February 5, 2022
How the Bria Hartley deal retools the Indiana Fever for now and later
Three-team trade gives Fever some assets and a combo to pair with Kelsey Mitchell
The Indiana Fever like the 2022 WNBA draft class. General Manager Tamika Catchings noted such in her end-of-season press conference last fall when discussing the next steps for her Fever team, calling the 2022 group of prospects “deep.”
That motivation led to the Fever making their first big move of the free agency period earlier this week. In a three-team deal with Phoenix and Chicago, Indiana acquired point guard Bria Hartley as well as multiple draft selections — the No. 7 overall pick in the 2022 draft (from Chicago), the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 draft (from Phoenix), a 2023 first-round selection (from Chicago) and a 2023 second-round draft choice (from Phoenix). In exchange, Indiana sent away point guard Julie Allemand.
“We are excited to welcome Bria’s veteran presence to Indiana,” Catchings said in a release from the team. “She has proven to be a key contributor on multiple teams, including last year in helping Phoenix advance to the WNBA Finals.”
Hartley could prove useful for the Indiana Fever. She is a willing and solid-enough three-point shooter, a pairing of traits that Indiana has lacked in recent seasons, and she can be a crafty creator in halfcourt situations. She and Danielle Robinson could give the Indiana Fever an effective yin and yang point guard rotation with Robinson being the more impactful defender and Hartley providing an offensive punch.
But the larger motivation for this trade for the team from the Circle City was the draft picks. The Fever, who went 6-26 this past season, are chasing more young talent. More selections, and particularly top-10 selections, gives the franchise a chance to get more young pieces that could be a part of the next good Fever team.
“This trade allows us to secure more top-tier talent in this year’s draft, and we also add more assets to control heading into 2023,” Catchings explained of the deal.
As a result of this trade, the Fever now have three of the top-10 picks in the 2022 WNBA draft. After finishing second in the draft lottery, Indiana has the second, seventh, and tenth overall choices, which gives them many chances to add talent. Catchings could continue lay the foundation for a young core on draft night.
“I feel like we are on the verge of having the team that we need and what we want,” Fever guard Aaliyah Wilson said in December. “I think we’re just like one or two small pieces away from connecting all that together.”
These draft picks could help the Fever connect everything together, as Wilson explained. Catchings detailed earlier in the offseason that she wants her team to play faster next season, and adding youth to the roster via the draft, as well as Hartley, will allow them to do up their tempo.
The Fever have a nearly full roster already, so adding extra picks into the mix will make for an interesting battle in training camp for the final roster spots. Indiana could be a team to watch in trades going forward, as aggregating a few of their players in a deal for one or two in return could make their roster crunch simple.
This is the second offseason in a row that Indiana has used salary cap space to bring in a large contract from another team paired with a first round draft pick. Minnesota traded Odyssey Sims to the Fever last season along with a 2022 first rounder — the pick that ultimately became number 10 overall this season. Sims was immediately waived.
Thursday’s trade is similar. The Fever brought in Hartley and her protected $196k deal, per HerHoopStats, and received some draft compensation for their troubles. The move allowed the Phoenix to free up enough cap space to sign former MVP Tina Charles.
Losing Allemand hurts, she was a promising rookie for Indiana a few seasons ago. But if the Belgian guard wasn’t going to come over and play for the Fever this season, then dealing her away to acquire more useful assets was the right choice from Catchings.
Ultimately, this trade will be graded based on what the Fever do with the picks. Fans may not have much confidence in the front office to make the right selections after the team waived 2021 number four overall pick Kysre Gondrezick a few weeks ago, but if Indiana can grab one or two pieces of their future core in upcoming drafts, then dealing away Allemand and losing some cap space is worth it. If the picks come up bust, then Indiana will have limited their flexibility and options for little gain.
Hartley’s role on the team is not yet clear, but she just made a mark on the WNBA finals with the Mercury — averaging 3.5 points and 1.3 assists per game in the series. Hartley may have to compete with Lindsay Allen or Wilson for minutes in the reserve guard spots, though the Fever roster could like entirely different once the regular season opens.
This trade brings the Indiana Fever what they need — more assets for a roster re-tool. If the assets are used correctly, then Catchings and company will be thrilled about the haul they received for Allemand and cap space. If the picks don’t pan out and Hartley can’t impact the team in a positive way, though, then the Fever may have missed out on some other spending opportunities that could have improved the team. For a team in Indiana’s position, though, this trade feels like a smart and calculated success, and it has a much higher chance of becoming a great trade than a bad one.