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2020 WNBA Team Preview: Indiana Fever

The 2020 WNBA season is set to be the most unique in the league’s 24-year history. Teams have arrived at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL to begin training camp for a 22-game season with all games played at a single site without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bubble is set and the season is set to tip off on July 25. In the lead up to the season, will break down each team in the league, continuing with the Indiana Fever.

2019 Season Recap

  • 13-21, 4th in East, 9th in League
  • Did not qualify for playoffs

Off-Season Moves

  • Draft: No. 3 Lauren Cox; No. 14 Kathleen Doyle; No. 28 Kamiah Smalls, who has been waived
  • Trades: Acquired the 14th pick in the 2020 Draft and a third round pick in the 2021 Draft from Minnesota in exchange for Shenise Johnson and the 16th pick in the 2020 Draft
  • Players Added: Signed free agents Julie Allemand and Bernadett Határ; Victoria Vivians returns from missing 2019 due to injury
  • Players Lost: Betnijah Laney, Paris Kea and Erica McCall have been waived; Határ will miss the 2020 season due to injury
  • Returning Players: Tiffany Mitchell re-signed to a multi-year contract; Natalie Achonwa, Kennedy Burke, Candice Dupree, Stephanie Mavunga, Teaira McCowan, Kelsey Mitchell, Erica Wheeler and Vivians remain under contract

Who’s at IMG Academy

Between free agency, trades, the draft and players choosing not to participate in the season due to health concerns, the teams that take the court in 2020 may look a lot different than they did in 2019. Here’s a look at some of the key players that will represent the Fever in 2020.

Kelsey Mitchell

  • 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 25.1 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.3 3PG, 38.7 FG%, 37.4 3P%
  • Mitchell led the Fever in scoring and finished second in the WNBA in 3-pointers made (79) and 16th in 3-point accuracy in 2019 as she showed no signs of a sophomore slump. Mitchell shot 38.7% from three and 52.4% at the basket, but shot just 32.4 percent (45-139) on all shots in between. Improving her efficiency on those shots will help unleash her full offensive potential.

Teaira McCowan

  • 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 22.1 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 51.7 FG%, 68.7 FT%
  • McCowan started her career with a game-winning buzzer beater in her professional debut and finished her rookie season ranked second in the WNBA in rebounds and 10th in blocks, while averaging just 22 minutes per game.

Candice Dupree

  • 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 30.7 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 47.2 FG%
  • Father Time may be undefeated but Candice Dupree is sure putting up a strong fight. The 14-year veteran led the Fever and ranked 10th in the WNBA in minutes played in 2019. She enters her 15th WNBA season ranked fifth in career points (6,452), eighth in career rebounds (2,943), second on field goals made (2,652) and sixth in career minutes (14,029).

Tiffany Mitchell

  • 2019 Stats: 33 GP, 25.2 MPG, 9.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 38.1 FG%, 29.0 3P%
  • Mitchell split her time between coming off the bench (19 games) and starting (14 games) for the Fever in 2019 and thrived in both roles. The four-year vet has been consistent throughout her career, averaging just under 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes per game.

Victoria Vivians

  • 2018 Stats (DNP 2019, knee injury): 34 GP, 27.1 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.9 3PG, 40.4 FG%, 39.9 3P%
  • Vivians returns in 2020 after missing the 2019 season due to a torn ACL. She had a promising start to her career as she finished eighth in the WNBA in 3-pointers made (65) and 10th in 3-point accuracy (39.9%) as a rookie in 2018.

Erica Wheeler

  • 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 25.0 MPG, 10.1 PPG, 3.0RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 42.8 FG%, 38.4 3P%
  • Became the first undrafted player to win All-Star Game MVP. One of six players to average at least 10 points and 5 assists per game last season, while playing the fewest minutes of any member of the group by 4.5 minutes per game.

Lauren Cox

  • 2019 Stats (Baylor): 22 GP, 30.2 MPG, 12.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 46.3 FG%
  • The Fever added Cox with the third pick in the draft and got a versatile big that should help them on both ends of the floor. The pair of Cox and McCowan for the feature could look similar to the pairing of Cox and Kalani Brown during their days together at Baylor.

Three Questions

1. Can the Fever snap their playoff drought after three seasons?

Indiana owns the WNBA record for most consecutive playoff appearances with 12 straight from 2005 to 2016. Since Tamika Catchings hung up her sneakers, however, the Fever have been a lottery team in each of the past three seasons with a combined 28-74 (0.275) record.

The Fever showed some positive signs in the second half of the 2019 season. After Erica Wheeler took home MVP honors at the All-Star Game, the Fever went 7-6 in the final 13 games of the season to finish ninth in the standings. Can Indiana build on that momentum and get back to playing consistent .500 or better ball and start a new postseason streak?

2. How much will the Fever benefit from roster continuity?

The 2019 WNBA offseason was filled with player movement as many teams reshaped their rosters with some of the league’s marquee players changing teams. The Fever stayed relatively quiet with their offseason moves, and instead will have much of the 2019 roster intact when games tip off in Florida this weekend.

This is especially important for a Fever team that arrived in Bradenton five days later than every other WNBA team and had a shorter training camp to work with inside the bubble.

3. How much will a new voice on the sidelines impact the team?

After a three-year run at the helm as both head coach and general manager, Pokey Chatman was let go by the Fever at the end of last season. Catchings took over as GM and Marianne Stanley takes over on the bench. Stanley had served as an assistant with the Washington Mystics since 2010 and helped head coach Mike Thibault lead the Mystics to the 2019 WNBA championship. In 2002, as head coach of the Mystics, she was named WNBA Coach of the Year.

Stanley inherits a team that is loaded with young talent as eight of the Fever’s 12 players are either rookies (three), sophomores (three) or third-year players (two). In fact, Dupree is the only Fever player with more than five years of WNBA experience. As an assistant coach, Stanley has focused a lot of her time on player development and that experience should carry over well as she begins her first head coaching job in this league in nearly two decades.