Finishing the 2019 season with a 13-21 record, the Indiana Fever did not qualify for the WNBA Playoffs for a third straight season. Despite missing out on the postseason, the Fever posted their best regular-season record since 2016 and showed signs of progress along the way.
Considering this, let’s take a look back at the Fever’s 2019 season in review.
Leaders: Points (Mitchell, 13.6); Rebounds (McCowan, 9); Assists (Wheeler, 5); Steals (Laney, 1.4); Blocks (McCowan, 1.3)
Erica Wheeler Breaks Out
When looking back upon the entirety of the 2019 WNBA season, there may not be a better storyline than that of Erica Wheeler’s. Undrafted out of Rutgers in 2013, Wheeler played in multiple leagues for two years before getting her first shot in the WNBA. In 2015, Wheeler played for both the Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty. In 2016, Wheeler signed with the Indiana Fever and has seen a rise in production ever since. This past year, Wheeler finished with career-highs in GS (34), 3p% (38), RPG (3) and APG (5). Wheeler’s all-around impactful play earned her a spot in the All-Star Game for the first time. Wheeler capitalized on the moment, pouring in a game-high 25 point en route to becoming the first undrafted player to win All-Star Game MVP honors. It was a signature moment for Wheeler, who after years of hard work, finally had her breakthrough moment.
Emergence of Teaira McCowan
McCowan started her WNBA career with a buzzer beater in her first-ever game. From there, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 WNBA Draft proved exactly why she was touted as one of the top prospects coming out of college by steadily improving as the season went on. The 6-foot-7 center averaged nearly a double-double in her rookie campaign, posting 10.0 points and 9.0 rebounds (second-highest average in the league) per game. Towards the end of the season, McCowan went on an impressive stretch that included five consecutive double-doubles. On Aug. 25, McCowan finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds, just one rebound short of finishing with a 20/20 game. In just her rookie season, McCowan led the team in rebounds and blocks and looks to be a dominant force down low for years to come.
The Rise of Kelsey Mitchell
During her time at Ohio State, Kelsey Mitchell established herself as one of the most dominant scorers in NCAA history. Mitchell finished her college career ranked No. 2 among scoring leaders in the history of NCAA Division 1 women’s college basketball with 3,402 points. After being selected second overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Mitchell already looks like the Fever’s guard of the future. Her 2019 season saw improvement across a plethora of statistical categories, including FG% (38.7), 3P% (37.4), FT% (83.6) and PPG (13.6). With a backcourt of Mitchell and Wheeler, the Fever look set at the guard position.
Coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs, the Fever have a lot to be optimistic about moving forward. Outside of having their best record since 2016, the Fever have two recent draftees in McCowan and Mitchell that look to be focal points of the franchise moving forward. At the end of the 2019 season, the Fever announced that head coach and GM Pokey Chatman would be relieved of her duties. On November 26, the Fever announced former Washington Mystics assistant coach Marianne Stanley as the seventh head coach in the franchise’s 20-year WNBA history. Along with an abundance of young talent and the arrival of Stanley, the Fever received the No. 3 pick in the WNBA Draft Lottery 2020, giving them an opportunity to draft a top prospect.