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Three Up, Three Down: It’s Naz Hillmon’s turn to step up for the Atlanta Dream

The Atlanta Dream are once again dealing with several injuries at once to key players in their rotation. This time, the injury bug has bitten Atlanta’s frontcourt, with rookie Naz Hillmon shouldering a larger role for the team for the time being.

Atlanta Dream v Connecticut Sun
Naz Hillmon (right) has been forced into a larger role in Atlanta as the team tries to navigate numerous injuries.
Photo by Annette Grant/NBAE via Getty Images

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The Atlanta Dream have numerous players out of their lineup due to injury.

OK, so it’s not a problem that’s exclusive to Atlanta. We’re at the point in the WNBA season where most players are generally starting to get a bit banged up, and it can be difficult for fantasy basketball managers to adjust to player absences that are announced at the last minute.

For the Dream, though, several injuries in the team’s frontcourt — Monique Billings injuring her ankle and Nia Coffey injuring her knee — make the fantasy adjustment an easy one: Pick up Naz Hillmon. The rookie forward has seen the largest workload of her young WNBA career in the Dream’s last two games and is the latest example of a player who can help a proactive fantasy manager win their daily or weekly matchup, even if her larger role is only temporary. Let’s talk about who else has been stepping up their game as of late, as well as a few players fantasy managers may want to stay away from.

Three Up

Chicago Sky v Dallas Wings
Julie Allemand had a solid floor game in her first start of the season.
Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

Julie Allemand (Chicago Sky)

Allemand started in place of Courtney Vandersloot (concussion protocol) in the Sky’s most recent game against the Dallas Wings and played well, recording eight assists, two steals, two blocks and zero turnovers in 29 minutes. Also of note is that she did not share the court with fellow lead guard Dana Evans, who played 11 minutes and scored two points.

Outlook: Allemand only scored two points herself (1-of-3 shooting), but she did just about everything else the Sky could have asked of her as Vandersloot’s fill-in. While we don’t know how long Vandersloot will be in the league’s concussion protocol, Allemand appears to be Sky head coach James Wade’s spot starter of choice, even if she doesn’t shoot the ball as often as fantasy managers may want.

Naz Hillmon (Atlanta Dream)

With Nia Coffey (knee) and Monique Billings (ankle) both out of commission against the Phoenix Mercury, Hillmon drew the start, recording six points, seven rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes of play. It was Hillmon’s second-straight 30-minute outing, and her first was more productive: 13 points (6-of-10 shooting) and 11 rebounds against the Connecticut Sun.

Outlook: Dream head coach Tanisha Wright is suddenly short on frontcourt options, and while Cheyenne Parker (21 points and 12 rebounds) was the star of the show in the team’s win over Phoenix, Hillmon’s fantasy outlook will also remain bright as long as both Billings and Coffey are sidelined. She will, at the very least, be a decent source of rebounding, and given how many of her shots are taken in the paint, she won’t hurt you with poor field goal percentage, either.

Sophie Cunningham (Phoenix Mercury)

Cunningham has been highly productive since Tina Charles’ departure from Phoenix, averaging 16.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 threes in nine games as the Mercury’s small-ball power forward. She’s playing a massive 34.9 minutes per game during that span, though that’s slightly inflated from the 47 minutes she played during a double-overtime loss to Minnesota — a game in which she scored a career-high 36 points.

Outlook: Hopefully you recognized the signs and picked Cunningham up before that 36-point effort, because it’s unlikely she’s available in your league now. Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard would clearly rather roll with a 4-out lineup than play two traditional bigs together, a move that’s kept the Mercury’s playoff hopes alive. Fantasy managers who drafted Cunningham in deeper leagues are surely smiling ear-to-ear.

Three Down

Indiana Fever v Phoenix Mercury
Victoria Vivians shot just 2-of-19 in her last two games.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Victoria Vivians (Indiana Fever)

Vivians is in the midst of a huge shooting slump, going 1-of-8 from the floor in her last game against the Seattle Storm and 1-of-11 before that against the Minnesota Lynx, scoring just six points total in those two games. To her credit, Vivians also recorded nine rebounds, four assists, and four defensive stats.

Outlook: Vivians’ 3-point accuracy has dipped below 30 percent on the season, but she’s still playing a career-high 27.3 minutes per game, and it’s not like the Fever are in a position to bench their younger players for poor shooting. In leagues that don’t punish poor field goal percentage, Vivians will retain enough value based on volume alone, and she’ll get it going again; otherwise, managers may want to cut bait for more efficient options.

Damiris Dantas (Minnesota Lynx)

Dantas has gone scoreless in her last two games (0-of-5 shooting total) and is shooting a woeful 30.4 percent from the field in 2022. She’s not contributing much peripherally, either, averaging just 0.2 steals and 0.1 blocks per game on the season.

Outlook: Dantas was one of the potential midseason pickups we discussed back in June, but Sylvia Fowles and Natalie Achonwa have both recovered enough to get themselves back into Minnesota’s lineup since then. Meanwhile, Dantas is having perhaps her least-productive WNBA season to date, with the 3-point shot that once made her a key cog in Minnesota’s offense almost completely missing. Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve continues to put Dantas in the starting lineup, but that hasn’t translated to fantasy value, and with several other forwards on the Lynx roster providing considerably more in their playing time, Dantas is looking like a drop candidate.

Isabelle Harrison (Dallas Wings)

Harrison has been playing somewhat sparingly as of late, averaging just 13.5 minutes played for the Wings in July (five games). She is averaging 6.6 points (41.9 percent shooting from the floor), 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals during those games, which continues a downward trend from May (25.8 minutes, 11.1 points and 6.3 rebounds) through June (20.4 minutes, 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds).

Outlook: The emergence of Teaira McCowan as a much-needed big body in the Wings frontcourt has been messing with Harrison’s workload, and since she’s publicly questioned Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson’s decision to scale back her minutes, it’s fair to guess that we’ve seen the best of Harrison as a fantasy player in 2022. Of course, one never truly knows what’s going on with Johnson’s rotations, but don’t be afraid to sell high on Harrison the next time she puts together a good performance.