The Indiana Fever have, as many expected, been one of the weaker teams in the WNBA in 2021. In fact, at 6-23 with three games remaining, Indiana is dead last in the WNBA standings. It has never seemed to even have a chance to fight for a playoff spot.
As frustrating as this has been, it’s been Indiana’s process that’s been even more confusing. The team has favored veterans over younger players, even when it was apparent that it would be headed to yet another WNBA draft lottery in 2022. It’s not at all obvious which players the Fever are investing in long-term, which, for a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2016, is fairly nonsensical.
Teams without an obvious direction can annoy fantasy basketball participants to no end. Indiana has finally begun shutting down some of its players due to injury and other reasons, which, ironically, has forced the Fever to be more consistent with their rotations than they have been all year.
Guard/forward Victoria Vivians has taken full advantage of her new spot in the lineup. After working her way back from knee injuries in consecutive seasons, Vivians found herself without a consistent role in Indiana for most of 2021; she’s been pressed into action recently, however, making her an appealing late-season fantasy play for those still keeping track of such things. Here’s how Vivians’ game can help fantasy basketball participants, along with a few other WNBA players to keep your eye on.
Shey Peddy (Phoenix Mercury)
Peddy has come alive in Diana Taurasi’s (ankle) absence, scoring a combined 30 points in her last two games and hitting a pair of 3-pointers in each. Peddy also recorded two steals in each game while starting next to Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Outlook: Peddy has been a fantasy non-factor for most of the 2021 season, and while she got a significant minutes bump the last time Taurasi was injured, she was still coming off the bench and wasn’t scoring like we’ve seen recently. Playing alongside Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner seems to have unlocked Peddy’s aggressive side, though she’s never been known for her scoring prowess, so even if Phoenix shuts Taurasi down for the remainder of the regular season, Peddy is still going to be a low-volume player.
Victoria Vivians (Indiana Fever)
Vivians scored 10 points in her most recent game against the Minnesota Lynx, and while she struggled shooting from the field (4-of-14), she added a career-high seven assists to go along with four steals. She also hit multiple 3-pointers for the third game in a row.
Outlook: The 38 minutes played were a season-high for Vivians, and Indiana doesn’t have many other options right now — the Fever played just eight players against the Lynx. Vivians has been known mostly as a shooter throughout her WNBA career, but if she’s getting this many minutes in a short rotation, the potential is there for her to make some big contributions in Indiana’s remaining games.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Washington Mystics)
Walker-Kimbrough had one of the strongest games of her WNBA career on Sunday, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and racking up a whopping six steals against Chicago. It was Walker-Kimbrough’s second-straight start for the Mystics, who are missing Ariel Atkins due to personal reasons.
Outlook: Strangely, Walker-Kimbrough attempted only one 3-pointer (a shot that is usually her bread and butter), but no one is complaining with such efficient scoring and incredible defensive playmaking. There doesn’t seem to be a set pecking order behind Tina Charles with so many Mystics out of the lineup, so this was likely just Walker-Kimbrough’s day to shine; she’ll lose whatever fantasy value she gained once Atkins returns.
Jazmine Jones (New York Liberty)
Jones has played three-consecutive games without reaching double-figure minutes, totaling just one made field goal and one assist. Meanwhile, rookie DiDi Richards has been gaining more and more favor in the Liberty’s rotation after a solid month of August, which may be a factor in the decrease in Jones’ minutes.
Outlook: Jones was a pleasant surprise in 2020, so it’s disappointing to see her lose minutes, but with Sabrina Ionescu fully healthy and the Liberty desperately seeking some form of consistency, Jones’ volatile game may not be one New York feels comfortable rolling out right now. She’s not an ideal fantasy play with Richards encroaching on her spot in the rotation.
Tyasha Harris (Dallas Wings)
Veteran point guard Moriah Jefferson missed the Wings’ most recent game against the Las Vegas Aces, but rather than starting the team’s other “pure” point guard, Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson opted for Marina Mabrey instead. Harris recorded just two points and one assist in 13 minutes of play.
Outlook: It’s been a disappointing season for Harris, whose numbers have dropped considerably after a promising rookie campaign in 2020. She simply doesn’t get enough consistent opportunity on this Wings team to make much of an impact; in Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas has two ball-dominant guards, not leaving much room for Harris to excel as a playmaker.
Kia Nurse (Phoenix Mercury)
Nurse scored just four points in the Mercury’s recent loss to the Connecticut Sun, shooting 1-of-8 from the field. To her credit, she recorded four rebounds and three assists, but she also made only one free throw and didn’t record any defensive stats.
Outlook: Nurse’s game hasn’t quite translated as the Mercury hoped when they acquired her prior to the 2021 offseason. Of course, with as much high-end talent as Phoenix has, Nurse was never going to be the star of the show, but she hasn’t contributed in areas we expected her to, either. She’s averaging just 0.5 steals per game on the season, while her free throw rate (.232) has dropped dramatically from where it’s been in previous years.