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Five WNBA players to to watch for the second half of fantasy basketball season

The 2022 WNBA season may be halfway over, but there are still plenty of games left to be played, and there’s much to consider for fantasy basketball managers as they evaluate their rosters. Players like Satou Sabally and Tiffany Hayes have room to build upon their current statistics and play big fantasy roles as the season goes on.

Dallas Wings v Seattle Storm
Satou Sabally can play several positions for the Dallas Wings. How they choose to use her will be critical to her fantasy basketball value.
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

WNBA’s All-Star weekend has come and gone, which means that after a brief respite, fantasy basketball is back in action. There isn’t too much to catch up on in terms of recent roster activity, but given that we’ve essentially reached the halfway point of the WNBA season, there are plenty of player and team outlooks to be discussed. Keep an eye on the following players in your fantasy leagues, as well as how they’re fitting in with their respective teams.

Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream)

Atlanta Dream v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

Current per-game statistics: 26.6 minutes, 13.7 points, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.3 3-pointers

Hayes got a late start to the 2022 season, only recently making her debut after missing the Dream’s first 19 games with a knee injury.

As such, it’s a little more difficult to interpret her value to Atlanta (and to fantasy managers) moving forward than that of other players. Hayes has played just three games thus far in 2022, and with such a small sample size, her current per-game stats are probably not very predictive of how she’ll be contributing for the rest of the season.

According to Across the Timeline, Hayes has plenty of room to improve in free throw volume, rebounding and distributing, relative to her career numbers. In particular, she’s only averaged one made free throw per game in 2022; Hayes has been one of the toughest WNBA guards to keep out of the paint and off the free throw line for many years (4.6 free throw attempts per game for her career), so expect that number to increase dramatically as the season continues and she gets more in-game reps.

The Dream have lots of perimeter players who want to shoot the ball (Erica Wheeler and Rhyne Howard, specifically), but that didn’t stop Hayes from being a productive player alongside Angel McCoughtry in the past. Although it’s true that Howard is the future of the franchise, Atlanta has been competitive this season and is on track to make the playoffs, so Hayes doesn’t carry as much of a shutdown risk as she did last season. If you drafted Hayes to your fantasy team, try to shake off any leftover irritation you may be feeling after her lengthy absence and hang onto her.

Satou Sabally (Dallas Wings)

Seattle Storm v Dallas Wings Photo by Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

Current per-game statistics: 21.6 minutes, 11.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 free throws, 1.0 3-pointers

Like most players on the Wings, Sabally remains a fantasy basketball enigma. The 6’4 forward can impact the game in just about every statistical category, though fantasy experts and managers alike were somewhat tepid on her prior to the 2022 season; Sabally was ranked by ESPN at the No. 40 fantasy player and her average draft position (ADP) in ESPN leagues was 40.7.

Thus far in 2022, Sabally has done little to exceed those expectations, but there are reasons for that. A bone bruise in her knee kept her out for a good chunk of games in late June and she’s been on a minutes restriction since returning, playing just 16 and 19 minutes, respectively, in her two most recent games prior to the All-Star break.

What makes Sabally’s case interesting is that, even in her third WNBA season as an assumed cornerstone of the Wings franchise, her role in Dallas is still not abundantly clear. Wings head coach Vickie Johnson has not exactly been consistent with her team’s rotations, and even if Sabally is fully healthy for the second half of the season, her workload may still vary from game to game. This is, obviously, frustrating for fantasy managers, especially when considering Sabally’s stat-stuffing potential; she can play center and both forward positions, but that versatility hasn’t led to more minutes, with Johnson’s reliance on Allisha Gray, Kayla Thornton and and a combination of Isabelle Harrison, Teaira McCowan and Awak Kuier serving more as a detriment to Sabally’s fantasy value than a complement.

In spite of this, there’s a much greater chance that Sabally’s 21.6 minutes per game increase rather than decrease, and she’s simply too talented not to get it going again once she gets her legs back underneath her. Look to her paltry defensive statistics as an example: Sabally is averaging just 0.3 steals and 0.2 blocks per game in 2022, which, for a player with her physical gifts, can only go up (Sabally averaged 0.8 steals and 0.9 blocks as a rookie in 2020). Buy low on Sabally if you can.

