Courtney Vandersloot sinks three-point buzzer beater for Chicago win
Chicago's victory extends its win streak to three games.
It seems crazy to say this just a day past the one-month mark of the season, but we’re already almost halfway through the WNBA fantasy regular season in standard ESPN leagues. If your league is set to the default — nine matchups before the playoffs — you’ve already finished four of them and have just five remaining.
That means if you’re still toward the bottom of the standings, it’s probably time to start thinking about shaking things up. We’ve got you covered with who can help you do that, as well as everything else you need to know from the past week in fantasy.
These are the top risers in fantasy ranking over the past week. We’ve only included players who were ranked a week ago, meaning they had already played a game at that point.
3. Satou Sabally: 17 spots (current 42nd, previous 59th)
At this time a week ago, Sabally hadn’t started a game yet. She had played in just three games since returning from her overseas season, and she averaged just 20 minutes off the bench in those games.
Since then, she has started every game and averaged over 27 minutes per game, so it makes sense that she’s climbed the leaderboard. The third-year forward has posted two straight double-doubles and has averaged four assists since being inserted into the startling lineup.
2. Kahleah Copper: 19 spots (current 39th, previous 58th)
Copper finished May without a 25-point performance in fantasy. She has surpassed that mark in both June games thus far while averaging 18 points and, impressively for a guard, seven rebounds per game.
The reigning Finals MVP also seems to be making good on her promise to improve her outside stroke this season. She’s attempting more than three triples a game for the first time in her career and has still managed to increase her efficiency to 35 percent for the first time since 2018.
1. Elizabeth Williams: 22 spots (current 70th, previous 92nd)
Just like in our last fantasy piece, a Mystics big has landed on this list after Shakira Austin cracked the top three with a 25-spot ascent. Williams also completes the trifecta of players on this list who got a late start to their WNBA season due to overseas commitments. It appears that these players took a week or two to adjust and are starting to find their footing in the WNBA again.
Washington’s crowded frontcourt has made it difficult for Williams to get significant playing time when everyone is healthy, but her rise this week is largely due to a game in which she made the most of her time on the floor. Last Tuesday against the Fever, Williams pulled down 15 boards and blocked six shots, all in under 23 minutes.
On the flip side of the risers, you have the fallers — those players whose rank has dropped off in the last seven days.
3. NaLyssa Smith: 12 spots (current 33rd, previous 21st)
The fact that falling a mere 12 spots is enough to land on this list says more about the fact that the rankings are starting to stabilize than it does about NaLyssa Smith — although Smith’s ankle hasn’t done her any favors either.
Long term, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about with the No. 2 overall pick, who has established herself as a force for years to come. But since returning from the injury, she’s averaged under five rebounds per game after not being below five in any single game prior. She’s also coming off of her first two games below 20 fantasy points.
2. Marina Mabrey: 12 spots (current 36th, previous 24th)
Peak Marina Mabrey is a scoring machine who perfectly complements Arike Ogunbowale. This past week was not peak Marina Mabrey.
The Wings guard had reached double figures in scoring in 11 consecutive regular season games before managing fewer than seven points in three of her last four. As Ty Harris begins to eat into Mabrey’s minutes, the Wings’ lineup rotation is a situation worth monitoring.
1. Yvonne Anderson: 17 spots (current 114th, previous 97th)
Even being in the league as a 32-year-old rookie is a massive achievement, so this is nothing for Anderson to hang her head over. It also speaks to Anderson’s accomplishments that she was able to crack the top 100 at any point.
But that momentum is fading as Curt Miller has reverted to a shorter rotation. Anderson appears to be on the outside looking in, having played just nine minutes in Connecticut’s last three games.
One of the most important aspects of winning a fantasy title is attentiveness. If you want to have a shot, you’ve got to stay on top of the latest trends and news and make sure you’re fielding the best possible team at any given moment. What looked like the best combination of nine players you could put together a week or two ago may no longer be the case today.
Here, we give you the best widely-available players to consider picking up, as well as the players potentially worth cutting to free up that roster spot. Keep in mind, this may vary a little depending on your league size: A player worth rostering in a 10-team league isn’t necessarily viable in an eight-team league.
