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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Indiana Fever could land a big time player in the WNBA draft

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On Thursday night, the Indiana Fever will have the fourth overall pick in the WNBA Draft. This comes after the Fever had a 6-16 record in the condensed 2020 WNBA season. 

The Dallas Wings hold the first and second picks of the draft and are expected to draft center Charli Collier (Texas) and power forward Awak Kuier (Finland). It is unknown who the Atlanta Dream will take third (or if they will trade the pick), which puts the Fever in a tricky position but also gives them plenty of options. 

Here are the potential draftees for the Fever:

F Rennia Davis, Tennessee

If passed on by the Dream, Rennia Davis will be the best raw athlete on the board for Indiana with the fourth pick. The Fever started a backcourt of three guards under 5’10” in 2020, and that small lineup was a factor in the team having the worst defense in the WNBA. At 6’2”, Davis is considered a legitimate two-way player that can drive to the bucket effectively.

The downside for Rennia Davis is that she shot just 26% on 3-pointers in 2020-21. Whichever team drafts Davis will want to see her range improve, as it may be difficult for her to become a true impact player without a formidable jump shot. Although she shot a poor percentage from beyond the arc, Davis averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 48% from the field in her senior season. She will be ready to play valuable WNBA minutes from day one.

G Aari McDonald, Arizona

Aari McDonald was the story of the NCAA Tournament despite her Wildcats falling 54-53 to Stanford in the national championship game. McDonald averaged 24.8 points per game throughout the tournament and willed Arizona, a 3 seed, to the final game. Along with being a scorer, McDonald was awarded Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in both 2020 and 2021. 

There’s no question that Aari McDonald is talented, but she does not fit the Fever’s need for a wing player. The 5’6” guard would make the Fever an even smaller team. What’s positive about McDonald is that her small stature doesn’t deter her from being an effective defender. Another question with McDonald is her ability to shoot 3s. She shot 30% from outside before the NCAA Tournament but shot 48% from deep in her six-game tournament run. McDonald has displayed an efficient mid-range game, however teams will want to see a consistent jump shot from a player her size.

In the end, McDonald may be the most interesting prospect in this draft. She possibly has the highest potential in the draft. There’s a lot unknown about McDonald transitioning to the pros, but she could also be the type of player that saves a franchise. The question is, do the Fever need saving?

G Arella Guirantes, Rutgers

Many believe that the Dream will select Arella Guirantes with the third overall pick. Guirantes could have entered her name in last year’s draft, where she was projected to be a late first-round pick. Instead, Guirantes returned for one last season at Rutgers where she averaged 21.3 points per game. Guirantes’ 2020-21 numbers mostly mirrored her stat line from the previous season, but her assists numbers rose by over 2 assists per game. Guirantes is another fantastic defender, as she averaged 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game this past season. 

Arella Guirantes could be the most well-rounded potential option for the Fever with the fourth pick. If there’s one thing she could improve on, it’s her shot selection. But overall, Guirantes shot over 37% from deep in each of the last two seasons with the Scarlet Knights. Guirantes is a player that does everything well, which gives her the potential to be great. If the Atlanta Dream pass on her, the Fever will be left with an enticing decision on whether to draft her or not.

Thursday night’s draft will be a crucial one for the Fever and second-year general manager Tamika Catchings. The team has failed to reach the playoffs since Catchings’ final playing season in 2016. Whoever the Fever draft will also have a large impact on the remainder of Marianne Stanley’s tenure as head coach. 

The draft will begin at 7 p.m. ET, and with the first two picks practically being locks, the intrigue begins with the third overall selection. That will place all the pressure on the Fever to choose a player that will help the franchise get back to being one of the top teams in the league.

Zion Brown is a reporter with NextGen Sports. Reach him at info@thenxgen.org

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