April 10, 2022 

Indiana Fever Draft Preview: How will the team manage so many picks on a pivotal draft night?

The Indiana Fever have a lot to consider ahead of a pivotal 2022 WNBA Draft

Indiana Fever interim General Manager Lin Dunn made her motto for improving the Indiana Fever clear at her introductory press conference.

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“Two, seven, ten.”

At the time, those digits represented the three slots in which the Fever would make picks in the first round of the 2022 WNBA Draft. But Dunn’s slogan is outdated — the Fever made a trade roughly one month ago that netted the red and blue more draft capital. Now, Dunn will be in charge of drafting second, fourth, sixth and tenth on Monday, in addition to later round picks, as the franchise looks to rebound from a last-place finish.

“We’re optimistic that we’re going to find some great young players that play hard, that are high energy, that can help us rebuild this Fever franchise where it proves should be,” Dunn said of the draft. The GM thinks that this is the deepest draft since 2018 and thinks that the Fever can come out of it with important building blocks.

It’s hard to overstate how key having a successful draft is for Indiana. They had the worst record in the WNBA last season and have waived three recent first-round picks in the last 10 months. The youth pipeline on the roster is fairly small, which is unusual for a rebuilding squad. Dunn is in charge of getting the group into a more structured and improvable position.

Dunn has not sugar-coated her thoughts on the team’s circumstance, making frequent remarks about the team’s last-place finish last season while also stating that the organization’s goal, in her eyes, should not be to make the playoffs but rather to improve. And improvement for the Fever will start on draft night.

Many experts view the top of the 2022 draft as a two player class in Rhyne Howard and NaLyssa Smith. If they internally agree with the experts, the Fever are positioned well by having a top-two pick. They will have the chance to draft one of those two players.

After that pairing, the next tier of prospects is larger. Shakira Austin, Emily Engstler, Kierstan Bell, Nyara Sabally, and Naz Hillmon highlight this group in most mock drafts, and a few other players see their names mentioned in this range. With picks four and six, the Fever will have the chance to select two of these prospects if they share the opinion of mock drafts.

Indiana has the tenth pick as well, which could allow them to draft an additional talent. And with any pick, including the ones in later rounds, Dunn has the option to make a trade.

Trades throw a wrench in, well, everything when it comes to Indiana. Not only has Dunn already shown she is willing to make big trades when she dealt away Teaira McCowan, but she also may have to make more substantial trades on draft night by default — the Fever already have 15 players under contract before selecting a single one. With seven picks in hand, it will be challenging for Dunn to cut the roster down to one dozen without making trades.

In short, the Fever could do many things. With many talented players and trades considerations at play, it’s difficult to predict what Dunn might do, especially with her aggressive style so far. The Fever could do, well, anything.

The Indiana Fever would close draft night with 22 players on its roster without any trades. That’s a ton, and that means many drafted by the team will have an uphill battle to even make the roster. Dunn will have to keep positional needs in mind; as a result, any prospect drafted into a positional logjam (see also — a guard) will have to be an exceptional talent to make the Fever’s regular-season squad.

“First and foremost in the first round, we’re looking at the best player available. We’ve got a list. We’ve got a board charting those top ten players by best available, and then we’ve also got a chart over here beside us charting what we need,” Dunn shared. “In our particular situation, we need a lot. We need help inside. We need help outside. It’s a little bit easier for us to pinpoint our needs because they’re glaring. But we are essentially in that first round with two, four, six, and ten looking at the best player available.”

Kierstan Bell gathers to dribble (Photo credit: Brad Young | FGCU Athletics)

More brutal honesty from Dunn. The Indiana Fever need talent everywhere, and the GM knows it. Currently, there are only two players under 25 years old that are under contract with the team (Micaela Kelly and Chelsey Perry) and neither one of them are guaranteed a spot on the team in 2022. The squad needs young talent at every position, and it’s up to Dunn to get it.

One final consideration for the Fever is how any drafted player would fit alongside star guard Kelsey Mitchell. Dunn called Mitchell the centerpiece of the franchise in February and had high praise for the guard’s abilities. Any player the Fever select will need to complement Mitchell’s skills.

“No doubt she is a central part as we build this forward,” Dunn said of Mitchell. Fortunately for Indiana, most skillsets would fit well with the Ohio State product, though any ball-dominant player would overlap with Mitchell’s skillset somewhat.

There’s a lot at stake for the Indiana Fever on Monday. The franchise hasn’t reached the postseason since 2016 and hasn’t won a playoff game since the season prior — they are far removed from success. With new leadership in place, though, a turnaround could be coming, and it would start with the 2022 WNBA Draft.

“We are looking at our seven draft picks, in particular, the four in the first round, to rebuild around,” Dunn said. Weeks earlier, she praised her own scouting skills, which have been refined through decades of experience. “I’m a great evaluator of talent.”

That scouting expertise and team-building mindset make Dunn the right person to lead the Fever through the draft. And with so many considerations at play — talented players, trades, fit, and position — she will have to be on her A-game. The next era of Indiana Fever basketball could begin on Monday, one without Tamika Catchings, and it’s critical that the team has a successful draft night.

Written by Tony East

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

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