There’s sort of a cruel irony in the fact that Banham occupies this spot by virtue of an injury to the player we featured in our last fantasy piece. Without Moriah Jefferson for the foreseeable future, Cheryl Reeve will be forced to turn to Banham as a makeshift point guard.
Regardless of whether it works out in real life, it should pay big dividends in fantasy. Banham put up 24 fantasy points in 32 minutes on Sunday in Jefferson’s absence. Her 1.5 percent ownership rate is simply nowhere close to high enough.
Williams is owned in over 14 times the number of leagues in which Banham is owned, but 22.2 percent still seems low for a player who’s essentially scoring a fantasy point a minute.
Yes, that only helps you if the minutes are there, but despite minutes in the teens, Williams’ spot in the rotation is clearly safe. With her production and the injury/load management issues that Washington continues to deal with, don’t be surprised if Williams sees her minutes spike into the 20s at some point. You’ll be glad to have her when that happens.
Mitchell has never averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game in her seven-year career, but that looks likely to change this season. The veteran is playing just 13.8 minutes a contest, but that number is in the single digits over the last seven games.
With all the rookies and young talent on Indiana’s roster, it appears that they are opting to phase Mitchell out in the final year of her contract and use those minutes to develop their potential future stars. That is not good news for Mitchell’s fantasy owners.
This one should be obvious: Thomas is out for the year with a torn ACL. But apparently it’s not obvious to almost half of fantasy managers because Thomas is still owned in 47.9 percent of ESPN leagues.
Yes, there is an IR spot for stashing an injured player, but that spot should be used for someone like Napheesa Collier, Riquna Williams or Tiffany Hayes. Unless you are in a keeper or dynasty league in which you’ll be retaining players for 2023, use that spot for someone who could be back this season.
Diana Taurasi, 51 fantasy points (June 3 vs. Connecticut)
Of course Taurasi ended up on this list again. After becoming the first player aged 39 or older to score 30 in a game with her 31 points on May 19, she had to go and outdo herself with 32 on Friday against the Sun.
It helped that she had three stocks (steals plus blocks) as well, as those are the only two stat categories worth more than one fantasy point in ESPN standard scoring. That was tied for her highest stock total since her fourth game in the bubble.
First quarter buzzer beater. Only the 🐐. pic.twitter.com/3zBwKdjENs— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) June 4, 2022
Sabrina Ionescu, 52 fantasy points (June 5 vs. Minnesota)
When fans and media members talk about Ionescu showing “flashes of brilliance,” they are referring to games like this. The former No. 1 pick has multiple games with just two (real life) points this year, but after this one, she also has multiple games with 31.
If Ionescu can start playing like this on a more consistent basis, the Liberty may be able to dig themselves out of the cellar of the standings. For now, it’s more of a tease for New York fans and Sabrina owners alike.
Breanna Stewart, 52 fantasy points (June 3 vs. Dallas)
There was a tie this week for best fantasy performance, so we gave the last spot here to the 2022 leader in fantasy points per game. In addition to pouring in 27 points (which somehow is only mildly above average for her), Stewart also recorded seven stocks in this game.
Notably, this was Stewart’s 29th career game with at least 50 fantasy points, tying Sylvia Fowles for seventh all time. Everyone above her on the list is either retired or, at a minimum, strongly considering it very soon. Stewart, meanwhile, is 27 years old and missed an entire season due to injury. We’re witnessing greatness.
Two days after Stewart recorded her 29th career 50-point fantasy performance, another player recorded her first.
Kelsey Plum was labeled by some as a bust after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2017 and failing to average double figures in scoring until four years later. We can put that talk to rest now.
Among all of the other stellar numbers Plum has put up this season, she joined the 50-point fantasy club against Dallas on Sunday. Perhaps more impressive? She played all 40 minutes of that one.
Most sportsbooks now have Plum in the top three of their MVP odds, behind only her teammate, A’ja Wilson, and Stewart. Give Becky Hammon an assist for unlocking the full potential of the NCAA’s career scoring leader, but it’s time to appreciate what this budding superstar is becoming in 2022.
Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats, CBS SportsLine and FiveThirtyEight. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.
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