December 8, 2020 

Indiana’s Tamika Catchings, Marianne Stanley look ahead to 2021 WNBA Draft

Fever face a unique draft process, now know they'll pick fourth

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AUGUST 20: Lauren Cox #13 of the Indiana Fever fights forposition on August 20, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE(Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Indiana Fever will pick fourth in the 2021 WNBA Draft as a result of the league’s Draft Lottery held on Friday. The Fever entered the lottery with the lowest chances — 104 out of 1,000 — of earning the number one pick. 

“Obviously disappointed in not getting one, two or three, but with the fourth pick, you still have a great opportunity to bring somebody to your team, to our team,” said Tamika Catchings, Fever General Manager and VP of Basketball Operations. 

Draft lottery chances are determined through the teams’ cumulative records over the previous two seasons. Indiana finished 6-16 in 2020 and 13-21 in 2019 for a combined result of 19-37, the best two-year record of the four teams in this year’s drawing.

This will be the franchise’s fourth consecutive draft picking in the top four, with previous selections including Lauren Cox at three, Teaira McCowan at three and Kelsey Mitchell at two.

The Fever need more scoring in several areas, whether it’s a wing to pair with Mitchell, a young post to complement McCowan and Cox or a guard to provide depth behind Erica Wheeler and Julie Allemand. It also wouldn’t hurt to add a defensive specialist, as the team finished dead last in the WNBA in Defensive Rating (111.8) and allowed opponents to score at least 100 points in five games.

“We have a really good team, really good pieces that we can build, and we need complementary players,” Catchings said. “We need you to score, we need you to defend, we need you to do all the basic things but, I think, as a collective unit, that is going to be how we win. That’s going to be the way we continue to build our championship culture.”

The Fever were 5-7 through 12 games and in prime contention for its first postseason appearance since 2016 but struggled down the stretch, losing nine of its final 10 games. It was Indiana’s first season under new head coach Marianne Stanley, who arrived after spending the previous 10 seasons as an assistant with the Washington Mystics.

Though the team results fell below expectations, Indiana saw several players take significant developmental strides while playing in the Bradenton bubble. Mitchell experienced a career year, increasing her scoring average from 13.6 to 17.9 points per game, seventh in the league. Allemand, who Stanley heavily convinced to make her WNBA debut this summer, proved to be a steady, consistent presence at point guard in the absence of the All-Star Wheeler.

“If you watch the way that we played this year, we have a brand new coach, brand new support cast around the team… I look at our team and feel like we’re in a great spot,” Catchings said. “I feel like we grew a lot this summer and will continue to grow.”

The Fever arrived late to the “wubble” in Florida due to early COVID-19 positive testsThough Stanley acknowledged that the unique backdrop presented its challenges, she praised the WNBA for facilitating a successful season in a regulated environment with “very few” positive cases. 

“I feel like once we got into that routine, everybody in the bubble really felt safe, felt like, as the WNBA stated, health and safety was the highest priority and that’s exactly what happened,” she said. 

In anticipation of the draft, teams must adjust to a scouting process centered around watching games virtually, rather than traveling and evaluating prospects in person. Coaches and GM’s must also consider a new rule granting NCAA student-athletes an extra year of eligibility, which Stanley admitted may “expand the pool” and give players more flexibility with their decisions.

Compounding matters are frequent game cancellations and postponements, making a cohesive scouting process all the more difficult.

“We certainly know what it’s like, what the colleges and universities are going through right now,” said Stanley. “I think, in some respects, their task is a little bit different and maybe more challenging in other ways than ours… I appreciate the challenges that coaches are facing with regard to scheduling and the fact that they’re not in a bubble.”

Though Stanley admitted that she may factor stats and data more heavily into the equation this year, it’s also difficult to replicate the value of in-person interaction.

“I think we’re trending in the direction of analytics, obviously, but nothing replaces good ol’ eyeballs on players. There’s value in both, certainly.”

The 2021 WNBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held in April, though a final date has yet to be determined.

Written by Ben Rosof

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