September 17, 2021 

What to watch for over Fever’s final stretch

Admittedly, the Fever are ending the season overwhelmingly crippled by injury

2021 has not been kind to the Indiana Fever. The team is a lock to finish at the bottom of the WNBA standings and will miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. They began the season 1-16 and, other than a brief three-game winning streak leading into the month-long Olympic break spanning July to August; haven’t offered their fan base any prolonged stretch of consistency to encourage the immediate future.

However, if Head Coach Marianne Stanley is approaching the Fever’s final two games in any way similar to the last few weeks of games — playing the starters significant minutes when the team’s postseason chances were already slim — then the front office can use these matchups against the Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky to examine some critical pieces of its roster entering what’s sure to be an eventful offseason. 

Stanley was asked after an August loss to the Phoenix Mercury if she planned to take a more conservative approach with her star players over the final stretch of games, opting to more heavily feature players on the fringe of the roster. She answered with a resounding “Next question, no.”

Admittedly, the Fever are ending the season overwhelmingly crippled by injury — they enter their Friday night matchup against the Lynx with just seven available players. Danielle Robinson is out with a right ankle issue, Jessica Breland a left thumb issue, and Tiffany Mitchell a left knee ailment. Bernadett Határ remains out with a right ankle injury, Kysre Gondrezick remains on her personal leave that has lasted since the Olympic break. And Chelsey Perry is sidelined with a torn ACL.

Nevertheless, there are still players and roles to be evaluated as the sun sets on a tumultuous summer for the Indiana Fever. Here are two of the most pressing questions facing the franchise:

What to do with Lindsay Allen?

Allen, who the Fever acquired in February, immediately assumed a larger-than-expected role on the Fever once the news came out that Julie Allemand would not play during the 2021 season. 

According to Her Hoop Stats, Allen will be a Restricted Free Agent this offseason, meaning the Fever have a decision to make as to whether to bring her back as the third-string point guard behind Robinson and Allemand (assuming she returns to Indiana in 2022).

Allen has come on late in the season, starting the Fever’s last six games as Robinson continues to deal with her injury. She averaged just 12.8 minutes per game over the Fever’s first 24 games but has seen that number increase to 31.8 during her starts. Her scoring and assist averages have increased from 3.8 and 2.3 per game to 9.7 and 4.0, respectively. 

“I think just staying confident… playing with confidence and just playing as hard as I can whenever I’m out there,” Allen said after a career-high 15 points and seven assists on Sept. 6 against Phoenix. “Being aggressive early to start the game, and it kind of opens everything else up.”

Given how well Allemand played in her rookie season at the “wubble,” it is almost a given that the Fever would welcome her return by placing her back in the starting lineup for 2022. Besides shooting lights-out from behind the arc (47.8%), Allemand exhibited a healthy balance between scoring, posting 8.5 points per game, and running the offense, with 5.8 assists per contest.

Robinson is a veteran point guard who will likely still see heavy minutes in 2022 due to her ability to push the ball. And run an up-tempo style but step into more of a mentorship role behind Allemand. 

If the Fever see enough from Allen to re-sign her as the team’s likely third-string point guard, then the former Notre Dame star would have to be accepting of that role. If she is, then based on Catchings’ high praise, she’ll likely remain on the roster going forward.

A future home for Emma Cannon?

Cannon is a true variable for Indiana to re-sign for a full-year contract next season. She’s undoubtedly impressed in the minutes she’s received since signing with the team over the Olympic break —  the Fever extended the veteran to a full-season, season contract on Sept. 6 after three consecutive seven-day deals — but with many players due to return from injuries and recent absences, Cannon’s far from a lock to be in Indianapolis next summer.

This season, Cannon is another player on the roster that’s benefited from the absences of players such as Határ and Breland. She was originally signed due to a medical hardship extension. And has already started four games for the Fever. And most recently contributing 13 points and five assists in Tuesday’s loss to the Atlanta Dream. 

Cannon, who already played for the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces during the 2021 season, says her quick acclimation to the Fever is largely due to her familiarity with the roster, something General Manager Tamika Catchings is sure to factor into her decision making in regards to inching closer to a “championship culture” this offseason.

“I feel super comfortable,” Cannon said after scoring a career-high 16 points in an August win over Dallas. “I know a majority of these girls. They welcomed me with open arms…I started a little rugged and I feel like every single one of them got in my ear and told me that I was better than what I was playing and they believed in me. It was up to me to produce for them, and I feel like that’s where I got my motivation from.” 

With all of the missing players from the lineup, Cannon is an interesting watch — in both games, she’s started and played over 20 minutes, she’s scored in double figures. If she can plug the holes in Stanley’s team without any drop-off from the typical starters’ production than Catchings faces an interesting decision come the end of the season.

Written by Ben Rosof

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