Who will give you the most value from Pokey Chatman’s team?
The Indiana Fever were definitely in rebuild mode last year. The addition of Kelsey Mitchell, a guard from Ohio State and the number two overall pick in the 2018 WNBA draft was supposed to spur them forward in the process towards a championship.
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Though Mitchell was very impressive, it was Natalie Achonwa who really took a leap. For DFS purposes, she was incredible, amassing many double doubles as well as 0.93 fantasy points per minute on one of the slower teams in the league.
In this year’s draft, to help the young core, Teaira McCowan, a center out of Mississippi State at the third slot in the draft. Though I believe this is a great real life pick, it does muddy the waters somewhat for the Fever, DFS-wise. Let’s take a look.
The Fever came in last in net rating in 2018. An abysmal 94 offensive rating coupled with an 105 defensive rating led to the least amount of wins in the WNBA. As well, the Fever came in the bottom three in terms of pace of play. Though Indiana gave up many points, they tended to slow the pace down, which is obviously not great for fantasy purposes.
I do feel that Kelsey Mitchell is best suited to a higher tempo system where she is able to get out in transition, so a pace bump may be in the cards this upcoming season. Of course, Indiana’s defense struggled, giving up a large percentage of points due to free throws, but also gave up easy buckets due to offensive rebounds by their opponents. Last year, playing bigs against Indiana was a great strategy, but this year, with McCowan coming in, the strategy may need to be revised.
The Fever return all five starters, but unfortunately Victoria Vivians has a torn ACL, and will miss the 2019 WNBA season. This really is a shame considering her three-point prowess (40% from deep) on a team that is desperate for better spacing.
Candice Dupree, Mitchell, Achonwa, and Tiffany Mitchell, along with Vivians made up the starting lineup at the end of last year. Obviously, there is at least one spot open with Vivians missing the season, but I expect positional battles for three slots — Kelsey Mitchell and Candice Dupree should be exceptions.
An interesting lineup note to keep an eye on will be if Achonwa and McCowan play together at all. Dupree and Mitchell hung around 0.8 fantasy points per minute (fpm), and while I expect similar from the veteran Dupree, Kelsey Mitchell should be in for improvement from an efficiency perspective, as well as a playmaking perspective. I would expect a 0.1 fpm improvement from her in 2019. Tiffany Mitchell was very good last year, but only produced at a 0.6 fpm rate. Erica Wheeler ended the year coming off the bench, but was very productive, at a 0.9 fpm, similar to Natalie Achonwa. Wheeler could be in position for bigger minutes with Vivians out, depending on how Pokey Chatman wants to select her rotations.
Because the starting lineup is anyone’s guess, it is difficult to consider the impact of the new players to the Fever. I really do not think it is possible to play McCowan – Achonwa – Dupree, as each works in similar space under the hoop, and none of the three shoots the three. At guard, Mitchell obviously provides great spacing and attacking, but the second guard slot could be interesting. Tiffany Mitchell made 23% of her threes, and Erica Wheeler was not much better, at 30%. An injection of three point shooting would really help this team, so hopefully one of their guards can make a jump in this area and replace Vivians’ shooting.
Clearly, the third overall pick, McCowan, should be an impact player right away. She averaged 18 and 14 at Mississippi State, along with 2.5 blocks per game. If she is able to get the minutes, I would expect over 1 fpm, which would be incredible for a rookie center. Like I said previously, it could be a tough road for her to get over 25 minutes, as Achonwa was very impressive last year. Also, if for some reason they play together, they may allow for defenders to sag off, and thus score less efficiently, and also the two together should see reduced individual rebound rates.
To conclude, the Indiana Fever will most likely not be a great team in real life. However, McCowan and Kelsey Mitchell will certainly be good DFS options throughout the year. Though there will be spacing issues, I believe that a lot of value will be found in figuring out the early season rotations that Chatman chooses.
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