January 19, 2022
What to make of the Indiana Fever waiving Kysre Gondrezick
The Indiana Fever moved on from Kysre Gondrezick, which leads to a larger discussion about recent Fever drafts
This move comes after just one season of Gondrezick’s career. The young guard played in 19 games for Indiana during her rookie season, posting averages of 1.9 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game. The West Virginia University product was an effective shooter and aggressive defender early in the season, but her accuracy and minutes waned as her rookie campaign progressed.
Gondrezick didn’t play in the second half of the Fever’s 2021 season. Recently, she shared that she needed to step away from the team to focus on her mental health and get support for her well-being.
“My mental health was at a high risk as I was under a lot of stress coping with my own personal silence of traumas,” Gondrezick shared in a statement.
The 24-year old guard last appeared in a game on July 11 before her absence. That may now be her final game ever played in an Indiana uniform after being waived this week.
Gondrezick was considered an extraordinary reach with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft, but the Fever were confident in her abilities and made the selection regardless of perception. Now, after moving on from the Michigan native less than one year later, questions about that pick, and the Fever’s draft process, are resurfacing.
On its own, if the Fever simply identified Gondrezick wasn’t a high-quality player and moved on from her, that wouldn’t be considered a surprising move — she struggled on the court during her rookie season. But such a line of thinking misses the problem that Indiana has faced in recent seasons.
The Fever selected Lauren Cox with the third overall selection in the 2020 WNBA draft and moved on from her in the middle of the 2021 season. By waiving both Cox and Gondrezick in seven months, the team has shown an inability to identify talent in the lottery, a concern for a franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2016.
There are also questions about the Fever’s priorities. In the long-term, moving on from Cox to sign Chelsey Perry during the 2021 campaign may prove to be a fruitful decision for general manager Tamika Catchings. But the question is why, if the Fever wanted Perry, did they decide to move on from Cox and not another player. For a team that needs to be developing talent and focusing on sustainable long-term growth, moving on from a veteran, rather than Cox, would have made more sense on paper.
Yet now, just 20 months removed from the 2020 draft, the Fever have nothing to show for two consecutive lottery picks.
The Fever need to do root cause analysis and figure out what has them in this position. Is poor scouting to blame? The team had two successful lottery picks before 2020 in Teaira McCowan and Kelsey Mitchell, so that feels like a stretch of the imagination. Could poor player development be the issue or just the wrong prioritization of minutes between younger and older players? Maybe, but other youngsters have been able to grow and contribute for the red and blue in recent seasons.
While a search for reasoning behind two unsuccessful top-four picks is necessary, especially with the Fever picking second in the 2022 draft, the answer may be simple: the Fever made the wrong picks. As they have often since Catchings took over as GM in November of 2019. She chose Cox over Chennedy Carter and Crystal Dangerfield in 2020, and she chose Gondrezick over Michaela Onyenwere and Dana Evans. Most experts pegged Cox as a high pick due to her excellent college career, so that selection is defensible in the public eye. But Gondrezick was scarcely identified as a top talent in the 2021 draft, so Catchings will need to reflect on what led her to that pick over another. These last two drafts need to be valuable lessons for a Fever organization with playoff aspirations in 2022.
Beyond Indiana’s decision-making in the past, which deserves criticism, they had to have a reason to move on from Gondrezick. The move(s) they make in response to this waiver could remove some of the shock value. The Fever have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft. But beyond that, perhaps they are opening a roster spot for a Julie Allemand reunion or a larger free-agent signing. Catchings does have money to spend in free agency, so more spaces on the team could be valuable during the ongoing free agency period. This waiver cannot be fully graded yet.
But part of the grade calculus also must be that the Fever invested a lottery pick into Gondrezick, and that is what makes this waiver so stunning. Indiana may have made the right move by cutting bait with a failed pick early and cutting their losses. But they shouldn’t be in a position where that is even an option that is being considered. Now, the franchise must navigate forward with more pressure on the upcoming 2022 draft.