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Three Up, Three Down: Natasha Cloud, Jackie Young among opening weekend’s most productive guards

We’re back for another summer of WNBA fantasy basketball! As always, we look at three players who should be on your fantasy basketball radar, as well as three whose production has been disappointing thus far.

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Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx
Natasha Cloud is primed to take her game to the next level in 2022.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA is back, and with it comes another summer of fantasy basketball.

It’s a pastime that continues to grow, especially with ESPN’s recent implementation of WNBA fantasy basketball in its popular fantasy sports platform. ESPN joins daily fantasy platforms such as DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as the community-run platform Sports.WS, as major sites offering WNBA fantasy games.

No matter which platform you choose, the objective remains the same: Pick the most productive WNBA players and stay ahead of your competition. That’s where Swish Appeal comes in — “Three Up, Three Down” is back for another season to keep you in the loop of who’s hot and who’s not in WNBA fantasy basketball.

Three Up

Seattle Storm v Las Vegas Aces
Jackie Young’s efficient and assertive offense has been a pleasant surprise for Las Vegas, and she’s going to have plenty of opportunity to keep contributing at that level.
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Young has gotten off to a blistering hot start to 2022, scoring a total of 39 points in the Aces’ first two games on 70 percent shooting from the floor while chipping in six rebounds and seven assists. Young has also connected on 9-of-10 free throws and hit a pair of 3-pointers in the Aces’ most recent win over Seattle.

Outlook: The shooting isn’t sustainable, of course, but there are still plenty of reasons to like Young as a breakout candidate. She’s averaging 34.7 minutes played per game thus far, and until Aces head coach Becky Hammon gains some trust in rookies Kierstan Bell and Aisha Sheppard, Young won’t have much competition at small forward. The 3-pointers are icing on the cake; Young has been a hesitant shooter for most of her WNBA career, so even a small increase in 3-point volume would do wonders for her fantasy game.

Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics

Cloud was on fire in the Mystics’ weekend win over Minnesota, scoring 19 points while knocking down 4-of-7 3-pointers. She also contributed six rebounds, six assists and two steals in what was an outstanding fantasy stat line.

Outlook: Cloud is another player whose outside shot has historically waxed and waned, but she’s certainly not lacking for confidence right now, and with Elena Delle Donne likely missing several games throughout the 2022 season, she’ll see an occasional uptick in usage. Cloud’s assist average has increased in each of her past four WNBA seasons (her 6.4 assists per game in 2021 ranked second in the league), so she’ll be a regular contributor even if her shot’s not falling.

Jessica Shepard, Minnesota Lynx

Shepard averaged a double-double (12.5 points and 12 rebounds) in her first two games of 2022, starting alongside Sylvia Fowles and exceeding 30 minutes played in both games. She also totaled nine assists and three 3-pointers made.

Outlook: The Lynx are an absolute mess right now, and Shepard has taken full advantage. With Napheesa Collier expecting her first child, Damiris Dantas still recovering from a foot injury and Natalie Achonwa (hamstring) now out as well, Minnesota’s frontcourt is incredibly thin. Shepard doesn’t record many defensive stats and she shoots a low percentage for a big, but she’ll make up for it on the glass, and given the Lynx depth issues at the moment, she’s a must-start player in all fantasy formats.

Three Down

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream
Aari McDonald was uncharacteristically quiet in the Dream’s season opener, but don’t get too concerned.
Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Aari McDonald, Atlanta Dream

McDonald came off the bench in the Dream’s season-opening victory over Dallas, scoring one point on 0-for-3 shooting from the field while failing to register any assists or defensive stats in 18 minutes of play.

Outlook: Kristy Wallace got the starting nod over McDonald, and with a five-inch height advantage over the former No. 3 overall pick, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that continue. McDonald’s poor theoretical fit next to Erica Wheeler may limit her minutes to the high teens for now, but her tenacious on-ball defense will at least keep her in the mix for Atlanta. The per-minute stats will come around sooner rather than later.

Tyasha Harris, Dallas Wings

Harris started for the Wings in their 2022 season opener but contributed little, getting into early foul trouble and scoring two points in nine minutes of action. She was benched early in the second half in favor of rookie Veronica Burton, who ended up playing 21 minutes and contributing six rebounds and three steals.

Outlook: It’s apparently never too early for the Wings to play musical chairs with their point guards, and both Harris and Moriah Jefferson (no stats in four minutes) were the odd ones out in their home opener. This was a recurring theme for Dallas last season — Harris played 16.3 minutes per game and Jefferson played 17.2 — and, despite the Wings recently waiving Jefferson, they still have a bit of a logjam at the position. Harris is a competent game manager but lacks Burton’s defensive upside, so her playing time will probably remain modest at best until head coach Vickie Johnson makes a commitment to one player.

Angel McCoughtry, Minnesota Lynx

It was a frustrating Lynx debut for McCoughtry, who scored six points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field in 13 minutes of play. She did record a steal and two blocked shots and knocked down all four of her free throw attempts, but her playing time was doubled by that of Bridget Carleton, who went scoreless coming off Minnesota’s bench.

Outlook: Although it’s possible that Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve was simply looking for a lineup that would give her struggling team a boost, McCoughtry was on a strict minutes limit the last time we saw her healthy (2020), and that was before she suffered another knee injury prior to the 2021 season. McCoughtry remains one of the more efficient per-minute players in the WNBA, but Reeve will likely be very cautious with her workload, even with starting shooting guard Kayla McBride still absent due to overseas commitments.