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Three Up, Three Down: Natisha Hiedeman, Marina Mabrey thriving in larger roles

At the start of every fantasy basketball season, there are two things experienced fantasy basketball participants want to know: which players are going to have larger-than-expected roles and what the season-long outlook is for those players. We answer those questions pertaining to the first handful of games of the 2021 WNBA season.

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Indiana Fever v Connecticut Sun
Natisha Hiedeman has been a pleasant surprise for both the Connecticut Sun and fantasy basketball participants.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA is back, which is good news for fantasy basketball fans. Daily fantasy sports platforms FanDuel and DraftKings continue to support the WNBA in 2021, while Sports.WS offers a more casual season-long fantasy basketball experience.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve heard of or are playing WNBA fantasy basketball in some capacity. And if you’re looking for fantasy basketball advice, you’ve come to the right place.

Last season, we discussed which WNBA players were trendy fantasy basketball picks and which were losing fantasy value on a weekly basis. With fantasy basketball only growing in popularity, the analysis must continue. Which WNBA players are making the most of their early-season opportunities and which have been fantasy disappointments — and how are they going to perform moving forward?

We’ve got you covered. Welcome back to Swish Appeal’s “Three Up, Three Down” fantasy basketball round-up.

Three Up

Seattle Storm v Dallas Wings
Marina Mabrey has taken her strong play from 2020’s bubble season up another notch.
Photo by Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

Marina Mabrey (Dallas Wings)

On a team full of first- and second-year players fighting for minutes, Mabrey has quickly asserted herself as the Wings’ best backcourt partner for Arike Ogunbowale. Through three games, she’s averaging 19.3 points on 52.4 percent shooting, adding 6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game — numbers that not only blow her previous career-bests out of the water, but stack up against those of the WNBA’s top players as well.

Outlook: The torrid shooting will regress a little bit and Mabrey certainly isn’t going to be rebounding like that for the entire season, either, but it’s important to look at the Wings’ backcourt situation when assessing her fantasy value. Vickie Johnson has a lot of decisions to make and her rotation thus far has been inconsistent; Mabrey, however, is one of the few Wings who seems to have her spot secured. Keep playing her.

Natisha Hiedeman (Connecticut Sun)

Hiedeman has jumped into the Sun’s starting lineup with Briann January injured, though it appears Curt Miller had bigger plans for her in 2021 regardless. She’s scored in double-figures in three games this season and racked up multiple steals in two games. Miller has seemed more comfortable playing her as a scoring guard than simply Jasmine Thomas’ backup, like she was previously. This new role, of course, has raised Hiedeman’s fantasy value tremendously.

Outlook: There’s a lot to love about Hiedeman’s long-term fantasy outlook. She’s played fewer than 30 minutes only once (29 minutes in the Sun’s first game of the season) and has attempted at least five 3-pointers in each game. As Connecticut’s most reliable outside shooting guard, expect Hiedeman to continue getting enough burn to make a significant impact; even if her shot is off, she’s now playing more than enough minutes to contribute elsewhere.

Erica McCall (Washington Mystics)

McCall is playing a larger role with the Mystics than she has at any other point in her career, and it isn’t particularly close. Through four games, she’s playing 24.5 minutes, averaging 8.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. This, of course, has been in the absence of Elena Delle Donne and Myisha Hines-Allen, but McCall deserves credit for outplaying the other stop-gap forwards on Washington’s roster, and she’s made for solid fantasy value in the process.

Outlook: McCall has been a nice story early on, but with Hines-Allen now back in the lineup, it seems like a matter of time before her role is diminished. Perhaps Theresa Plaisance’s ineffectiveness will keep McCall in the Mystics’ rotation; just don’t expect many more near-double-doubles once Hines-Allen gets up to speed.

Three Down

Seattle Storm v Dallas Wings
Candice Dupree has yet to get going for the Seattle Storm.
Photo by Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

Candice Dupree (Seattle Storm)

Dupree wanted to go to a winner after languishing on the Indiana Fever for several seasons, and so far the Storm have held up their end of the deal. It’s fair to question Dupree’s fit on Seattle’s roster, though; she hasn’t displaced Breanna Stewart from her natural position of power forward, and her minutes at center have been less than impressive, with Dan Hughes often turning to either Mercedes Russell or Ezi Magbegor for a stronger rebounding presence.

Outlook: We figured Dupree wouldn’t be the star of the show in Seattle, but even as a complementary player, she’s been disappointing. She’s averaging just eight points per game on 42.9 percent shooting, and given how aggressive the Storm want to play on defense, we’re going to see situations in which she’s just not playable over Russell and Magbegor. Dupree’s shooting may come around, but her fantasy potential will remain limited.

Bella Alarie (Dallas Wings)

The Wings chose bigs (Charli Collier and Awak Kuier) with the first two picks of the 2021 WNBA Draft, which raised questions regarding Alarie’s future with the team. She’s just in her second season, but with veteran center Isabelle Harrison experiencing a resurgence and Kayla Thornton playing many of her minutes as a small-ball power forward, there hasn’t been much room for Alarie to make an impact. Through three games, she’s averaged just 7.3 minutes — not nearly enough for her to be a viable fantasy contributor.

Outlook: This is worrisome. Kuier (visa issues) and Satou Sabally (participating in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic qualifiers) haven’t even suited up for the Wings yet; once they make their season debuts, Alarie could lose her spot in the rotation completely. Dallas has a lot of things to figure out regarding who to play, but given the amount of youth on this team, it’s not like a sudden benching of Harrison and other vets would make much of a difference for Alarie anyway.

Monique Billings (Atlanta Dream)

Atlanta’s big offseason acquisition, Cheyenne Parker, has yet to play this season after testing positive for COVID-19, so the Dream’s remaining frontcourt players have gotten an opportunity to step up. The results have been underwhelming, with Billings in particular scoring (5.3 points) and rebounding (6.7 rebounds) less than she did last season. On the bright side of things, she’s loading up on the defensive stats, recording five steals and eight blocked shots in three games.

Outlook: Billings hasn’t been known as an offensive powerhouse in the WNBA, but she’s certainly better than a 25 percent shooter, and she’s proven herself to be one of the best rebounders in the league, so expect both of those figures to rise. Mike Petersen has gone to Billings at center fairly often, too; while this isn’t her natural position, there’s something to be said for her getting those minutes over more traditional centers in Elizabeth Williams and Kalani Brown. Much will depend on Parker’s return, but even then, she’ll be eased back into things, giving Billings plenty of opportunity to do her thing on the glass.