Fever Poised to Change Direction This Off-season


Each week over the first three months of the offseason, we will look at what each team has in store for free agency. We will look at pending free agents and then consider who may be a logical target for them to bring in. This series will start in standings order for the teams that missed the postseason and then go in order of elimination when it comes to playoff teams. Today we start with the Indiana Fever.

For the Fever, this year was always going to be something of a lost cause. They came into the season with arguably the least talented roster in the league. These issues were compounded when they drafted Kysre Gondrezick fourth overall. In the middle of the season, last year’s third overall pick, Lauren Cox, was inexplicably waived. Now the team enters an offseason where decisions need to be made about trying to get out of the gutter and start competing respectably on a nightly basis.

Explaining Free Agency

As this is the first dip into free agency this season, let’s take a quick look at the free agency classifications for the uninitiated. For reference, cap sheets and free agency previews can be found here at Her Hoop Stats. There are four classes of free agents and the Indiana Fever have all four. Unrestricted is a player who has either played at least five seasons in the league or been waived by a team. Restricted is for those with four years of service, typically coming off a rookie contract. Both categories can talk to any team, though teams have a chance to match restricted free agents.

Reserved players have come to the end of their contract but have three or fewer years of experience. Finally, the Suspended class is a convention of the post-pandemic world. This is for players who opted out of a given season and while their contract expired, they have not fulfilled it in the eyes of the league. Both sets of players can only negotiate with their own team until that team releases their rights.

The final term that needs to be considered is the core designation. Like the franchise tag in the NFL, the core is a tool the team can use to keep a given unrestricted player from negotiating with other teams. The core can last for up to two years and the team only has one. Currently, Nneka Ogwumike and Brittney Griner are cored and Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles and Angel McCoughtry, among others, are no longer eligible.

Pending Fever Free Agents

The Fever have a player in every category of free agency. Jessica Breland is the only unrestricted free agent that played with the team for the full season. Emma Cannon is also on the market after playing well in 12 games. Breland was second on the team in 3-point percentage (removing Cox from the equation since she only played 88 total minutes) at 31.3 percent. She was also second in rebounds and blocks at 6.3 and 1.5 per game, respectively.

Lindsay Allen is the only restricted free agent on the team. This season she averaged 5.4 points, 3.0 assists and 1.5 rebounds per game in her first season with the Fever. This was her best season yet, despite having started 21 games for the Las Vegas Aces the year prior.

Temi Fagbenle, Bernadett Hatar and Chelsea Perry are all reserved, appearing in a combined 13 total games. Victoria Vivians is also reserved, bringing the first bit of true intrigue. She has not been quite the same since her rookie season, due to multiple knee injuries. Limited to just six games over the course of two seasons, VIvians played in 31 games this year. She still has solid potential but it feels like she is in need of a change of scenery.

Finally, Julie Allemand is the only Fever player on the suspended list. The Belgian standout was drafted in 2016 and played overseas until making her debut in the league in the bubble. She was named to the All-Rookie Team and averaged 8.5 points, 5.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals on shooting splits of .455/.478/.733. Allemand would have been the best shooter on this season’s team by a wide margin, led in assists by more than two per game and tied for second in steals.

The Plan Forward

Allemand did not play for the Fever this season due to commitments overseas in France and then with the Belgian National Team. Outside of their pending lottery pick, Allemand coming back for her second season represents their best young prospect.

The Indiana Fever enter free agency with $431,669 in cap space and eight confirmed salaries. They could nearly double their cap space if they choose to renounce the rights to any of the above players, giving them plenty of flexibility. They were second to last in scoring, assists, offensive rating and 3-point attempts, last in 3-point percentage and defensive rating. At this point, any infusion of talent will help.

Rebecca Allen is a knockdown shooter (38.4 percent career from distance in six years with the New York Liberty) and would open the paint for the bigs of the Fever. Rachel Banham also fits the bill. Sophie Cunningham was a standout during the Phoenix Mercury’s run to the Finals and could fit in nicely. Rookies from last season like Shyla Heal and Natasha Mack would be smart fliers for a continually rebounding team.

If they wanted to take a big swing, making a play for Jewell Loyd may be the first thing that comes to mind, but the likelihood of her leaving the Seattle Storm for the Fever feels low. Courtney Williams has been deemed completely available by the Dream, however, so perhaps this is the play for All-Star the team can make.

Parting Thoughts 

Only so many things can be covered up by cool Rebel edition jerseys. The Indiana Fever have been bad for too long. Even worse, they have seemed to lack direction. After 12 straight postseason berths, they have now missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons. They have not had a winning record since 2015. Marianne Stanley was brought in before last season after Pokey Chatman was made the scapegoat. She has posted a dreadful 12-42 record.

At some point, Tamika Catchings must do something, whether that be improving the roster or stepping down. She is one of the greatest players of all time, and the best to ever wear a Fever uniform. However, the best record the team has posted under her leadership was 13-21.

She has drafted Kysre Gondrezick (fourth), Lauren Cox (third) Tierra McCowan (third), Kelsey Mitchell (second) and Victoria Vivians (eighth) with her five first-round picks. Vivians was drafted over Kia Nurse. McCowan went over Arike Ogunbowale and Napheesa Collier. Many expected Chennedy Carter to be the pick in 2020.

Eventually, the accountability has to come from the top. Gondrezick did not look ready to play in the league and Cox was dismissed after 11 games this year. This offseason needs to be a turning point for the former MVP in the front office.

About Corey Rausch

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