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Three Up, Three Down: Nikolina Milić, Destiny Slocum stepping up amid injuries

Sylvia Fowles is out for the foreseeable future, which is terrible news for the Minnesota Lynx. It does, however, open up an opportunity for Nikolina Milić, who projects to be a valuable fantasy basketball asset in Fowles’ absence.

Minnesota Lynx v Las Vegas Aces
Nikolina Milic (left) has had a much larger role for the Minnesota Lynx in the absence of Sylvia Fowles.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We’re at the point in the 2022 WNBA season when teams are starting to look different due to injuries to their main players. For fantasy basketball managers, it’s the perfect opportunity to swoop in, either by picking up a lesser-known player from their league’s waiver wire or trading for a player whose value is on the rise.

One such example is Minnesota’s Nikolina Milić. Sylvia Fowles’ knee injury leaves a gaping hole in the Lynx’ frontcourt, and with Damiris Dantas still not all the way back from the foot injury that forced her to miss the start of the season, Milić has suddenly gone from the end of Minnesota’s bench to its starting lineup — and she’s been producing ever since. She highlights this week’s “Three Up, Three Down”.

Three Up

Atlanta Dream v Chicago Sky
Injuries have opened the door for Destiny Slocum in Atlanta’s rotation.

Destiny Slocum (Atlanta Dream)

Slocum was signed by the Dream using a hardship exception and was immediately put to work, playing 17 minutes in two consecutive games while totaling 14 points, four assists, four rebounds and three 3-pointers. The context: Slocum’s first game against Connecticut was full of garbage time, with the Dream essentially being out of things by the fourth quarter, while her second game against Chicago saw starting guard Kristy Wallace exit early with a concussion.

Outlook: Atlanta’s guard rotation has been absolutely decimated by injury, and the team had to make another hardship signing today, bringing Maya Caldwell back in Wallace’s absence. Slocum isn’t as exciting of a play as Aari McDonald or AD Durr — both of whom will have neon-green lights until the Dream get healthy — but she could realistically be seeing minutes in the high-teens or low-20s for a little while, so feel free to pick her up as a stop-gap if you need one.

Nikolina Milić (Minnesota Lynx)

Milic is averaging 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in her last three games, playing 28.9 minutes. She started in Minnesota’s previous two games, though her biggest recent effort came off the bench when she recorded 23 points, six rebounds and three assists on June 12 against Indiana.

Outlook: With Fowles (knee) out indefinitely, the Lynx have been scrambling to fill her minutes, and Milić has gotten a predictable uptick in court time. She doesn’t shoot a very high percentage from the floor (48.9 percent) for a big, but Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve doesn’t have many other options right now besides Jessica Shepard and Dantas, and Milić is capable of posting some well-rounded stat lines with the kind of minutes she’s been getting. Be sure she’s not on your league’s waiver wire.

Gabby Williams (Seattle Storm)

Williams exploded for a season-high 23 points against the Liberty, shooting 10-of-15 from the field (1-of-4 on 3-pointers) while also contributing nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 32 minutes. It was Williams’ first double-digit scoring effort of the season; she’s currently averaging 5.3 points per game on 35.3 percent shooting from the field.

Outlook: This is about as big of a single-game outlier as you’ll see this year. Williams normally shoots the ball between five and seven times per game, and she hasn’t been the most efficient scorer thus far in her four-year WNBA career. She does, however, contribute a good deal of peripheral statistics (5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals), and is firmly entrenched in a starting role for Seattle. Fantasy leagues that emphasize defensive stats should be valuing Williams highly.

Three Down

Chicago Sky v Indiana Fever
Destanni Henderson’s rookie campaign has had its ups and downs.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Destanni Henderson (Indiana Fever)

Henderson played 22 minutes off the bench in Indiana’s most recent game against Chicago but posted a mixed-bag stat line, scoring just one point (0-of-4 from the field) and turning the ball over four times while also recording four assists and two steals. Some of Henderson’s minutes came in the absence of starting point guard Danielle Robinson (16 minutes), who missed a good chunk of the game after taking a hard fall early on.

Outlook: As is the case for most rookie point guards, Henderson has had an up-and-down season statistically, and it doesn’t help that she’s had to compete with several veterans for minutes. We’ll see what Fever head coach Carlos Knox chooses to do as his team inches closer and closer to the draft lottery, but for now, Henderson is a risky play in all but the deepest fantasy leagues.

Michaela Onyenwere (New York Liberty)

Onyenwere was almost invisible in New York’s loss to Seattle, going scoreless and pulling down one rebound in just five minutes of play. It was her third consecutive game failing to reach double-figure minutes, and she has yet to score 10 or more points in a game this season.

Outlook: It’s unclear what Onyenwere’s role on this Liberty team is. With Rebecca Allen in concussion protocol, one would guess that more minutes would open up for 2021’s Rookie of the Year, but that hasn’t been the case. with New York head coach Sandy Brondello instead opting for three-guard lineups featuring Marine Johannès. There doesn’t seem to be a clear route to significant minutes for Onyenwere for the time being.

Lexie Brown (Los Angeles Sparks)

Brown scored just two points in the Sparks’ recent loss to Dallas, shooting 1-for-7 from the field and missing all five of her 3-point attempts. It broke a streak of seven consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer made for Brown, who is currently shooting a career-high 43.4 percent from long range.

Outlook: Brown has had an excellent season shooting the basketball, and there’s little reason to believe she won’t bounce back this week. The problem is that her usage rate is a paltry 10 percent; even if she continues playing starter-level minutes, she’s not going to be shooting the ball enough to justify rostering her in shallow fantasy leagues. The return of Kristi Toliver could complicate things further, though Brown’s defense should keep her in the Sparks’ rotation.