12 Days, 12 Previews: Indiana Fever
Five keys to a successful season.
The WNBA’s 15th season begins June 3rd and SLAMonline is counting down the days with in-depth previews of all twelve teams.
Prior to the start of each WNBA season (and NBA season for that matter), every writer and blogger in the country compiles extensive (by “extensive” I mean “wordy,” and by “wordy” I mean “tired”) previews analyzing the upcoming year, team by team. It’s just a fact of life. Almost as certain as death and taxes.
The problem, however, is they all look, feel, and say the same exact thing every year (copy and paste). You, the reader, deserves far better. Thus, we’re going through each team discussing five specific things they’ll need for their 2011 campaign to be considered a success.
More importantly, we want this to be interactive – be sure to post your thoughts in the comment section below.
Five Keys to the Season: Indiana Fever
By Ben York / @bjyork
5. Offensive Efficiency: Traditionally, the Fever has been pigeonholed into the “defensive team” category when in reality, they are pretty efficient offensively. In 2010, the Fever averaged 78.3 ppg (7th in the league), 16.6 FT’s made (4th in the league), and 6.4 3-PT FG’s made (4th in the league).
Don’t get me wrong, their focus and identity remains on the defensive end of the floor but the Fever can score with the best of them if they need to. In 2011, however, they’ll certainly need to increase their output on the offensive end; of all the teams in the East, only the Mystics and Sky scored less points.
4. Celtics of the WNBA? Could the Indiana Fever be the Boston Celtics of the WNBA? I don’t see why not. Both teams focus largely on the defensive end of the floor, have stellar up and coming point guards, proven veterans and stars, and a unique team-focused atmosphere.
More importantly, whenever their backs are up against the wall, somehow the Fever and Celtics find a way to get it done. The comparisons will inevitably start to heat up if the Fever find a way to capture their first WNBA Championship…
3. Briann January: The loss of Tully Bevilaqua gives third-year guard, Briann January, the perfect opportunity to assume an enhanced leadership role on this Fever team. January has all the tools the Fever needs in a point guard; it’s just a matter of getting the playing time to showcase them.
Averaging about 20 minutes per game each of her first two seasons, there is little doubt that January will see an increase in minutes in 2011 with Bevilaqua gone. January is a weapon on both ends of the floor for the Fever; she defends well, has phenomenal court-vision, and can put up points in a hurry. Look for 2011 to be a break-out year for January.
2. Defense: No surprise here; defense is what will get the Fever back to the playoffs. In 2010, they allowed 74.1 ppg (3rd in the league), forced 16.6 turnovers (2nd in the league), allowed a shooting percentage of 41.6 (2nd in the league), were 2nd in the league in steals (9.7), 1st in blocks (5.0), and gave up just 33.0 rebounds per game (4th in the league).
Their stringent focus on defense doesn’t change in 2011. They lost Ebony Hoffman to the Sparks and Tully Bevilaqua to the Silver Stars but brought in two-time WNBA Champion Tangela Smith and guard Erin Phillips to add depth. Indiana plays nine of their first fourteen games at home so getting off to a hot start will be crucial.
1. Tamika Catchings: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – anytime Tamika Catchings is on the floor, her team can never be counted out. Even though the Fever didn’t make it as far into the playoffs as they would’ve liked, Catchings was my pick for MVP in 2010.
The Fever has a vastly different look in 2011, however, and Catchings will need to assume even more of the burden on both ends of the floor for Indiana to make a run at the Eastern Conference crown.
Something tells me Catchings is more than okay with that..
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts and we’ll tweet out some of our favorite responses!