These four ladies may have been called the "Commendable Expendables" last year, but I think they're necessary core players for another Fever championship caliber team. - Michael Hickey
The 2012 Indiana Fever, led by forward Tamika Catchings and guard Katie Douglas helped lead the team to a 22-12 regular season record, good enough for the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. From that time on, the Fever would go on a remarkable run, and despite injuries to Douglas and reserve guard Jeanette Pohlen along the way, they went on to win the 2012 Finals against the Minnesota Lynx, three games to one. For 2013, the Fever will try to win it all again. Can they do this without the perceived star power that some Western Conference teams have?
Here are some of the things that the team needs.
1. Re-sign Tamika Catchings
Catchings is an unrestricted free agent. While I highly doubt that she's going anywhere, she's still unrestricted, so the sooner she's re-signed, the better.
2. Match offers to/Re-sign members of the "Commendable Expendables"
Aside from Catchings, Douglas, and center Tammy Sutton Brown who started most of the Fever's regular season games, everyone else on the 2012 Fever team will be 28 or younger this season. So contrary to popular belief that this team is old, there is built in upside with the Fever with this younger group which features Briann January, Shavonte Zellous, Erin Phillips, Jeanette Pohlen, and Erlana Larkins.
Anthony Oliva of WNBA.com coined the younger supporting cast as the "Commendable Expendables" given that they were players that were okay players, but not perceived to be Top 20 players.... Well, like I said, many of these players are either entering their prime or aren't even there yet.
Erlana Larkins is a reserved player and the Fever definitely needs to sign her to a deal to shore up the frontcourt. Zellous and January, who is an All-WNBA Defensive Team recipient, are restricted free agents and certainly will be getting increased interest from other teams for their services since they were instrumental in the championship run. The Fever should also seriously consider matching any offer sheet that they do sign with another team in order to keep this team together.
At least so far, I haven't suggested that the team should be making major changes to the roster. However, considering that the younger cast still has upside left in them, there is a chance that perhaps one or two these players will develop into a new long term cornerstone of the team to succeed Catchings and Douglas when they inevitably decline and signing players from that cast who the organization thinks can be a potential successor need to be strongly considered for new deals.
3. Try to acquire an additional front court player and/or give Sasha Goodlett more minutes to show what she can do if she figures to be in the team's future plans.
Tammy Sutton Brown and Tamika Catchings (and even Katie Douglas for that matter) are entering their 12th season as pros so it is time to look for bench support for them. I also should mention that Sutton Brown is now an unrestricted free agent herself, and though she did start most of the Fever's games last year, she didn't average over 20 minutes a game, and with Erlana Larkins' recent play, perhaps they should use her spot to try to acquire another front court player, in particular because Jeanette Pohlen will likely miss some time this season due to her ACL injury during the Finals. I don't think they should cut Pohlen because of her injury.
In addition, Sasha Goodlett a rookie center on last year's team had limited time, and really wasn't a factor in the playoffs. Unless GM Krauskopf and Coach Dunn don't think she figures to be in the Fever's future, it certainly wouldn't hurt to let her play more meaningful minutes.
This need may also be addressed during the 2013 Draft, where the Fever currently holds the 9th pick. They listed Tianna Hawkins of Maryland, Kayla Alexander of Syracuse, and Carolyn Davis as possible targets with that 9th pick. I personally think that Hawkins will likely be picked before then, and likely before the 6th pick for sure. But Alexander and Davis may be available at that 9th spot. Nate wrote a piece last week on Davis and her prospects as a possible first rounder.
The Fever's roster is actually a rather young group and with potential to grow, after taking out its veteran trio of Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas, and Tammy Sutton Brown. Should the "Commendable Expendables" remain together this season and repeat a strong regular season and postseason performance, I think we're going to have to give this group of ladies a different name.
I hate to sound like I'm shooting the Fever down, but I don't think the Fever is the favorite to win the WNBA Finals this season, since opponents will have more time to prepare for this team and its style of play. However, I don't think many of us, aside from the Fever players and fans felt that the team would win it all last year, so I won't take them out completely of the championship discussion this year either.