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Three Up, Three Down: Cheyenne Parker returning to form for Atlanta Dream

A positive COVID-19 test forced Cheyenne Parker to miss the start of the 2021 WNBA season, but she’s since rejoined the Atlanta Dream and has steadily been getting her legs back. Expect Parker to be one of the more valuable fantasy basketball forwards for the remainder of the season.

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Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream
Cheyenne Parker is beginning to show why the Dream invested in her this past offseason.
Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

If you drafted Cheyenne Parker in your Sports.WS fantasy league or have been itching to play her in FanDuel or DraftKings, congratulations — things are finally looking up.

Parker, whose first season with the Atlanta Dream got off to a rough start due to a positive COVID-19 test, was cleared to play in early June. Understandably, the Dream have been easing her back into things, limiting her minutes on the court.

She’s starting to pick it up, though. Parker has scored a total of 28 points in her past two games, playing over 20 minutes in each, while knocking down 50 percent of both her 2-point and 3-point shots. It’s a welcome sight for the Dream, who gave Parker a hefty 3-year contract this past offseason; we can safely assume that her role in Atlanta will continue to grow as she gets her conditioning back and learns the Dream’s system.

Parker isn’t the only big we have our eye on in this week’s installment of “Three Up, Three Down.” Players from the Phoenix Mercury and New York Liberty also make an appearance. Meanwhile, if anyone can figure out what’s going on with the Dallas Wings, let us know, please!

Three Up

Dallas Wings v Phoenix Mercury
As expected, Brianna Turner has been an excellent source of rebounds and defensive stats for most of the season.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Brianna Turner (Phoenix Mercury)

It was fair to wonder if Turner could repeat her second-half performance from 2020 with Brittney Griner back in the fold, and while her statistics haven’t been quite as gaudy this season, they’ve far from evaporated. Turner is currently averaging 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots per game, and while she’s not going to be a high-volume scorer, her 7.1 points per game are coming on an efficient 58.6 percent field goal percentage.

Outlook: Turner didn’t block a shot in either of her last two games, but that’s not a trend to be even remotely concerned about. She’s become one of the WNBA’s best defensive playmakers, and her ability to roam on the defensive end of the floor and rebound outside of her area has earned her a massive leash from Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello. Keep reaping the rewards for playing Turner in your fantasy lineups.

Cheyenne Parker (Atlanta Dream)

Parker finally seems to be getting her legs back, and she’s now in the Dream’s starting lineup. That’s obviously great news for her fantasy value, and she’s going to give Atlanta lots of offensive flexibility with her ability to score both inside and out. Even better: she’ll be playing alongside plenty of playmaking guards, so don’t be surprised if Parker goes on a tear once her conditioning is back to par.

Outlook: The Dream will probably be careful with Parker’s minutes for a few more games, but she looks healthy enough when she’s out there. Things will get even better for the forward when Chennedy Carter returns from an injured elbow — the duo will form one of the WNBA’s best pick-and-roll tandems.

Reshanda Gray (New York Liberty)

New York is currently thin in the frontcourt, with Natasha Howard still out due to an MCL injury and Kiah Stokes playing for Turkey in FIBA’s EuroBasket competition. Gray was signed as a replacement and came off the bench in the Liberty’s recent victory over Phoenix, contributing eight points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of play while splitting time at center with Kylee Shook.

Outlook: Gray isn’t a player with huge fantasy upside — her tendency to foul will limit her minutes — but her energy and rebounding will make her productive in her time on the court. The Liberty don’t have many other options at center right now and Shook has been inconsistent, so Gray could be a sneaky, low-end play in daily fantasy formats or in deeper fantasy leagues.

Three Down

Dallas Wings v Phoenix Mercury
Allisha Gray hasn’t played consistent minutes for the Wings since returning from the 3x3 Olympic qualifiers.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings)

The latest casualty of the Wings’ ever-changing rotation, Gray has played just 10, 22 and 20 minutes in her last three games, shooting a combined 6-of-29 (20.7 percent) from the field during that span. When asked about Gray’s role, head coach Vickie Johnson was openly critical of her play, telling the media that Gray has yet to reacclimate herself with the team’s offensive system after missing several games while competing for Team USA in FIBA’s 3x3 Olympic qualifiers.

Outlook: Gray has been known as one of the steadier players in the WNBA in recent years, so Johnson’s comments were surprising. As has been the case since the beginning of the season, Dallas can’t find consistent minutes for all of its players; Marina Mabrey’s emergence, in particular, has made Gray less of a sure thing. She’s not going to fall out of favor completely, but given the volatility of Johnson’s rotations, it’s understandable if you don’t play her until things in Dallas are solidified.

Leilani Mitchell (Washington Mystics)

Mitchell has struggled shooting the ball in her second season with the Mystics, knocking down just 25.6 percent of her 3-point attempts — the lowest such mark of her WNBA career. Her assists have also plummeted from 5.4 per game in 2020 to 2.6 in 2021, though that’s a little more understandable given how her role has changed now that Natasha Cloud is back with the team and now that Tina Charles is taking up so many of Washington’s possessions.

Outlook: Mitchell isn’t being asked to make nearly as many plays as she was last season, so her fantasy value now hinges nearly exclusively on how well she shoots the basketball. That obviously hasn’t been great thus far, but she’s far too good of a shooter for such a cold streak to continue, and she’s still playing a decent amount of minutes (21.9), so expect her to get things together soon.

Megan Walker (Phoenix Mercury)

Walker entered the Mercury’s starting lineup in late May in place of an injured Diana Taurasi. Results have been mixed: Walker scored in double figures in three-straight games to open June but has gone cold since then, scoring just eight points over her past two games. On the season, she’s averaging 7.2 points per game on 32.1 percent shooting while contributing little in peripheral areas, including 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

Outlook: Walker hasn’t played a very big role for the Mercury in her first year in Phoenix, and there’s no reason to think that will change. She’s been starting, but she’s clearly not a major option for the Mercury on offense, sitting comfortably below Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kia Nurse in the pecking order. Her lack of statistical contribution elsewhere makes her a tough play even in the deepest of fantasy formats.