Brianna Turner (Phoenix Mercury)

Phoenix Mercury v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Current per-game statistics: 33.2 minutes, 5.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.3 blocks

Turner may not seem like a must-roster fantasy player, and in leagues that place equal emphasis on scoring and defense, that’s probably true.

On the other hand, if your fantasy league scores rebounds, steals and blocks favorably, Turner is a very enticing option. Factor in the current state of the Mercury, and she could end up being a league-winning player.

When Tina Charles and the Mercury agreed on a buyout, Turner found herself in a situation similar to 2020: The team’s star center had departed, leaving Turner to anchor a thin frontcourt and putting her in a position to make more plays on defense and finish more plays on offense.

Granted, that offense is even rarer than it was in 2020 — Turner is currently posting a microscopic 7.6 percent usage rate — but she’s shooting 61.7 percent from the field, and Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard opting for a 4-out, 1-in lineup with Sophie Cunningham as the team’s de facto power forward means that Turner has considerably more space to operate and finish plays set up by Phoenix’s dynamic backcourt than she did when playing alongside Charles. It may seem like faint praise for a player who almost never shoots the ball (3.5 field goal attempts and 1.2 free throw attempts per game), and it’s unlikely that the Mercury change the way they play in order to get Turner more touches, but there’s still room for some positive regression, even if it’s small.

Turner’s real value, of course, comes on defense. This part doesn’t need much analysis; she’s one of the league’s top defensive playmakers, she’s currently playing a career-high 33.2 minutes per game and Nygaard still doesn’t have a center she trusts to play more than a handful of minutes in Turner’s stead. Keep her around and watch the steals and blocks pile up.

Natasha Cloud (Washington Mystics)

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Current per-game statistics: 31.8 minutes, 10.8 points, 7.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.4 3-pointers

Cloud has slowly but surely blossomed into one of the WNBA’s most productive point guards, and the somewhat volatile nature of the Mystics offensive hierarchy has yielded her best fantasy season to date.

It’s easy to point to Elena Delle Donne’s maintenance schedule as the reason, and that’s somewhat true, with Washington’s offensive identity changing drastically during her rest days. It also speaks to Mystics head coach Mike Thibault’s trust in Cloud, though, who has long since been lauded as the team’s vocal leader and is now matching it with her production on the court; the 7.1 assists she’s averaging are tops in the WNBA, and she’s also averaging double-digit scoring for the first time in her career — a figure that should hold if she keeps shooting the ball around nine or ten times per game.

This change in roles is ultimately what lands Cloud on this list. As things currently stand, she’s the primary ball handler and a tertiary scoring option for a contending team; should the Mystics once again run into bad injury luck, Cloud’s fantasy value will rise even more.

Moriah Jefferson (Minnesota Lynx)

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Adam Bettcher/NBAE via Getty Images

Current per-game statistics: 29.9 minutes, 13.2 points, 5.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.5 3-pointers (with Minnesota)

It’s hard to believe this is the same Jefferson we saw begin the season with the Dallas Wings. Signed by Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve during an early-season roster overhaul, Jefferson has resurrected her professional career in Minnesota, playing her best basketball since her injury-riddled sophomore season and becoming one of fantasy basketball’s hottest waiver wire pickups in the process.

Jefferson is currently rostered in 60.4 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, which seems low given her production. Meanwhile, the Lynx have given no indication that they’re going to tank, despite a horrendous start to the season. This means that Reeve will likely keep rolling with Jefferson in her current role as the team tries to climb back into contention, which is great news for fantasy managers who scooped her up early.

As for everyone else, a close eye should be kept on Jefferson and the Lynx. She’s not going to keep shooting 51 percent on 3-pointers, but as the unquestioned starting point guard on a team that’s trying to win games, she should be rostered in all but the shallowest leagues. If the Lynx end up fading towards the end of the season, Jefferson’s role could shrink, but for now, it’s still way too early to be worried about that. Pick up the veteran point guard if she’s available in your league.