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2024 WNBA Free Agency: Can the Indiana Fever sign a key free agent to elevate the team around Aliyah Boston?

While two-straight No. 1 picks have situated the Indiana Fever to build a promising, young team through the draft, one key veteran free agent addition likely is needed for the team to reach their playoff ambitions.

2024 WNBA Draft Lottery
The Indiana Fever have Aliyah Boston and the No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft. What else does Indy need?
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The most important offseason move for the Indiana Fever will occur April 15, when, for the second-straight year, they’ll select first in the 2024 WNBA Draft. Even more fortunately for the Fever, another potentially-generational player awaits. At this point, it’d be surprising if Iowa’s Caitlin Clark does not enter the draft. From there, it’d be shocking if the Fever do not select Clark.

Indiana’s leadership can enter the offseason fairly confident that Clark will join their returning core, giving them clarity about how best to round out the rest of the roster in hopes of accelerating a return to the playoffs.


Facts and figures*

Players under contract (contract status; 2024 salary)

  • Grace Berger (unprotected; $72,727)
  • Aliyah Boston (unprotected; $75,792)
  • Lexie Hull (unprotected; $77,669)
  • Kelsey Mitchell (protected veteran; $212,000)
  • NaLyssa Smith (unprotected; $80,943)
  • Victoria Vivians (protected veteran; $137,000)
  • Kristy Wallace (unprotected; $71,124)
  • Erica Wheeler (protected veteran; $202,154)

Free agent (type; 2023 salary)

  • Maya Caldwell (reserved; $68,000) [QO issued 1/11]
  • Temi Fagbenle (reserved; n/a) [Q/O issued 1/11]
  • Emma Cannon (unrestricted; $80,000)
  • Amanda Zahui B. (unrestricted; $74,305)

Total salary of free agents: $222,305

Total team salary: $992,941

Cap space: $470,259

2024 WNBA Draft picks (2024 salary)

  • Round 1, No. 1 ($76,535)
  • Round 2, No. 15 ($67,249)
  • Round 3, No. 27 ($64,154)

Analysis

Washington Mystics v Indiana Fever
Could we see EDD in Indy?
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

During September’s exit interviews, general manager Lin Dunn cited shooters and veterans with playoff experience as her team’s offseason priorities. Know who fits those priorities? A perennial 50-40-90 candidate and 2019 WNBA champion: Elena Delle Donne.

Although it was reported that Delle Donne is expected to depart the Washington Mystics, the Mystics cored her on Monday, Jan. 15. That means Delle Donne, an unrestricted free agent, cannot negotiate with others teams, while Washington is required to tender a one-year guaranteed supermax qualifying offer. After that, Delle Donne and the team can adjust the terms of the contract. And, as part of that process, she and the Mystics could find a suitable trade destination. In short, Delle Donne remains an option for Indiana. Considering these organizations completed a trade last July—exchanging Queen Egbo and Amanda Zahui B.—and that Indiana has young players that could appeal to Washington, a deal doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

Because of Delle Donne’s spotty health record since 2019, it would be a high-risk, high-reward investment for Indiana that would suck up about half of the team’s available cap space, assuming EDD would arrive with a supermax salary of $241,984. But, in addition to satisfying both of Indiana’s stated needs, she’s also a positional fit. Presumably, Indiana intends to start Clark and Kelsey Mitchell in the backcourt and NaLyssa Smith and Aliyah Boston in the frontcourt. Although Delle Donne has played the 4 more often in recent seasons, she can function as a 3, even if such a starting unit would put a lot on the plate of Boston defensively.

If Indy acquired Delle Donne on a supermax contract, enough cap room would remain to make additional upgrades. Whether or not Delle Donne comes to Indianapolis, Dunn should place a call to Rebecca Allen. Although not the A-plus offensive talent that Delle Donne is, Allen is an elite 3-point shooter who also is capable of putting the ball on the floor and creating inside the arc. Defensively, she’s (much) better than EDD, giving the Fever needed length and playmaking on the wing. Allen, who should have number of suitors, should receive a significant raise; she made $138,925 with the Connecticut Sun in 2023.

Other shooters the Fever could target are: Bridget Carleton, an unrestricted free agent who made $91,000 with the Minnesota Lynx last season, Robyn Parks, a reserved player who made $62,285 with the Chicago Sky last season, and Karlie Samuelson, an unrestricted free agent who made $62,675 with the Los Angeles Sparks last season.

However, if the Fever intend to keep all eight players under contract, as well as roster Maya Caldwell and Temi Fagbenle, both of whom were issued reserved qualifying offers by the team, there’s not much room for splashy free agent signings. Along with the No. 1 pick, two more rookies also could join Indiana’s roster. Furthermore, Emma Cannon has provided serviceable, versatile play when injuries have struck; retaining her on a veteran minimum deal seems like something that could interest both parties.

Those moves, in concert with the organization’s apparent commitment to the development of the Grace Berger, Lexie Hull and Victaria Saxton, in addition to their belief in Erica Wheeler’s value as a veteran leader, indicate that Indiana is not in the position to promise multiple sought-after free agents significant playing time; they might not even have the necessary roster spots. So, while the Fever should hope to make that one, big significant signing, it’d be surprising if there’s a lot of free agency action coming from Indiana.


*Thanks to Her Hoop Stats for all salary numbers.