February 24, 2022 

Lin Dunn era begins in Indiana with two low-risk, high-reward signings

Our first two looks at how Lin Dunn operates

The Lin Dunn era for the Indiana Fever is underway. The interim General Manager will be introduced to fans of her team on Thursday. In the meantime, Dunn has been putting her mark on the franchise she now leads.

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The Fever made two signings this week, adding to their training camp roster. While neither added player is likely to be a fate-changer or a franchise-altering talent, both additions are low-risk, high-reward signings that show the type of moves Dunn will make.

The two players signed this week — Micaela Kelly and Alanna Smith — are both 25 years old or younger. They both were first-or-second round picks in the draft during the past three seasons. Each one of them can bring the Fever a skill that they lack. While neither player is perfect, and both will have to fight for a roster spot with their new team, they are brainy additions by Dunn.

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Kelly was the 21st overall selection in the 2021 WNBA draft. She went to the Connecticut Sun, where she was waived before the start of the regular season. In one preseason appearance, she scored five points and brought in four rebounds.

Kelly’s resume is bolstered by eye-popping college play and overseas performances, as the Fever called to in their press release announcing the signing. “Micaela is a quick and talented young combo guard. She is having a terrific season overseas and we look forward to having her compete for a roster spot in our training camp,” Indiana head coach Marianne Stanley noted.

In her final season at Central Michigan University, the speedy guard dropped in nearly 24 points per game. She is virtually matching that number right now for Breidablik. She has a nose for the ball when it comes off the rim, and her three-point shooting improved, notably in volume, as her collegiate career progressed.

For the Indiana Fever, Kelly will have to fight a crowded backcourt bunch to make the regular season roster. The addition of Bria Hartley, combined with several re-signings, will make that a tall task. But the Fever needed a scoring punch off the bench last season. If Kelly is able to impress in training camp and beyond, she could provide the team with exactly that. Adding in that the Michigan native is recent draft pick who is just 23-years old makes her a low-risk gamble for a Fever team that needs many of those.

Smith, meanwhile, joins the Fever from the 2021 WNBA runner-up Phoenix Mercury. She has been with the Mercury since being selected eighth overall by Phoenix in the 2019 draft.

The Australian is tall, but hardly a post player. She operates more on the perimeter and has an excellent handle for someone of her stature. Her three-point shot specifically has not been a reliable weapon, but she does have a useful ability to create her own shot from outside the paint, something the Fever need from the forward spots.

“We are pleased to add Alanna Smith to our training camp roster,” Stanley shared. “Alanna has valuable experience in both the WNBA, as a member of the Australian National Team and she has the reputation as a post player who can stretch the floor and score from beyond the 3-point line.”

While Smith’s career three-point percentage doesn’t match that statement, Smith has been effective operating outside of the paint, and only 67.4% of her made shots in Phoenix were assisted. That ratio is lower than almost every Indiana frontcourt player posted in 2021, so the Opals forward could give Indiana an element of shot creation that was missing from their frontcourt last season, especially after Chelsey Perry’s injury. She averaged 2.8 points per game with the Mercury.

Bringing in Smith can be viewed similarly to the Fever’s addition of Jazmine Jones. Grabbing young, former first-round draft picks is what a team like Indiana should be doing. Former GM Tamika Catchings, who stepped down recently, realized that, and Dunn does too. Even if neither of those two players, or Kelly, contribute in the regular season, they are still safe and smart gambles with essentially no downside. The Fever have won 12 games in the last two seasons combined — they need to make as many safe, no downside moves as they are allowed.

The Lin Dunn era is just beginning with the Indiana Fever. And it could go a number of directions, many of which will become clear this week. But her first steps as the interim decision maker will push the Fever’s long rebuild forward, and that’s all the franchise needs her to do right now.

Written by Tony East

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

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