WNBA midseason check in: The Indiana Fever have playoff potential

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 06: Briann January
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 06: Briann January /

The Indiana Fever sit at 7-9 about two months into the WNBA regular season. They’re just half a game out of the 8 spot, and teams at the middle still have not made any major moves in separating themselves from the pack. Yet.

This is Pokey Chatman’s first season as head coach in Indiana. This is also Indiana’s first season without basketball legend Tamika Catchings for the first time since 2001.

This Fever team has already shown and cultivated some definite strengths. Coach Chatman’s squad will often run multiple pick and rolls in a possession with pace and precision. Credit Briann January first in that light as well. She’ll make a few masterful reads every game worth rewatching:

January will do a little bit of everything. She can shoot the three or pull up from the midrange. She’ll attack all the way to the rim or pitch it to the weak side just as the help begins to lean her way:

January gets to the line a good amount. She doesn’t turn it over. She is a strong defender at the point of attack. January is under 25 minutes per game thus far, but her first half of the season was rudely interrupted by an Achilles strain.

In January’s absence, Indiana’s other guards capitalized on the opportunity to get more run. Chatman began to experiment more with higher doses of dual-guard lineups. Marisa Coleman’s shooting slump and two missed games by Shenise Johnson played a part, too.

Third year guard Erica Wheeler made the most of her injection into the starting lineup for January right away with a strong four game stretch. Wheeler scored nearly 20 per game on 50+% shooting, also dishing out 21 assists in that span.

Both Wheeler and Tiffany Mitchell are double-digit scorers. This gives the Fever three quick guards that are a threat to turn the corner on a pick and roll:

Mitchell gets to the line a whole bunch, and Wheeler is fearless driving into the teeth of the defense. But teams can clog the lane and dare the Fever to make more threes. Johnson and Coleman are capable outside shooters.

Waiting on the shooting of Coleman and Johnson to perk up is not unreasonable. And as mentioned earlier, teams at the middle haven’t done a ton to separate themselves. Indiana has time, but a few other teams could go on a run and shrink that margin for error.

Indiana is 2-6 on the road. Both of those wins came at 4-12 Chicago. Five of those 6 road losses were by 18 points or more. The Fever have yet to bottle some of that home magic to take on the road. That alone may be the key factor in their final seeding.

A player to watch moving forward is Natalie Achonwa. She’s giving Indiana quality minutes off the bench. She shares the 40 minutes at center with Erlana Larkins. Achonwa may command more minutes down the stretch here in her third year. She’s flashed some nice footwork when she gets it on the block:

Larkins is a solid screener, capable finisher on rolls and strong enough to secure position inside. Candice Dupree has put together an All-Star worthy campaign. Her post game is a go-to against the switches that their offense can force. Her midrange spot up shooting has been absolutely vital in end-of-clock situations.

Pokey Chatman is exploring her options with different combinations and lineups. At the midway point of the season, playoff spots are very much up for grabs. With the All-Star game around the corner, who do you like to lock up the final playoff spots? Does Indy make the cut?