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2018 Season Preview: Five Reasons To Watch The Indiana Fever Work

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2017 Record: 9-25, did not qualify for Playoffs

Key Offseason Moves

  • Re-signed Candice Dupree, Shenise Johnson, Erica Wheeler, Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, Jennifer Hamson and Jennie Simms
  • Acquired Kayla Alexander from Las Vegas
  • Selected Kelsey Mitchell (No. 2), Victoria Vivians (No. 8) and Stephanie Mavunga (No. 14) in the 2018 WNBA Draft

2017 Season Highlights

Indiana Fever Top 5 Plays from 2017 Season

1. Wheeler at the Wheel

Since joining the Indiana Fever in 2016, Erica Wheeler has started 51 of 68 games, sometimes alongside point guard fixture Briann January and sometimes in place of her while January was injured. Wheeler will begin her third season in Indiana (and fourth in the WNBA) as the incumbent starter at the point guard position, taking over the reigns as the on-court floor general on a full-time basis. She is coming off a season that saw her average 11.8 points (2nd on team) and a team-best 4.1 assists (10th in WNBA). In addition to her on-court duties, Wheeler will serve as a mentor to rookie guard Kelsey Mitchell, who is likely to play behind and alongside Wheeler, just as Wheeler did with January the past two years.

2. The Mitchell & Mitchell Show

Rookie Kelsey Mitchell will also join third-year pro Tiffany Mitchell in the Fever backcourt. Tiffany Mitchell saw her promising sophomore WNBA season (10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg) cut short due to torn cartilage in her right knee. After offseason surgery, she is back to full strength and recently joined Kelsey Mitchell as part of the USA Basketball’s national team training camp. The Fever selected Kelsey Mitchell with the second overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft following her brilliant four-year run at Ohio State. Kelsey Mitchell finished her career as the second-leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history and the all-time leader in 3-pointers made. The arrival of Kelsey and the continued growth of Tiffany should boost a Fever offense that ranked second-to-last in scoring in 2017 (75.1 ppg).

3. Rookie Development and Veteran Mentorship

Kelsey Mitchell isn’t the only exciting rookie joining the Fever this season. In addition to the lottery pick, the Fever also held the Nos. 8 and 14 selections in April’s draft and used those picks to add guard/forward Victoria Vivians and forward Stephanie Mavunga to the roster. Vivians joins the Fever after leading Mississippi State to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA national championship game and gives Indiana a guard with both size and skill — a player that score on offense and lock down opponents on defense. Mavunga was Kelsey Mitchell’s teammate at Ohio State and brings good length (6-foot-3) and athleticism to the Fever frontline.

While Indiana does have an influx of young talent with the three rookies, they also made a point to have a veteran core for those players to learn from. That veteran group is headlined by six-time All-Star and WNBA champ Candice Dupree, who the Fever re-signed during the offseason. Dupree is the longest-tenured player on the roster with a dozen years experience, followed by Erlana Larkins (eight years) and the combination of Shenise Johnson (out until late in the season due to injury) and Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, who both re-signed this offseason following their sixth WNBA season. Dupree led the team in scoring, rebounding and minutes last season and may have to do so again this season, but she will also be called on to mentor her younger teammates and help them take some of the load off her shoulders.

4. When You’re Here, You’re Family

While Kelsey and Tiffany Mitchell share the same last name, they are not related. However, rookie Stephanie Mavunga is the sister-in-law of Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, bringing an added layer to their rookie-to-veteran relationship. In addition to the Mavunga connection, second-year forward Erica McCall is the sister-in-law of veteran forward Dupree. Both McCall and Dupree are versatile forwards of similar stature (6-2 in height), with Dupree providing an outstanding example for Indiana’s top pick in the 2017 draft (No. 17 overall) to follow.

5. The Start of a New Streak?

Last season, the Fever’s record streak of 12 straight playoff appearances came to an end as the team finished 11th in the league standings. As disappointing as it was to see that streak stopped, it did provide the Fever with a lottery pick for the first time since 2005. With three of the top 14 picks in the draft, the Fever have replenished their roster with young talent to complement the veteran players from previous seasons. Can this combination make the improvements necessary to lift the Fever out of the lottery and back into the playoff picture?

That question will be answered over the upcoming weeks and months as we see how quickly the rookies can transition to the pro game and how well they coalesce into a cohesive unit. Head coach Pokey Chatman has a challenge in front of her, but has led her teams to the playoffs in four of her first seven seasons in the WNBA, including a Finals appearance in 2014. Can the Fever up that mark to five playoff appearances in eight seasons and start a new streak of their own?