career with the Mystics,” Delle Donne said. “Coach (Mike) Thibault, (majority owner, chairman and CEO) Mr. (Ted) Leonsis and (vice chairman, president and managing partner) Ms. (Sheila) Johnson have built a strong team that is ready to make a significant impact in the league and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I’m sad to be leaving Chicago, a place that was a fantastic city for sports and truly felt like home.”
Family has always been big with Delle Donne. She left UConn after two days because she wanted to be closer to home and her family, including her sister, Lizzie — who is blind, deaf, and has cerebral palsy — and enrolled at Delaware, where she went on to have an incredible collegiate career. Now she can get home from Washington in less than 2 hours.
Delle Donne averaged 21.5 points and seven rebounds a game last season for the Sky, helping them reach the playoffs. She missed the postseason after thumb surgery. The 6-foot-5 forward continues to deal with the lingering effects of Lyme disease, which she has battled since 2008. It forced her to leave China less than 48 hours after she arrived there earlier this month to play in the country’s professional basketball league.
Delle Donne is the second big-name player to leave Chicago in the past two seasons via trade. Sylvia Fowles sat out the first part of the 2015 season until she was traded to Minnesota.
The move gives coach Mike Thibault a star player to build the franchise around. The Mystics were 13-21 last season after reaching the playoff the three previous years.
“Clearly, this is one of the biggest moves in the history of this organization,” Thibault said. “In only four years, Elena has established herself as one of the premier players in the world, as evidenced by her MVP season two years ago. Her impact on and off the court will be invaluable. Her pure basketball talents as a scorer, passer, rebounder and shot-blocker will raise the level of effectiveness of all her teammates, and those talented teammates will take a lot of the day- to-day pressure off of her as well.”
Washington shipped Kia Vaughn and Bria Hartley to New York in a three-way trade on Monday, clearing room under the salary cap. Delle Donne will team with young star Emma Meesseman and Tayler Hill, who went fourth in the 2013 draft after Brittney Griner, Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins.
Chicago loses its star, who was embraced by the Windy City. Delle Donne even named her dog Wrigley after the home of the Chicago Cubs. Still, the Sky have a strong roster, with talented veterans Cappie Pondexter, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, along with Dolson, Copper and second-year player Imani Boyette.
“It is the difficult part of professional sports that when you make a trade such as this, you are forced to trade away excellent players in order to get it done. Good trades are not designed to be one-sided,” Thibault said. “They should benefit both teams, and in this case, Chicago is getting two very talented young players. I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching Stef and Kahleah. Stef has been a major part of our team for three years and it was very difficult giving her up and then having to explain it to her. She and I have had a terrific relationship on and off the court. It truly is like losing a part of your family.”