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WNBA 2019 Team Preview: The Indiana Fever (#12) features good, young players, but remains a team under construction

The Fever also will be without Victoria Vivians this season. Given all that, how long before the team’s talent and potential come to fruition? And how should Indiana be judged in the 2019 WNBA season?

Basketball - Olympics: Day 11
Natalie Achonwa, seen here with Team Canada, will have to step up as a force on offense if the Fever are to improve this season.
Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Indiana Fever finished at the bottom of the league in 2018. With the retirement of Cappie Pondexter, the Fever go into training camp with only three players who have six or more years of WNBA playing experience. And without burgeoning star Victoria Vivians, who will miss the season due to a torn ACL, the Fever have questions to answer about its starting lineup. With such a young group, getting them to play as a unit and show growth over the course of the season has to be the focus for 2019.

Season outlook: The Indiana Fever in 2019

Familiar faces

Candice Dupree, the most experienced player on the team, is back for another season. Her leadership will be instrumental in the success of the Fever. Natalie Achonwa was a full-time starter for the first time in 2018. She will need to significantly improve her offensive productivity if the Fever is to be successful.

Shenise Johnson could find a starting role with the team with Vivians out. Johnson went down halfway through the 2017 season and missed all of the 2018 season after suffering a torn ACL. She was averaging a career-high 11.3 points per game before her injury. Erica Wheeler started 22 games for the Fever last year but suffered a drop in scoring production and overall shooting from her 2017 campaign.

Kelsey Mitchell shot 33 percent from beyond the arc and started 17 games in her rookie 2018 season. She has the makings of an All-Star, so hopefully she can show more consistency this season.

Tiffany Mitchell is entering her fourth season and has shown steady development to this point. In 2018, she saw a slight uptick in her shooting percentages and started a career-high 20 games. The jury is still out on whether Mitchell will be a role player or if she can develop into a significant starter on a winning team.

Notable newbies

Newly-drafted center Teaira McCowan should provide some much needed help on the defensive end right way. She is a proven rim protector; McCowan registered 114 blocks in her college career. The Fever, meanwhile, blocked fewer than three shots per game last year. In her two years as a full-time starter at Mississippi State, McCowan averaged over 18 points and 13 rebounds per game. She brings to Indiana a WNBA-ready game and is expected to make an immediate impact.

Paris Kea and Caliya Robinson, the two third-round picks for the Fever, should provide additional bench depth.

Kea, out of North Carolina, has a solid shot and brings good defensive skills in the backcourt. Kea shot 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep and averaged just over two steals in her career as a Tar Heel. With seven guards on the training camp roster, Kea has her work cut out for her if she wants to impress. Kea has all the tools to be successful in the WNBA and she will get the opportunity to show her stuff.

Robinson is a solid forward who can score from the post or by way of the three-point shot. Her versatility and reputation as a reliable player have the potential to make her a special player for the Fever going forward.

Biggest obstacles

Here are the biggest challenges the Indiana Fever will face this season:

  1. Youth. The Indiana Fever are very inexperienced and simply have not learned how to put it all together quite yet. The 2019 season should be judged on whether they get past six wins, their 2018 total. A .500 season would be a resounding success.
  2. Overall team development. When you finish last there is bound to be a need for improvement in all facets of the game. The Fever was the lowest scoring team in the WNBA last season. With the addition of McCowan and the continued development of Achonwa, the post play should help to space out the floor for the three-point shooting guards of the Fever. The Fever finished last in defensive field goal percentage and second in points allowed.

Game zone

Preseason opener

Indiana Fever vs. Chicago Sky

When: Saturday, May 14, at 12:00 p.m. ET

Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL

How to watch: To be determined

Notes: The Chicago Sky feature an outstanding backcourt and will put the pressure on the Fever’s entire defense.

Season home opener

Indiana Fever vs. New York Liberty

When: Friday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Westchester County Center, White Plains, NY

How to watch: WNBA League Pass

Notes: These teams finished at the bottom of the pack in 2018, so this matchup will be a chance to see which team improved over the offseason. Teaira McCowan faces off against Tina Charles, which is a great matchup featuring an up-and-comer battling an established All-Star.

Marquee matchup

Indiana Fever vs. Las Vegas

When: Saturday, June 29, at 10:00 p.m. ET

Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, NV

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

Notes: This is an intriguing matchup because of the potential that exists with both of these teams. The Aces nearly made the playoffs last season and the Fever won half its their games in the tail end of the season. It will be fun to watch how each team has developed early into the season.