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The Indiana Fever are indeed going to bring back 2019 WNBA All-Star Game MVP Erica Wheeler after she missed the 2020 season (COVID) and played for the Sparks in 2021 and Dream in 2022. Wheeler split her rookie season of 2015 between Atlanta and New York before playing for Indiana from 2016 to 2019.
The Fever have also traded Danielle Robinson in order to get Kristy Wallace from the Dream, signed Maya Caldwell, signed Khayla Pointer, Chelsey Perry and Rennia Davis to training came contracts, taken the interim tag off of general manager Lin Dunn and promoted Hillary Spears to assistant GM. Meanwhile, unrestricted free agent Tiffany Mitchell is leaving the team to join the Lynx.
By the numbers*
Free agents (type) (2022 average salary)
Total average salary of free agents: $374,419
Total team salary: $941,879
Cap space: $478,621
In our original Fever free agency piece, we talked about the Fever probably needing to overpay a star to get them to come to Indiana. So we said that if they were to bring Wheeler back, they may have to pay her over the max. Well, they got her back at the max, so it’s good news for them that they didn’t have to overpay. Wheeler is a legit star with the ability to score and distribute. Her numbers haven’t been consistently high every year, but if she can put her career bests together (13.6 points from 2021, five assists from 2019, 38.4 three-point percentage from 2019 and 50 made threes from 2017) she will make the Fever a whole lot better.
During an offseason where so many players have tried their best to join a super team, it’s nice to see Wheeler staying loyal to a team she used to play for instead. Though, perhaps she is thinking that the Fever could be a contender down the road with Aliyah Boston likely on the way.
Caldwell was actually drafted by the Fever 33rd overall in 2021 and got a shot in Atlanta last year. She famously shocked everyone with 18 points, four assists and two steals in her WNBA debut after being signed to a hardship contract. She was then released and re-signed multiple times throughout the season, playing in nine total games for the Dream. One of her other stat lines was 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists. She also threw in a 17-point performance and a 14-point performance and averaged 23.8 minutes (seven starts). She shot 56.3 percent from beyond the arc with 18 makes. She’s a wild card heading into 2023 given her seemingly high upside but small sample size.
Wallace was a solid 26-year-old rookie for the Dream last year. She averaged 6.6 points, shot 36.8 percent from three with 25 makes and started 18 times. Robinson is now replaced at point guard by the slightly younger Wheeler, who has more upside. In her prime, Robinson put up better assist numbers and similar scoring numbers to Wheeler, but she averaged just 7.4 points last year and 3.8 assists. She is also not a threat from distance with a career percentage of 18.1 (31 makes in 327 games). In addition, Wallace will be making $64,657; Robinson was due to make $155,000.
T. Mitchell was a very good player for the Fever, averaging 12 or more points per game in both 2020 and 2021. However, her role decreased last year as she only averaged 16.3 minutes and 6.5 points. Perhaps the Fever didn’t show interest in re-signing her at a high price and let her go to Minnesota; she made $148,400 in 2022.
We suggested the Fever go after Sophie Cunningham as another star to bring in alongside Wheeler, but Cunningham will be remaining in Phoenix.
All in all, the Fever have improved, not gotten worse. They’ve also put themselves in a position to be able to afford a supermax player with their 11th roster spot.
Here’s what a 10-player Fever roster could look like, roughly in order of importance and with projected salaries (they’d have $402,282 left to spend on the last two spots):
- Kelsey Mitchell, starting SG ($206,000)
- Erica Wheeler, starting PG ($202,154)
- No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston, starting center ($74,305)
- NaLyssa Smith, starting power forward ($73,584)
- Victoria Vivians, starting small forward ($115,000)
- Queen Egbo, second center ($67,634)
- Maya Caldwell, second shooting guard, ($70,000)
- Emily Engstler, second small forward ($73,584)
- Kristy Wallace, third shooting guard ($64,657)
- No. 7 pick Maddy Siegrist, second power forward ($71,300)