April 17, 2022 

From 22 to 12: Detailing the roster cut decisions facing the Indiana Fever

The Indiana Fever will cut double-digit players in the next few weeks. What does the team have to consdier when finalizing the roster?

Parting ways with a large number of players is never an easy task, but it is one that the Indiana Fever will have to accomplish in the next few weeks as the WNBA season begins near the start of May.

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The Fever announced their training camp roster earlier this week, and it featured an eye-popping 22 players. Only 12, at most, can make the regular season squad, so Indiana’s front office will have to part ways with nearly half of their camp group by the time the season tips off. It will be a tough exercise for interim general manager Lin Dunn and the rest of Fever brass.

At the start of camp, Indiana will have 14 active participants. Forward Chelsey Perry is injured and still rehabbing from an ACL injury while seven players — Alaina Coates, Haley Gorecki, Bria Hartley, Bernadett Határ, Jazmine Jones, Danielle Robinson, and Victoria Vivians — will arrive late due to prior overseas commitments. That will give the Fever extra time to evaluate everyone up close.

Once those players return to Indiana, however, the Fever will have to start cutting down its roster size. Projecting who the final dozen players will be is a bit tricky with so many moving parts and seven recent draft picks, but it’s a worthy exercise after a chaotic offseason in Indiana.

Technically, Indiana already started making moves. Earlier this week, Dunn waived forward Emma Cannon, a signing made by former Fever general manager Tamika Catchings earlier this offseason, and added rookie guard Erin Whalen in her spot. The addition of Whalen means there will be nine rookies in camp for the Fever.

After that move, the 22 players coming to Indianapolis for training camp looks as follows:

Player Position Age
Lindsay Allen Guard 27
Alaina Coates Center 27
Queen Egbo Center 21
Emily Engstler Forward 21
Haley Gorecki Wing 25
Bria Hartley Guard 29
Bernadett Határ Center 27
Destanni Henderson Guard 23
Lexie Hull Guard 22
Jazmine Jones Wing 25
Micaela Kelly Guard 23
Kelsey Mitchell Guard 26
Tiffany Mitchell Wing 27
Jaime Nared Wing 26
Ali Patberg Guard 25
Chelsey Perry Forward 22
Danielle Robinson Guard 32
Alanna Smith Wing 25
NaLyssa Smith Forward 21
Victoria Vivians Wing 27
Erin Whalen Guard 24
Ameshya Williams-Holliday Center 24
The Indiana Fever training camp roster, sorted alphabetically

Figuring out which of those players is not long for the team and which ones will stick is difficult, especially since so many of them have zero WNBA experience. Starting in reverse and determining which players should make the team’s final roster is helpful in determining what the final roster could be since as the roster begins to take shape, positional and age needs come more into focus.

Seven players stand out as locks, or near-locks, to make it to the regular season. Three of them played for the Fever last season in K. Mitchell, T. Mitchell, and Robinson. All three were effective for the team located in the circle city this past season, and the trio all have a protected salary (per Her Hoop Stats) for the upcoming campaign, so it seems a near certainty that they will all don a Fever uniform in 2022. Indiana’s net rating was much better with most or all of those three players on the court last season than it was with them on the bench, per pbpstats, and Dunn has praised Kelsey Mitchell this offseason, calling her an important part of the team’s makeup.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that at this particular time Kelsey is the centerpiece of this franchise,” Dunn shared after being introduced as GM.

Beyond those three veterans, the other players who are a near-lock to make the final Indiana Fever roster are the four who were drafted in the first round this past week: N. Smith, Engstler, Hull, and Egbo. While the Fever have cut first-round picks from past regimes in recent months, Dunn follows the “best player available” draft philosophy and just selected that quartet of prospects. It seems far-fetched that something could happen in training camp that would sway the front office’s opinion so much that any one of those four players becomes un-rostertable.

