What Does the Fever Need and How Does Indiana Improve?
It is time for the free agency season to begin in the WNBA and as the calendar moves to February, I’m thankful. In light of the Indiana Pacers’ 12th straight home win, staring into the visiting blue jerseys of the Detroit Pistons, I debated if I was more thankful for PS&E or the Tulsa Shock.
First, I’m always thankful for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which signs my paycheck. But my debate is whether to be more thankful for Palace Sports & Entertainment or the Tulsa Shock. You see, if it weren’t for the demise of the Detroit Shock – formerly owned by the people at the Palace – than there wouldn’t be any Shock in Tulsa. Given the Shock’s eventual move to Tulsa, perhaps I should be thankful, instead, for Nolan Richardson?
The point is … Kelly Krauskopf and the Indiana Fever got an absolute STEAL in the May 27, 2010 trade for Shavonte Zellous, from the aforementioned Richardson and the Shock. The Fever gave up a 2011 second-round draft selection which turned out to be Italee Lucas out of North Carolina. She was waived in training camp and has bounced between Israel, Spain and Romania since then. With Zellous and Erin Phillips, who was also acquired on the cheap, and prize free agent pickup Erlana Larkins, Krauskopf, coach Lin Dunn and the Fever roster are in a great spot with regard to WNBA free agency.
This time of year always begs the question, “Where can your team improve the most, through trades, free agency or the draft?”
In Indiana’s case, a longtime concern was the growing age of its roster, which a couple of years ago boasted four 30-something stars. But with the influx and rising stardom of younger talent, the Fever is no longer so long in the tooth. Due to some added youth and contractual flexibility, Krauskopf may have the offseason capability to add star players without relying on the No. 9 pick in a presumed-to-be-not-so-deep college draft.
Whether via free agency, trade or the draft, what are the Fever’s needs? Indiana, the defending champs of the WNBA, will select ninth in each of three rounds, barring any pre-draft trades. In theory, the Fever has a pretty balanced squad. So, where can the team improve? I’ll identify grounds for three different types of moves.
First, I’d still say Indiana can benefit from a dominant post player. Erlana Larkins was HUGE in the playoffs and will remain a staple in the lineup, but still is undersized compared to most top posts in the WNBA. Tammy Sutton-Brown is nearing retirement at some point and Jessica Davenport has yet to assert herself as the club’s dominant go-to scorer and defender in the paint.
Second, Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas aren’t getting any younger and even while the Fever bench was PHENOMENAL in the playoffs, Indiana really lacks a big, athletic forward who can play the 3 or 4 positions to back them up. A great deal of Indiana’s contributing playoff stars were mostly guards who made a small lineup work to the Fever’s advantage.
Least in importance would be a point guard, but when can you ever have enough great point guards? Indiana surely can employ either January or Phillips at the point. And both can play the 2-guard also. Zellous and Jeanette Pohlen also fill spots at the guard. Indiana is not in need of improved guard play … but if there might ever be any roster movement toward acquisition of a post player or moving up in the draft, it’s feasible that a guard could be used in a trade. So … for sake of examining prospects or free agents, you always have to consider a great point guard.
In what direction will the Fever move? How much tinkering will take place with the defending champs’ roster, if at all? Who knows, stay tuned. The free agency season is upon us. For being in better position to continue improving, the Fever can be thankful for that other PS&E … or the Tulsa Shock … or Nolan Richardson.