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2022 WNBA season preview: Can Kelsey Mitchell, NaLyssa Smith lead Indiana Fever?

The Indiana Fever have a star in Kelsey Mitchell and a potential high-impact rookie in NaLyssa Smith. Is that enough to get them out of last place?

Indiana Fever Media Day 2022
The Indiana Fever rookies.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

The Indiana Fever have suffered five losing seasons in a row, with their last playoff appearance coming in 2016 when they went 17-17 in the regular season. In recent years, they’ve made some puzzling draft selections and that didn't change this year with the franchise’s lone championship-winning coach Lin Dunn calling the shots instead of the franchise’s greatest player Tamika Catchings, also a champion. With Catchings no longer the general manager, the Fever are seeking a new path to winning ways, but will be doing so without a whole lot of stars. What they do have is five rookies who they hope will make immediate impacts. Here’s a look at those players as well as the veterans on the Indiana roster:


Players (stat score)

Kelsey Mitchell (26) — A 5-foot-8 shooting guard who was No. 27 on our Top 30 list in 2021, but was left off this year. Part of the reason she got left off is because she hasn’t led the Fever to much team success and that’s not necessarily fair to her. If we were just judging by scoring and not everything else on the stat sheet and not team success, she’d be much higher. She was sixth in the WNBA in scoring in 2020 with 17.9 points per game and was eighth last year with 17.8. Her scoring prowess in the pros has come as no surprise. She is second all-time in NCAA Division I scoring with 3,402 points, accomplishing that at Ohio State. She was second in the WNBA in 3-pointers made in 2019 with 79.

Minnesota Lynx v Indiana Fever
Kelsey Mitchell (with ball)
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

NaLyssa Smith (No. 2 pick in 2022 draft) — Enters the league with a promising future in air guitar celebrations. Aside from that, she’s a complete power forward, minus a 3-point shot, although she did start to develop one as a senior at Baylor with eight makes. At 6-foot-4 she can play like a traditional 4, backing down and scoring inside with great touch; she can also drive and shoot from mid-range. Spent time atop mock drafts when it seemed Rhyne Howard was struggling to lead Kentucky anywhere and she was leading Baylor to great things.

Danielle Robinson (24.4) — A great veteran point guard who made three consecutive All-Star Games from 2013 to 2015 as a member of the San Antonio Silver Stars/Stars. Those are the three years of her career in which she has averaged five or more assists per game with a career-best 6.7 coming in 2013. She’s still getting it done distributing the basketball and has never averaged less than 3.2 assists in a season. Averaged a solid 9.9 points per game last year. The Fever may not have won many games, but Robinson was a thorn in opponents’ side with good plays coming at good times.

Tiffany Mitchell (21.5) — She may not even be the best Mitchell on the team, but the 5-foot-9 guard and former South Carolina Gamecock is also a thorn in opponents’ side with her timely scoring. Averaged 12.7 points per game in 2020 and 12 in 2021. Has never averaged less than 8.6 points per game in a season, with that mark coming in her rookie year of 2016. Has played her whole career in Indiana and is the longest-tenured member of the Fever.

Victoria Vivians (15.2) — A promising 27-year-old out of Mississippi State who made 65 threes at a 39.9 percent clip as a rookie in 2018. A 6-foot-1 guard who has played her entire career with the Fever. Prior to the 2019 WNBA season, she tore her ACL overseas. In 2020 she played in just six games and averaged just 4.8 points per game. Started to show signs of her former self last year with eight starts in 31 games and 6.8 points per game.

Emily Engstler (No. 4 pick in 2022 draft) — One of the most disruptive defenders in the country this past NCAAW season. A 6-foot-1 forward and solid offensive talent who had a career year on that side of the ball as a senior transfer at Louisville. Averaged 11.6 points per game, made 27 threes at a 40.3 percent clip and shot 47.6 percent from the field for the Cardinals, all career bests. Played her first three seasons at Syracuse.

Lexie Hull (No. 6 pick in 2022 draft) — A 2021 national champion with Stanford. A 6-foot-1 guard who finished her college career with 191 made threes at a 37.3 percent clip. An excellent perimeter defender. Was projected to go 25th in the draft by Eric Nemchock of SB Nation and Swish Appeal.

Indiana Fever Media Day 2022
Lexie Hull
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Queen Egbo (No. 10 pick in 2022 draft) — NaLyssa Smith’s frontcourt mate at Baylor. A 6-foot-4 forward/center who is a solid rebounder and inside scorer and an excellent shot-blocker. Averaged 1.8 blocks per game as a senior. Was projected to go 26th by Nemchock.

Destanni Henderson (No. 20 pick in 2022 draft) — The star of the most recent NCAA championship game who led the victorious South Carolina Gamecocks with 26 points in that contest. Underrated for much of her career, Henderson had a breakout junior year with 12.1 points and 5.3 assists per game. Was also phenomenal as a senior and shot 40 percent or better from distance both seasons. Known for her distributing, speed and defense, she will break your back with corner threes as well. Was a steal at No. 20; Nemchock had her going 7th.

Alanna Smith (12.7) — Hailing from Australia, the former Stanford Cardinal is a solid WNBA talent who hasn’t gotten much of a chance in the league thus far. Went to the Mercury with the eighth pick in the 2019 draft and averaged 15.6 minutes and 6.1 points in the 2020 wubble, but was seemingly forgotten last year as she was relegated to a role of just 6.5 minutes and managed just 1.2 points. Made 65 threes at a 39.9 percent clip as a senior at Stanford, but is shooting 19.5 percent from deep as a pro.

Alaina Coates (8.3) — The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft whose South Carolina team was coming off at national championship, though she missed that NCAA Tournament due to injury. Has struggled to find success in the WNBA with her most recent appearance coming in the wubble as she filled in for the Mystics players who had opted out.