If those seven players do in fact end up on the Fever’s regular season squad, then only five spots would remain for the other 15 players to battle over. That projected group of seven contains four guards as well, so any ball-handlers will have an uphill battle to separate themselves in camp.

What makes sorting out the rest of the Fever’s decisions tricky is that two different general managers signed the players. Cannon was waived earlier this week, and she was signed by Catchings earlier this offseason. Will players inked by Dunn have an advantage over players inked by the former GM? That could be a factor in some decisions.

On the flip side of that, Indiana Fever coach Marianne Stanley is still creating a desirable culture in Indiana, and many players commented on the family-style atmosphere that was present in Indiana last season. Players who have played on Stanley-coached squads before might have a better shot at making the regular-season roster.

Of the remaining 15 players, only one both played for Stanley last season and was signed after Dunn took over control in the front office: center Bernadett Határ. If Határ does come over for training camp or the season, then she seems like one of the best candidates to make the 12-player roster. As the tallest player in the WNBA, she played well for the Fever during her rookie season in 2021 and has a unique skill set that would benefit any team. Penciling her in for a spot on the team brings the total to eight.

Things get much more difficult after that. Every player still hanging in the balance has either played for Stanley or was acquired by Dunn with the exception of three — Coates, Hartley, and Jones. And all three have a case to make the final roster.

Coates is the only center of the 14 players still in question that has WNBA experience (rookie Ameshya Williams-Holliday is the only other big). If the Fever want depth on the interior, she could be a needed piece. Hartley has a protected salary and is a talented player, and Dunn lauded the trade that Catchings made to acquire Hartley (and draft capital) after taking over the front office. Jones, a first-round pick in 2020, may be the best defensive wing of the 14 players fighting for a spot on the team. All three, despite being signed by Catchings and never having played for Stanley, have a case to be on the Fever this season.

Indiana Fever rookie center Ameshya Williams-Holliday
Rookie center Ameshya Williams-Holliday will have to fight to make the Indiana Fever roster (photo via The Next)

The other 10 players all either were inked by Dunn in the last two months or played for the Fever last season, and all of them will have to battle with Hartley, Coates, Williams-Holliday, and Jones for a spot on the team.

Three players from the 2021 Fever unit — Allen, Vivians, and Perry — all have factors working for and against them. For Perry, she is only 22 and plays a role the Fever need as a stretch four. She would appear to be a good fit, but her injury status makes her future tough to predict.

Vivians and Allen were both in the Indiana Fever rotation for much of 2021, and both were re-signed by Catchings early in the offseason. Allen often drew praise from Stanley as a steady hand at the point guard spot last year, while Vivians both grew as a multi-positional forward and was celebrated by Catchings after the season ended. Both have the talent to make the 2022 Fever team, but both will have competition.

In Allen’s case, she will be fighting for a role in a crowded point guard rotation. Assuming Robinson’s spot on the tem is as secure as it appears, then Allen will have to battle with Hartley as well as rookies Destanni Henderson and Micaela Kelly for minutes/opportunity as backup ball-handlers. Allen may have an edge just from knowing Stanley’s system, but Hartley is talented and the two rookies will have something to prove.

Vivians will have the same knowledge advantages as Allen, but she may have to beat out Jones, Jaime Nared, Alanna Smith, and Haley Gorecki on the wing. Jones and Smith carved out a role on playoff teams last year in New York and Phoenix, respectively, while Gorecki has experience both with Team USA and with the Mercury. The competition for wing minutes will be fierce.

Third-round pick Ali Patberg and the undrafted rookie Whalen will be in the mix as well, though those two will have a challenging path to a spot on the roster thanks to the crowded nature of the Fever backcourt.

It’s hard to say who has the inside track for a spot on the Fever roster solely based on positions and connections. Other factors, even small ones, may be the deciding factor in many of these decisions.

