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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The Indiana Fever can win a championship as early as this season

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The Indiana Fever has not hoisted the WNBA championship banner since 2012. Despite this, optimism for the team to do so is surging throughout the fanbase. With the league’s most talented rookie, Aliyah Boston, potentially on the horizon and a strategic rebuild underway, whispers of title contention are gaining traction. Is this merely wishful thinking, or is a genuine WNBA championship run brewing in Circle City?

Firstly, the Fever have the coveted no. 1 pick in the upcoming 2024 WNBA draft, scheduled for Apr. 15. While the current culture of the NCAA introduces some uncertainty, the potential addition of scoring phenom Caitlin Clark (Iowa) is captivating.

Currently, Clark is averaging 32 points and nearly eight assist per contest, leading the the league in both categories respectively.

“Women’s basketball is awesome,” Clark told reporters following a 38-point performance against Maryland on Feb. 3.

Clark’s electric offense and court vision could instantly transform the Fever’s attack, creating a crimson dynamo alongside blossoming star and reigning Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston. The Fever wouldn’t instantly become ‘the Caitlin Clark and Aliyah Boston show,’ but together they would most certainly supercharge the entire starting lineup.

More Fever news: Indiana Fever secure No. 1 draft pick in 2024 WNBA Draft

Secondly, the Fever has shown signs of progress despite recent struggles. Last season’s 13 wins marked a significant improvement over previous years, and young talents like Grace Berger and Maya Caldwell displayed flashes of brilliance.

Fever general manager Lin Dunn, who was present for the Indiana Fever WNBA Championship in 2012, praised her team and coaching staff on the improvements made during the 2023 season. Dunn also compared the flashes showcased by young combo guard Grace Berger to 4x WNBA Champion and 5x All-Star Lindsay Whalen.

A joyous Lin Dunn after hearing the news that the Indiana Fever will have the No.1 pick in the upcoming 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

“She [Berger] can score, she can get to the rim,” Dunn said during an interview following the 2023 season. “I’ve compared her to a young Lindsay Whalen, wouldn’t that be great if Grace turned out that way?”

During the home opener against the Connecticut Sun last Spring at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, multiple fans chanted “We want Grace!” throughout the game.

Fever head coach Christie Sides, known for her defensive-minded philosophy, is building a culture of grit and determination at Gainbridge, with a clear focus on player development and ball protection.

“It doesn’t sit well to finish where we did defensively,” Coach Sides said. “And that is who I am, that is the side of the ball I really want to improve.”

Thirdly, the upcoming schedule presents an opportunity. While facing several tough Eastern Conference opponents, such as the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, the Fever benefit from a favorable stretch at home late in the season. The team also benefits from having some homecourt stability, as addressed by Dunn in an interview.

“We’ve been through some really difficult times with not being in Gainbridge Fieldhouse,” Dunn said. “Not being here to practice, not being here to play, we’re at Butler [Hinkle Fieldhouse], we’re at the Coliseum, we’re here, we’re back over there, it has been tough. But now that all of the [Gainbridge] renovations are finished, we have a gorgeous locker room and great facilities, and everything is right here that we need to be successful. I feel like now we have everything in place and some stability.”

Related: Fever’s Boston and Mitchell excel in 2023 WNBA All-Star Game

Aliyah Boston has been named AP and WNBA Rookie of the year for the 2023 Season.
LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 15: Aliyah Boston #7 of Team Wilson addresses the media before the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game on July 15, 2023 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Imagine this: Caitlin Clark, Kelsey Mitchell, Lexie Hull, NaLyssa Smith and Aliyah Boston while Grace Berger and Erica Wheeler captain the second unit. With these pieces, I have a hard time not envisioning the Indiana Fever competing against the New York Liberty in the 2024 WNBA Semifinals (while the Las Vegas Aces take on the Seattle Storm in the west).

Mitchell, a real-life ‘Ironheart,’ playing all 40 games of the 2023 WNBA season, amassed 18 points and 3 assists per contest, was named an All-Star.

Rookie of the year Aliyah Boston was also selected as a 2023 WNBA All-Star.

Lexie Hull, despite being in-and-out of the lineup due to injuries, has been a defensive cornerstone for Fever. This was on display during the team’s win over Minnesota on Jul. 5 where Hull racked up four steals and block in 23 minutes.

NaLyssa Smith finished the season fourth in rebounds per contest while setting the Fever record for most double-doubles in a season with 13. Some fans even believe that NaLyssa Smith was snubbed from the 2023 WNBA All-Star game.

However, challenges remain. Integrating a potentially inexperienced rookie like Clark, maintaining defensive consistency and navigating a competitive landscape are no small feats. The Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty remain formidable forces while other teams like the Dallas Wings, Seattle Storm and Atlanta Dream are baking something great.

Despite the hurdles, the Fever’s path to contention is not implausible. With conscious draft selections, continued player development and a supportive home crowd, Indiana could surprise the many as early as this year.

This season might not be about the Indiana Fever hoisting the WNBA Championship trophy just yet, but it could mark the beginning of a sustained run toward supremacy in the league.

The Indiana Fever open the 2024 WNBA season against the Connecticut Sun on May 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. The Fever will host their first home game of the season at Gainbridge Fieldhouse against the New York Liberty two days later at 7 p.m.

Contact multimedia staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @3Noral. For more Indiana Fever news, click here. You can also check out the Indiana Minority Business Magazine by clicking here.

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