WNBA: Charles’ move to Seattle upends fantasy basketball outlook
Let’s talk about the 2022 WNBA season’s biggest transaction to date — the Seattle Storm’s signing of Tina Charles after her contract was bought out by the Phoenix Mercury — from a fantasy basketball perspective.
It’s rare to see moves like these made in the WNBA. Midseason trades happen, sure, but they don’t usually involve players who were the highest-drafted in all of fantasy basketball (Charles was drafted, on average, with pick 1.5 among ESPN fantasy leagues).
Charles may not have been in an ideal situation in Phoenix, and she implied that her contract divorce with the Mercury was inevitable. In Seattle, though, Charles joins a team expecting to compete for a championship, and such teams don’t typically make wholesale changes in the middle of a season, even if they acquire a player capable of putting up MVP-caliber individual statistics.
Somewhat predictably, Charles hasn’t been nearly as effective thus far in Seattle as she was in Phoenix. How likely is it she returns to form and contributes to the Storm at a high level? It’s one of the topics we discuss on this week’s installment of “Three Up, Three Down:”
Lexie Brown (Los Angeles Sparks)
Brown has bounced back from her mid-June slump in a big way, averaging 12 points and shooting a blistering 57.1 percent front 3-point range in her last five games. She’s also totaled eight steals in that span and has played over 30 minutes in each of her last three games.
Outlook: Brown’s fantasy outlook is suddenly bright. With Brittney Sykes still in health and safety protocols and Kristi Toliver (calf) and Chennedy Carter (knee) out with injuries, the Sparks don’t have many other guards to turn to. Brown will probably get more on-ball reps until one of Carter or Toliver return, but as always, her biggest assets will be her outside shooting and defense.
Natisha Hiedeman (Connecticut Sun)
Hiedeman was terrific in the Sun’s recent overtime win against the Washington Mystics, scoring 14 points (four 3-pointers) while also recording five assists and five steals in a grueling 40 minutes of play.
Outlook: Hiedeman is fully capable of putting up poor shooting performances, and the Sun will continue to run the vast majority of their offense through their frontcourt. However, she’s attempting over half of her shots from 3-point range, and as Connecticut’s most reliable long-range shooter and only healthy point guard Sun head coach Curt Miller trusts to play heavy minutes at the position, there’s a nightly potential for her to go off like she did against the Mystics. Hiedeman should be rostered in all but the shallowest fantasy leagues.
Rachel Banham (Minnesota Lynx)
Banham has made the most of her time on the court lately, totaling 37 points, eight 3-pointers and six assists in her last two games, both against the Las Vegas Aces. Banham is also taking stellar care of the basketball, committing zero turnovers in both games.
Outlook: It’s important to note that the Lynx’ last game against the Aces was a blowout and that Banham typically doesn’t shoot the ball more than six to eight times per game. In addition, Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve has been using her as the team’s backup point guard for much of the season, and while Banham usually gets up multiple 3-pointers per game, her fantasy ceiling as a scorer will be limited as long as Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride are taking most of the team’s shots.
Veronica Burton (Dallas Wings)
Burton went scoreless in the Wings’ most recent game against the Los Angeles Sparks, and though she played only six minutes, it’s been a frequent occurrence during her rookie campaign; Burton has not scored in 11 of the 21 games she’s appeared in this season, and she’s currently shooting 24.3 percent from the floor.
Outlook: In fairness to Burton, it’s not her role to shoot the basketball, and the Wings’ inconsistent backcourt rotations are probably throwing her for a loop. Regardless, she hasn’t been particularly productive in games when she’s gotten decent minutes, either, and it’s hard seeing her becoming a fantasy asset unless something significant happens to the Wings roster.
Riquna Williams (Las Vegas Aces)
Williams made a late season debut as she worked her way back from a foot injury, and she’s had a rough go shooting the basketball since then, posting a 30.6 percent field goal percentage and just 5.8 points per game in six games played.
Outlook: Williams’ role has clearly shrunk under first-year Aces head coach Becky Hammon — the 15.8 minutes per game she’s averaging are the fewest in her career — but there’s still a path to her being a somewhat-useful fantasy player in Hammon’s trigger-happy offensive system. Unfortunately, Williams won’t get there if she keeps shooting this poorly; she’s putting up an astounding 75 percent of her shots from 3-point distance, so fantasy managers will have to hope some of those shots start finding the bottom of the net soon.
Tina Charles (Seattle Storm)
Charles has been underwhelming since arriving in Seattle, averaging five points and five rebounds per game to go along with 3.3 turnovers. She’s shooting 33.3 percent from the field as a Storm and has attempted only one free throw thus far after averaging 3.4 of them per game in Phoenix.
Outlook: Such are the perils of a high-usage player moving to an environment with several established stars in the middle of a season. Charles certainly isn’t going to shoot the ball this poorly for the remainder of the season, and her turnovers will likely decrease as she gets acclimated in Seattle’s system, but the minutes (16.7) will simply not be there like they were in Phoenix. Fantasy managers who didn’t sell high on Charles when they had the chance will now have to hope the Storm start her, but Ezi Magbegor’s defense seems to be too valuable to Seattle for them to make that change; Charles’ best bet will be to feast against opposing bench units.