Indiana Fever guard Victoria Vivians will miss the entirety of the 2019 WNBA season while rehabbing from a knee injury, the team announced on Friday.
Vivians tore her ACL about a week ago while playing for Maccabi Bnot Ashdod in Israel.
This is, simply put, a major setback for both Vivians and the rebuilding Fever. The 6-foot-1 guard had a strong rookie campaign in 2018, shooting 39.9 percent from three-point range while ranking eighth in the WNBA in total three-pointers made. Her effective field goal percentage of 52.9 ranked third among rookies and led all guards.
Such shooting proficiency made Vivians and Kelsey Mitchell one of 2018’s most exciting rookie duos, and gave Fever fans something to look forward to as the team struggled through a six-win season. With Vivians now sidelined, head coach Pokey Chatman will ask more of Tiffany Mitchell, Shenise Johnson (who is expected back after missing all of 2018 with a knee injury of her own) and the newly-signed Betnijah Laney.
How this affects Chatman’s longer-term plans for the team, though, is probably more important. Most would agree that the Fever would be underdogs to make the 2019 postseason even if Vivians didn’t get injured, and that the development of their younger players is more critical than a playoff appearance (though, to be fair, we don’t yet know what their final roster for 2019 will look like).
With that in mind, will this drastically alter the Fever’s draft strategy? It could. Indiana isn’t exactly in a position to be nit-picky.
At the same time, though, for a team that is lacking height, it’s still hard not to see the Fever drafting one of the few 6-foot-7 centers that will be on the board. Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan and Baylor’s Kalani Brown would both make good sense fit-wise, given that the Fever currently have no players taller than 6-foot-4 on their roster and that they allowed opponents to shoot a league-high 64.5 percent at the rim last season. You can bet that will be an area of emphasis for Chatman when evaluating the team’s needs.
And if there’s a silver lining to Vivians’ injury, it’s that its timing should mean she’ll be ready to play again by the 2020 season. There’s little reason to believe that she’s not still a part of Indiana’s future plans.
Whatever Chatman and the Fever decide to do in the upcoming WNBA Draft, they’ll miss Vivians’ scoring ability this season, and her absence throws a wrench in their rebuilding plans. Asset-wise, the Fever are still in good shape for the future; it’s just going to be a while before we get to see them at full strength again.