For example, Hartley’s contract is protected for this coming season. Indiana has no major salary cap concerns, and the organization cut Odyssey Sims and her six-figure protected contract last season. But between Hartley’s talent and the dead money that Indiana spent on Sims and the buyout of Jantel Lavender in the most recent campaigns, Hartley’s contract being protected may give her an edge in the point guard battle. The team may not want to spend more money on a player that doesn’t suit up.

Coates, by being the most experienced center in training camp for the Fever, has an advantage over some other younger players, especially if the Fever aren’t comfortable with Egbo and Határ being the only bigs on the roster. Coates is also right around the age of franchise centerpiece Kelsey Mitchell, which could be beneficial to an Indiana franchise looking to improve. But if the Fever are willing to deploy NaLyssa Smith as a five, then Coates’ fight will be tougher.

Point guard depth, and quality possession control in general, is an incredibly important skill for any team. The Fever would be smart to carry extra depth at point guard as a result — it is always good to have a useful player to deploy at the one spot even when injuries impact the team. The Fever could decide to keep two of Hartley, Allen, Henderson, and Kelly with this in mind.

On the wing, Engslter and Tiffany Mitchell can fill multiple roles. But they also provide value as attacking guards (in Mitchell’s case) or as frontcourt hybrids (in Engstler’s case). More wing depth could give Stanley more lineup versatility, so Vivians and Jones may have a leg up over other players in the fight for a roster spot.

There are a ton of considerations the Fever have to make, and some of them might come down to if the franchise views themselves more as a rebuilding unit or more as a team a few steps from competing for a playoff berth. Dunn stated that in her eyes, this upcoming season is about improvement for the Indiana Fever, and that mindset may lead to more youth on the 2022 roster.

There is value in both continuity and in taking fliers on younger players. Given the talent level, position, salary situation, age, history with the Fever, and other considerations, it will be difficult for Dunn to get the roster down to 12.

If I had to make a guess, these would be the 12 players that survive training camp in Indiana (in alphabetical order):

Player Position Age
Queen Egbo Center 21
Emily Engstler Forward 21
Bria Hartley Guard 29
Bernadett Határ Center 27
Destanni Henderson Guard 23
Lexie Hull Guard 22
Jazmine Jones Wing 25
Kelsey Mitchell Guard 26
Tiffany Mitchell Wing 27
Danielle Robinson Guard 32
NaLyssa Smith Forward 21
Victoria Vivians Wing 27
A final roster projection for the Indiana

A quartet of players stand out as the most likely to disrupt this projection — Coates, Allen, A. Smith, and Perry. Coates could take the spot of a guard or wing if Indiana Fever brass opt for more frontcourt depth. Allen may snag one of the point guard slots if she continues to control Stanley’s second unit. Smith would add extra wing depth if the team opts for extra versatility, and Perry proved her value last season, she is just fighting an injury. Any of those players could make the final roster if they impress in camp.

Truly, any player who dazzles in the coming weeks could grab a spot on the team. They were invited to training camp for a reason: Dunn believes in their talent and considers herself a strong talent evaluator. With so many players fighting for so few spots in Indiana, training camp and preseason action will be fascinating. The two games that Indiana plays on April 30 and May 2 will go a long way in shaping the final roster.

The Fever have a ton of decisions to make in the coming weeks, and as the franchise transitions from one era to the next, it’s important that they get them right and enter the season with the best possible group.

Written by Tony East

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


  1. Paul Ashley on April 17, 2022 at 5:43 pm

    An excellent analysis. I agree with the final twelve and four substitute selections.

  2. Paul Ashley on April 28, 2022 at 4:43 am

    If the Fever decide that Williams-Holliday can play both center and power forward she may be more valuable than Queen Egbo since her offense is more advanced and her defense appears to me to be comfortable.

    • Paul Ashley on April 28, 2022 at 7:26 am

      Comparable (sp ck)

  3. Paul Ashley on May 3, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    Queen Egbo has shown her value as a first round pick in the two preseason games. The Fever have performed well in the preseason.

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