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Three Up, Three Down: Theresa Plaisance experiencing career renaissance for Washington Mystics

The Washington Mystics are hurting right now, and Theresa Plaisance has been pressed into a larger role than the team had initially expected of her. Fortunately for the Mystics — and fantasy basketball owners — Plaisance has stepped up to the challenge.

Indiana Fever v Washington Mystics
Theresa Plaisance has logged heavy minutes as of late for the shorthanded Mystics, and she’s been very productive in her time on the floor.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Just two seasons ago, it appeared as though Theresa Plaisance’s WNBA career may have been over. The 6-foot-5 forward was dealing with nagging back injuries that would eventually require two surgeries and she struggled to stay on the floor for a Connecticut Sun team that nearly won the 2019 WNBA Finals.

After tirelessly working her way back to health, Plaisance is now playing some of the best basketball of her career for the Washington Mystics. The Mystics, who signed Plaisance as a free agent this past offseason, certainly didn’t envision her as a starter, but due to injuries to Elena Delle Donne, Myisha Hines-Allen and Erica McCall (as well as an absent Emma Meesseman, who is preparing to play in the Tokyo Olympics for Belgium), she’s been asked to step into a larger role, and the results have been impressive.

Stories like Plaisance’s are music to a fantasy basketball owner’s ears, as low-risk, high-reward players can often mean the difference between fantasy victory and defeat. Here are a few other WNBA players to keep an eye on — for better or for worse — in “Three Up, Three Down:”

Three Up

New York Liberty v Los Angeles Sparks
Brittney Sykes has had an inconsistent offensive season, but her defensive potential keeps her relevant in most fantasy basketball formats.
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Brittney Sykes (Los Angeles Sparks)

Sykes played her best game of the season against the Liberty, scoring 10 points and recording a whopping seven steals in a close loss. She’s totaled 12 steals over her past four games and is currently playing 24.8 minutes per game, which has held steady since the beginning of the season — Sykes has yet to play under 20 minutes in a game.

Outlook: Sykes has been inconsistent on offense this year, scoring a career-low 7.5 points per game and connecting on 18.8 percent of her 3-pointers. That being said, she’s been due for a few massive defensive performances like she had against New York. Her offense will come and go, but Sykes isn’t in danger of losing her spot in the rotation, so she remains a volatile but worthwhile fantasy asset if you’re willing to roll the dice.

Theresa Plaisance (Washington Mystics)

Plaisance started the last two games for the shorthanded Mystics — one in place of Tina Charles and the other in place of Myisha Hines-Allen — and totaled 41 points and 18 rebounds during that span. She also knocked down eight 3-pointers in 68 total minutes of play.

Outlook: Elena Delle Donne is clearly not expected back anytime soon, and with Hines-Allen and McCall now also nursing fairly significant injuries, the Mystics will rely on Plaisance to play heavy minutes in their starting lineup. While Charles remains the star of the show in Washington, Plaisance’s offensive game fits well with that of the WNBA’s leading scorer, and the Mystics’ emphasis on 3-point shooting means that Plaisance will be encouraged to continue firing away.

Ariel Atkins (Washington Mystics)

Atkins’ breakout season continues. The fourth-year wing is currently recording career highs in scoring (19 points per game) and 3-point shooting (45.2 percent) while also contributing averages of three rebounds and 2.7 assists. In addition, Atkins is getting to the free throw line at an increased frequency, totaling 31 free throw attempts in her previous four games.

Outlook: Atkins has always been a steady player, but she’s taken the next step towards becoming a bonafide WNBA star in 2021. She’s posting career highs in both usage (24 percent) and scoring efficiency (62.9 percent true shooting percentage) and shows no signs of slowing down. There’s very little competition for Atkins in Washington’s perimeter rotation, so keep playing her.

Three Down

Indiana Fever v Washington Mystics
The Fever are far and away the WNBA’s worst team, but they’ve remained hesitant to give rookie Kysre Gondrezick a significant role.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Kysre Gondrezick (Indiana Fever)

We’re still waiting for 2021’s No. 4 overall draft pick to get it going. Gondrezick hasn’t scored more than two points in a game since late May, and outside of a multi-steal performance against Chicago on June 12, she isn’t contributing much elsewhere, either. Of course, her minutes have also been wildly inconsistent; she’s averaging just over 10 on the season, though she’s played fewer than that on several occasions already.

Outlook: The more losses the Fever accumulate, the more frustrating it becomes that they can’t find playing time for their most recent draftee. One would assume that the worst team in the WNBA will eventually shut down its veteran players and give its youngsters free reign, but, even at 1-14, Indiana has been reluctant to do so. Until we see a sign that the Fever are ready to commit to Gondrezick as a rotation player, there’s not much justification for choosing her in fantasy lineups.

Te’a Cooper (Los Angeles Sparks)

Cooper seemed to be turning a corner just a week ago after five consecutive double-figure scoring efforts, but her game has flattened once again, the second-year guard totaling just three points over her last two outings. On the season, Cooper is shooting 31.5 percent from the floor and is averaging more turnovers (1.6) than assists (1.2).

Outlook: Cooper was granted a larger role for 2021, but her production hasn’t caught up. The absence of play finishers in the Sparks’ frontcourt has definitely hampered her assist numbers, but there’s no such explanation for her dip in scoring efficiency. Like Sykes, there’s no way Cooper will fall out of the Sparks’ rotation completely; unlike her teammate, however, Cooper doesn’t offer the kind of upside that entices fantasy owners to continue riding out her struggles.

Beatrice Mompremier (Connecticut Sun)

Jonquel Jones has now missed three games for the Sun, and while Mompremier logged 13 minutes on June 13 against Seattle, she played just four and three minutes in two subsequent Sun losses to Chicago. Instead, it’s been Emma Cannon, who was signed using a hardship exception, that Connecticut has turned to without Jones, and with DeWanna Bonner sliding over to play power forward, Mompremier’s fantasy value has all but disappeared.

Outlook: This is a bit of a disappointing development, but Cannon offers one thing that Mompremier doesn’t: 3-point shooting. Mompremier also seems to still be a bit raw skill-wise, and it could very well be, judging from her game-by-game minutes totals, that the Sun lost faith in her long before Jones departed for EuroBasket. Barring another absence or untimely injury in Connecticut, Mompremier is not a viable fantasy option.