An interesting wrinkle of fantasy basketball as it pertains to the WNBA is that the beginning of WNBA seasons often coincide with the conclusion of domestic leagues played elsewhere in the world. This can force WNBA players competing overseas to miss time, which means fantasy basketball managers need to plan ahead that much more.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why a player may not be ready for the beginning of a WNBA season. Injury recovery is a big one, and fantasy managers should be asking themselves both how much of a gamble they’re willing to take on injured players in their league’s draft and how patient they’ll be with those players taking up an IL spot on their teams.
Recently, a handful of veteran WNBA players have returned to the league, either after playing overseas, coming back from injury or returning from other special circumstances. While the following names may be instantly recognizable to even casual WNBA fans, their potential fantasy returns are not necessarily equal. Which midseason acquisition should take priority in your fantasy league? Let’s talk about it.
Marine Johannès (New York Liberty)
Johannès, who first played in the WNBA for the Liberty in 2019, recently returned to New York, signing there for the rest of the season. She was previously without a contract after taking the 2021 season off, but the Liberty retained her rights and were keen on bringing her back for 2022.
Just two games into Johannès’ latest stint in New York, it’s easy to see why. A dynamic playmaker with a knack for making flashy plays on offense, Johannès figures to have a larger role for the Liberty now than she did in 2019. During the Liberty’s 1-7 start this season, the team’s backcourt struggled to take care of the basketball and create efficient offense; head coach Sandy Brondello has not been afraid to play hardship signee Crystal Dangerfield alongside Sabrina Ionescu since then, and the addition of an extra ball handler in the Liberty’s lineup has done wonders for both Ionescu and the team’s offense in general.
Johannès has the skillset to fill that role, and her upside is higher than Dangerfield’s, so don’t be surprised if she makes her way into New York’s starting lineup soon. Even if she doesn’t, she’s going to have a consistent spot in the Liberty’s rotation as a primary or secondary playmaker; through two games, Johannès has totaled 15 points, seven assists, and three 3-pointers made in 52 minutes. What she brings to New York simply makes her too valuable for the Liberty to keep off the floor, and for that reason, she should be rostered in all fantasy formats.
Julie Allemand (Chicago Sky)
Allemand was acquired by Chicago this past offseason in a three-team trade that sent Diamond DeShields to Phoenix and Bria Hartley to Indiana. Like Johannès, Allemand did not play in the WNBA in 2021 and only recently reported to Chicago after completing her season in France.
As a rookie in 2020, Allemand put up some impressive numbers, ranking second in the WNBA in both assists per game (5.8) and 3-point shooting percentage (47.8 percent). She played all 22 games for the Fever that season, averaging 32.5 minutes per contest and forming one of the league’s better offensive backcourts alongside Kelsey Mitchell.
Allemand’s role in Chicago, however, will be much smaller, at least for the remainder of 2022. Courtney Vandersloot is firmly entrenched as the team’s starting point guard, and while Allemand can also play off the ball, she’ll have Allie Quigley and Rebekah Gardner to compete with there. It seems most likely that she’ll take Dana Evans’ place as the Sky’s first point guard off the bench, which, given the amount of ball handling already on Chicago’s roster, is not exactly a high-ceiling scenario. Fantasy managers may have been able to grab Allemand in the latest rounds of their drafts and stash her until now using an IR spot; if she’s not on your league’s waiver wire, there’s no rush to trade for her.
Damiris Dantas (Minnesota Lynx)
Dantas made her 2022 debut last week, having finally recovered from the foot injury that cut her 2021 season short, and it came at a crucial juncture in Minnesota’s season. The Lynx — who are currently in last place in the WNBA standings at 3-11 — will now be without star center Sylvia Fowles (knee) indefinitely, leaving a massive spot in their frontcourt to be filled.
Obviously, Fowles can’t be replaced by any one player on Minnesota’s roster. Don’t expect Dantas to match the 32.2 minutes per game Fowles was averaging before she got injured; the Lynx will likely ease her back (21 and 18 minutes in her first two games of 2022), and if you factor in the team’s bleak outlook for the remainder of the season, Dantas could be viewed as a DNP risk at best and a shutdown risk at worst.
Such situations are, needless to say, frustrating for fantasy managers. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve made Dantas a key part of Minnesota’s offense when Fowles last got injured in 2020, but the circumstances now are vastly different: The Lynx are quickly losing control of their season, and with players like Jessica Shepard and Nikolina Milic primed to play more in Fowles’ absence, Dantas’ fantasy upside is lukewarm.
Kristi Toliver (Los Angeles Sparks)
Toliver was activated by the Sparks on June 8, having missed the first month of the 2022 WNBA season while coaching with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. She has yet to suit up, however, missing the Sparks’ most recent game as she returns to competition reconditioning.
Now in the twilight of her WNBA career, the 35-year old Toliver is not as exciting of a fantasy asset as she once was. Her 9.4 points and 2.8 assists per game in 2021 were her lowest since 2010 — despite starting all 19 games she appeared in and averaging 27.6 minutes per contest — and there’s plenty of reason to believe her role will be scaled back even further in 2022. With both Chennedy Carter and Jordin Canada in the fold, Toliver’s on-ball reps will likely be down, and players like Lexie Brown and Brittney Sykes provide more defense than Toliver ever did, even in her prime.
Granted, Toliver is due for some positive shooting regression (33.7 percent on 3-pointers in 2021), and sharing the court with Liz Cambage and a healthy Nneka Ogwumike should make her life a little easier when she’s out there. At this point in her career, Toliver’s fantasy value is tied almost entirely to her outside shooting, and for this reason, she’s much better suited for per-minute formats or the deepest standard leagues.