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Three Up, Three Down: Natasha Cloud, Allisha Gray playing key roles for respective teams in playoff hunt

There are just two WNBA postseason spots yet to be clinched, so for fantasy basketball fans, it’s important to know how teams in the hunt will be distributing their minutes. Teams like the Washington Mystics and Dallas Wings, while they’ve been frustrating for much of 2021, have a few names that are fantasy must-plays.

Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx
Natasha Cloud is averaging a career-high 6.6 assists per game for the Mystics.
Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

With just a handful of games remaining in the 2021 WNBA regular season, we’re getting a clearer picture of what the postseason will look like, at least regarding who’s in and who’s out. There’s still plenty of seeding to be decided, with the bottom portion of the standings still quite volatile.

The Dallas Wings, Washington Mystics, New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks are all teams that could feasibly end up with the final two playoff seeds. With this in mind, it’s important for fantasy basketball fans to assess each team closely. Are they doing all they can do make the postseason? What’s their strategy? Will they be leaning on certain players more heavily than they were earlier in the season?

Players like the Mystics’ Natasha Cloud and the Wings’ Allisha Gray have been especially reliable for their respective teams as of late, making them hot fantasy assets — something that should continue, given those teams’ spots on the playoff bubble. Let’s take a closer look at Cloud, Gray and a host of other names as they pertain to WNBA fantasy basketball entering the month of September.

Three Up

Atlanta Dream v Dallas Wings
Allisha Gray has returned to being a steady contributor for the Wings.
Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings)

Gray recorded her second-straight double-double against Atlanta on Sunday, scoring 10 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. It was also Gray’s fifth-consecutive game playing at least 30 minutes; she’s averaging 12.6 points and eight rebounds per game during that span to go along with one steal and 1.4 blocked shots.

Outlook: Gray remains as steady as they come, and it’s nice to be able to depend on at least one or two Wings players to produce consistently. The heavy minutes are most encouraging of all, especially after Dallas head coach Vicki Johnson openly voiced her frustration with Gray’s play. With that seemingly in the past, expect Gray to be a consistent fantasy contributor for the rest of the season.

Natasha Cloud (Washington Mystics)

Cloud put together a healthy all-around stat line of 12 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Mystics’ recent loss to Minnesota. She’s currently second in the WNBA in assists per game (6.6) and has recorded five double-digit assist games on the season.

Outlook: Cloud’s shooting can be inconsistent, but she’s stepped up her floor game this season, and her tenacity on defense and leadership means that Mystics head coach Mike Thibault will have a tough time taking her off the floor under most circumstances. Because of this, she remains a reliable play in all fantasy formats.

Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream)

Williams blocked four shots against Dallas on Sunday — the third time in the past four games that she’s done so. Williams is averaging 5.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, two assists and 2.6 blocked shots over her past five games.

Outlook: It’s been a disappointing season for Williams (for most of the Dream, really) as her scoring has fallen off a cliff, and it could be that the Wings just don’t have the size inside to go against her. Both Tianna Hawkins and Crystal Bradford remain injured, though, and midseason addition Candice Dupree doesn’t seem to be factoring into Atlanta’s short- or long-term plans, so it’s looking like Williams will be seeing a slightly heavier workload than she did early in the season.

Three Down

Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx
Crystal Dangerfield hasn’t found the scoring stride that helped win her Rookie of the Year in 2020.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Crystal Dangerfield (Minnesota Lynx)

Dangerfield played just 17 minutes as the Lynx’s starting point guard last Saturday, missing all four of her shots from the field and recording just two assists. Though Minnesota put away its opponent early, Dangerfield hadn’t been particularly productive in recent games, either, averaging 5.6 points and 1.6 assists over her past five.

Outlook: This is a problem that cropped up early in the 2021 season, and unless Dangerfield grows a few inches overnight, she continues to risk getting played off the floor by larger guards. Layshia Clarendon’s recent injury hasn’t opened up much of an opportunity for Dangerfield to return to her 2020 form, and given Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve’s sudden trust in Rachel Banham (13 points and eight assists on Saturday), Dangerfield isn’t looking like a very viable fantasy option at the moment.

Theresa Plaisance (Washington Mystics)

Plaisance saw just seven minutes of playing time for the second straight game in Washington’s blowout loss to Minnesota, scoring two points, grabbing two rebounds and recording two steals. It was the fewest minutes any healthy Mystics big not named Tina Charles played: Erica McCall started and played 19 minutes while Megan Gustafson played 12 minutes off the bench.

Outlook: Plaisance is rarely going to put up large stat lines, but she’s capable of both hitting 3-pointers and recording defensive stats, so it’s disappointing that she hasn’t been getting more burn in the absence of Elena Delle Donne and Myisha Hines-Allen. Her minutes have fluctuated wildly as of late — she played at least 20 minutes in three-consecutive games after playing just seven on Aug. 22 — so playing her in fantasy is a bit of a risk.

Betnijah Laney (New York Liberty)

Laney had what was perhaps her worst outing of the season last Thursday against Seattle, shooting just 1-of-4 from the field and turning the ball over a whopping nine times. It continued a concerning trend for Laney, whose scoring and field goal percentage have dropped every month since her torrid start to the season.

Outlook: 2020’s Most Improved Player has had a rough go of it lately, though, to be fair, she’s far from the only Liberty player who has looked out of sync. Laney is still a fairly high-usage player who can make her presence felt in several ways, so don’t be turned off by this one game. Do be aware, however, that she’s been turnover-prone, making for some frustrating lines.