March 6, 2024 

How Katie Lou Samuelson thinks she will boost the Indiana Fever

The Indiana Fever added Katie Lou Samuelson in free agency. She should provide an instant boost in many important ways

The Indiana Fever are far from a finished product right now in their current rebuild. They have many needs. But it became clear last season that they needed more depth and consistency on the wing between Lexie Hull and NaLyssa Smith. It was a weakness.

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On day one of free agency, the Fever addressed that weakness by adding Katie Lou Samuelson, who could start right away for her new team. “I think there’s still some question about who’s going to be on either side of Kelsey Mitchell,” general manager Lin Dunn said of the Fever’s needs in the offseason. Samuelson could be on one side of the All-Star guard.

Samuelson can knock down outside shots. She drilled over 35% of her threes in each of her last two seasons in the WNBA, and she did so on a solid volume of attempts. In 2022, she was one of 30 players to bury over 35% from long range and take at least 74 threes, and in 2021, she was one of 28 to accomplish the feat, per Across The Timeline. In those seasons, Sameulson is one of 16 players to reach those statistical thresholds both times.

For her career, Samuelson is a 33.9% three-point shooter. Her impact doesn’t stop there. She is a strong team defender who is rarely caught out of position, she rarely turns the ball over, and she is reliable from the foul line. In her last full season, the Los Agneles Sparks were able to keep Samuelson on the floor for almost 30 minutes per night — her three-and-D skill set is very useful, and she doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.

Those traits are why the Indiana Fever wanted her. They tried to wow Samuelson and show her how much they valued her during her free agent visit.

“Seeing the locker room and seeing the practice court and seeing all of these resources that I haven’t necessarily had as a player yet, was something that was really important to me,” Samuelson said of her free agency experience. She’s a mom now, so her time both on the court and with family is more purposeful and serious. The around-the-clock access to high-quality facilities was valuable to the 26-year old wing.

Samuelson talked to a few teams in free agency. For her, the priorities were about finding the best fit for her as a player and person. “Being from [Los Angeles], not that it was expected to just be able to stay there, and I know throughout the process they were great as well. But I think having Indiana bring me out and show me that I can still feel like home no matter where I am was something that was really special.”

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With the Fever, Samuelson should be a snug fit. Defense travels, and Indiana ranked 11th in defensive rating last season. Any boost the four-year pro provides on the less glamorous end of the court will go a long way for the Fever.

When it came to shooting, the Circle City’s team ranked 10th in attempts per game from beyond the arc in 2023. Their three-point accuracy ranked sixth. Adding someone who can up the volume of threes the Indiana Fever take without hurting their accuracy was extremely important.

Hull is a talented defensive player, but her shot hasn’t dropped at the level many hoped for in the pros. Victoria Vivians was inconsistent last season. If Samuelson can pick up right where she left off from the 2022 season, she will provide a new element of nightly play on the wing for the Fever — though Hull could help by taking another step forward.

“I do feel like I can fit well in the three [position],” Samuelson said. She thinks she can be a puzzle piece that wasn’t there for the Fever last season. “I feel like Aliyah Boston is not only a great player, but she’s a great competitor. And I feel like I could play off of her very well.”

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So much of the Fever’s identity is based around defense. Despite the team ranking poorly on that end of the floor, they still took noticeable steps forward from the 2022 campaign last year, and head coach Christie Sides preaches defense at every turn. If Samuelson helps her team be more true to their identity, then Indiana will be a better group.

“Her ability to shoot the basketball. She is one of the best shooters out there, and that was our goal,” Sides told The Next of the Samuelson addition. “Our goal is to have five people out on that court that can shoot the basketball.”

Samuelson didn’t play in the WNBA in 2023. Instead, she became a mom to Aliya, which has changed her perspective on playing. As mentioned above, she is more intentional with her time now, but there’s more to it than just that.

She is older, more mature, and closer to the home of her husband, former Orlando Magic guard Devin Cannady. He grew up in Mishawaka, Indiana, which is near University of Notre Dame and sits about 2.5 hours North of Indianapolis.

“Since having [Aliya], my whole perspective on training, basketball, and everything has kind of changed just for the better. I’ve been able to play because I want to play and I want to do something for her,” Samuelson said. “All the things that used to bug me before, they just seem so small now. I feel like I know what hard is now compared to what I thought was hard before.”

Katie Lou Samuelson has a new perspective to go with her valuable skills. With so much still in flux for the Indiana Fever going forward, their depth on the wing is now more solid.

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Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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