June 12, 2022 

Why the Fever hope Kelsey Mitchell will be named a WNBA All-Star for the first time

Is 2022 the year that Kelsey Mitchell finally becomes at All-Star? The Indiana Fever guard hopes so

The Indiana Fever haven’t seen this version of Kelsey Mitchell before.

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Mitchell has always been talented and hard to guard, which is something former Fever guard Crystal Dangerfield noted after her final game with the team. “I’ve said since I stepped into the league that she’s the hardest person to guard in this league as far as shooting the ball, first quick step, all of that,” Dangerfield said.

But the 2022 evolution of Mitchell is different. She’s better, much better. The Ohio State product is averaging career highs in both points (19.0) and assists (3.9) per game. She’s smashing franchise records, too. Mitchell recently rewrote Indiana’s history books by scoring 19 points in one quarter (the previous record was 16, which Mitchell had tied in the past). And she’s helping the Fever improve by being their offensive leader each and every night.

This new, evolved Mitchell is dynamic and game-changing. And the Fever are making it known that the fifth-year pro is worthy of being named an All-Star for the first time of her career in this campaign.

“Kelsey Mitchell was a flat-out All-Star today,” former head coach Marianne Stanley said after the Fever beat the Lynx earlier this season. “We’re going to start pushing that campaign that she be recognized as one of the better guards in the league.”

Mitchell has yet to be named an All-Star in her career, but this year, that could change. Her numbers rank among the league’s elites in many key statistical categories, including points per game (fourth), assists per game (16th), three-pointers made per game (seventh), and free throws made per game (ninth). She’s carving up defenses in every way, and Indiana’s offense is nearly nine points per 100 possessions better when Mitchell is on the floor compared to when she is off, per pbpstats. Her impact is enormous.

“She’s an All-Star!” Danielle Robinson chimed in and said during one of Mitchell’s media availabilities earlier this season. Robinson, a three time All-Star herself, has been telling anyone who will listen that she believes Mitchell deserves to be honored this season.

The first round of fan voting for WNBA All-Stars was announced earlier this week, and Mitchell had the 21st most votes at the time. The Indiana Fever have the worst record in the league, and that hurts Mitchell’s case. But that ranking is low for a player who has been tearing up the league this season.

“Kelsey, she’s a tough guard. She can go out there and she can light you up,” Fever guard Bria Hartley said. Hartley is coming back from an ACL injury and is still recapturing the full extent of her lateral movement, so going against Mitchell in practice is one way that Hartley is improving her lateral speed. “If I can guard her, I can guard anybody,” Hartley said before adding that she assumed Mitchell had already been named an All-Star before based on her skill level.

Indiana Fever combo guard Kelsey Mitchell dribbles low to the ground while advancing up the court
Kelsey Mitchell dribbles in a game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on May 20, 2022. (Photo credit: Chris Poss | The Next)

Friday, Mitchell dropped in 23 points against the New York Liberty. It was the ninth time this season that the Indiana Fever guard eclipsed 20 points in a single game. No other WNBA player had more than six at the time. One week earlier, Mitchell was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Her season has been filled with stellar moments so far, and that’s why she is in the All-Star conversation.

“I want to be (an All-Star), I have aspirations to be. But I’m going to take it day-by-day,” Mitchell said earlier this season when asked if being named to the All-Star game is a goal for her. But the guard has also often noted that she doesn’t want to get wrapped up in awards and instead wants to continue to focus on improvement. That’s the mindset that has guided her to this spot, one where she can be in the conversation to be in the All-Star game on July 10, in the first place.

It’s imperative that Mitchell to keeps up her current form, both for the Fever’s chance at success and for Mitchell’s chance of being named to the festivities in Chicago next month. Indiana has not won a game when the 26-year old scores fewer than 22 points, so getting her going on offense is paramount for the red and blue. But that can be difficult. Mitchell has been drawing double teams, even triple teams, from defenses in recent games in an attempt to slow her down — a phenomenon she called “crazy” earlier this week. That is a testament to how talented she is, but it also forces her into more of a playmaking role than she is accustomed to. The Fever are still trying to figure out how to attack when Mitchell gets swarmed by multiple defenders.

Recently, some success has come when Mitchell draws multiple opponents. She has nine assists across the Fever’s last two games, and three of them have gone to second overall pick NaLyssa Smith, who has 34 points in those games. Indiana, and interim coach Carlos Knox, are slowly figuring out how to build their attack around their All-Star level talent, a testament to the team’s growth and Mitchell’s skills.

“I just talk to her about being the best player that she can be,” Knox said when asked about campaigning for Mitchell to be named an All-Star. “Make sure that she’s just the complete player that she needs to be undeniable.”

This season, Mitchell has been undeniable. That’s why she is in the All-Star conversation and why she is drawing so much attention from defenses. If the Indiana Fever were winning more games, Mitchell’s case would be stronger, but as one of the best offensive players in the league, there is a chance that the guard is named a WNBA All-Star for the first time in her career this season.

Written by Tony East

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

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