With a 5-27 record on the season, we won't be seeing much more
of the Indiana Fever. They're currently the only team in the WNBA
officially eliminated from playoff contention, and have been for a
It's understandable to an extent; this is clearly a rebuilding
roster, with 4 of the top 7 minute-getters on the roster being
rookies. The future is bright. NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo, Destanni
Henderson and Emily Engstler have all showcased fun flashes this
season, but it's just that — the future. We're likely a couple of
years away from serious playoff contention with this group,
assuming it stays in tact.
Not only will we not be seeing much more of the Fever as the
season winds down, we specifically won't be seeing guard Kelsey
Mitchell for the remainder of this campaign. The Fever announced on
Saturday that she will miss the rest of the season with a partial
plantar fascia tear in her left foot.
It's an unfortunate end to a tremendous individual season that
has frankly flown too far under the radar.
Mitchell finishes the year with averages of 18.4 points (seventh
in The W, fourth among guards) and 4.2 assists per game — both
career-highs. Her jumper was the primary weapon of choice. Not only
did she drain a career-best 40.9% of her 5.7 triples, but she is
also one of three players to shoot
north of 40% from deep on more than 5 attempts per contest. New
York Liberty guard Marine Johannes (40% on 5.3 attempts) and Las
Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum (42.7% on a ridiculous 7.3 attempts)
were the other two.
(It's also worth noting that Phoenix Mercury small-ball 4 Sophie Cunningham —
at 39.8% on 6.0 attempts — is knocking on the door.)
Mitchell's intersection of usage, production and efficiency is
nearly unmatched. She's currently one of five players to post a
usage rate over 20% (23.6%), an assist rate over 20% (23.5%) and a
True Shooting percentage above 55% (56.8%; league average is 53.9%). Plum,
Diana Taurasi, Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker are the
other four players, and I think it's fair to say that they benefit
from an easier context than Mitchell has to deal with. Add the fact
that Mitchell has the lowest turnover rate (10.5% of possessions)
of the group, and her season becomes even more impressive.
Enough numbers though. The way that Mitchell racks them
up is captivating on its own.
There are quicker guards than Mitchell. Stronger guards. Bigger
But I don't know if there's one in The W that's harder to keep
track of than Mitchell.
The Fever frequently run her through a maze of screens,
exhausting even the stickiest of defenders after a while.
Mitchell's battery never seems to deplete.
Los Angeles Sparks guard (and elite defender) Brittney Sykes
described Mitchell as an "Energizer bunny" on an episode of The Dunker Spot: "She
does not stop moving. It is ridiculous.
She's just a motor... she's a really great player. Her skill set
allows her to move freely and keep defenses on their heels. It's
like 'Dang it, Kelsey, stop moving!'
"She's one of those players where you're like 'I need to get you
in foul trouble immediately so you'll slow down."
Per InStat tracking data, no player in The W has made more shots
after utilizing an off-ball screen than Mitchell has.
I appreciate her pacing off the ball. Sometimes, it's a dead
sprint into a screen, either lifting up the wing or going baseline
to baseline. Other times, it's a light trot to get a defender in a
certain position before jetting away. Defenders never have a sense
of when she's going, where she's going or how quickly she wants to
That same pacing allows Mitchell to throw defenders off-balance
when she has the ball in her hands. She's a smooth pick-and-roll
operator with an ability to flow into pull-ups or stepbacks on a
whim. When dealing with an overzealous defender, she's able to
counter with hard drives to the basket. While she may not be
the strongest guard in The W, she's certainly up
there. Contact doesn't really bother her that much.
Mitchell is a scorer at heart, but she's done a better job of
leveraging her scoring gravity to create looks for her teammates.
You don't have to manipulate weak-side defenders like Vandersloot
or Chelsea Gray when the pure threat of your ratchet can bend a
Mitchell missed out on All-Star honors this season. Considering
the Fever's record, it's fair to assume she'll end up on the
outskirts of All-WNBA discussions as well.
(As a brief aside, an All-WNBA Third Team would be nice at some
point. Just saying.)
But Mitchell is one of the best guards in The W. She's one of
the best players in The W. She was the brightest spot of the season
for a Fever team without a ton of them, and I'll miss watching her
Get well soon, Kelsey.