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WNBA Team Preview: Indiana Fever (#11)

The Indiana Fever missed the 2017 playoffs and will probably miss the postseason again this year. But they still have a lot to root for this season.

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Candice Dupree NBA/Getty Images

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

The Indiana Fever was one of the WNBA’s most consistent teams for over a decade, making 12 consecutive playoff appearances from 2005-2016. Along the way, Indiana won the WNBA Championship in 2012 and made the Finals in 2015. Once long-time franchise player Tamika Catchings retired after the 2016 season, however, the Fever went into rebuild mode.

The 2017 Fever could only muster a 9-25 record and was among the worst teams on both ends of the floor. However, the Fever still managed to keep many of its key contributors, including Candice Dupree, and the team also had two first-round draft picks in Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians.

Will that give Indiana fans a lot to cheer for this summer, even if the wins aren’t there right away?

What to expect

Familiar faces

The Fever re-signed many of its 2017 players for the 2018 WNBA season, starting with leading scorer Candice Dupree. Indiana also re-signed Shenise Johnson, Erica Wheeler, Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, Jennifer Hamson and Jennie Simms.

Notable newbies

The Fever’s most significant additions are its 2018 first-round picks, Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians. Mitchell, the second pick of the draft, and was one of the most potent scorers during her college years at Ohio State. Meanwhile, Vivians, the eighth pick, developed into a strong three-point shooter and rebounder at Mississippi State.

In February, Indiana acquired center Kayla Alexander from the Las Vegas Aces in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick. The Fever also drafted former Ohio State center Stephanie Mavunga, Pohlen-Mavunga’s sister-in-law, in the second round of the draft. Both Alexander and Mavunga should provide a boost to the Fever’s rebounding woes last season.

Indiana also added Hatay guard Hind Ben Abdelkader, who played one season for the California Golden Bears at the college level. Ben Abdelkader led Hatay to the EuroCup Women semifinals this past season. She scored an average of 16.2 points and over three made three-pointers per game. Furthermore, Ben Abdelkader shot 43 percent from the three-point line, so her presence will help Indiana stretch the floor.

Biggest obstacles

The Fever’s biggest obstacle is figuring out how Mitchell, Vivians and Dupree can develop chemistry and transform into Indiana’s “Big Three.” Last season, the Fever was second to last in offensive rating and last in defensive rating. Adding two players known for their offense should help the team on the offensive end.

Second, the Fever must improve its rebounding margins. Adding Mavunga and Alexander to bolster the post rotation helps. But Indiana will need more rebounding from everyone across the board this season.

Third, if Ben Abdelkader, a native of Belgium, makes the opening day roster and Indiana makes the playoffs, she may leave early if Belgium puts her on its national team roster for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup. (Mystics forward Emma Meesseman is also from Belgium and missed the 2017 season because head coach Philip Mestdagh did not want her in Washington for the WNBA playoffs.)

Although there is reason to be optimistic for Indiana’s long-term future, the Fever will probably not make the playoffs this season.

Game zone

Preseason home opener

Fever vs. Sky

Monday, May 7 at 12:30 p.m. ET

Bankers Life Fieldhouse — Tickets

National TV: none listed

Season home opener

Fever vs. Sky

Saturday, May 19 at 1 p.m. ET

Bankers Life Fieldhouse — Tickets

National TV: none listed