2023 WNBA Fantasy Preview: Eastern Conference Stars and Sleepers

2023 WNBA Fantasy Preview: Eastern Conference Stars and Sleepers

One of the most tumultuous offseasons in WNBA history is behind us, and training camp has begun around the league. The second season of Fantasy Women's Basketball on ESPN is now open, and there are several offseason moves to be aware of when drafting. 

Atlanta Dream Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Dream took a slight step forward in 2022 after winning single-digit games in the previous three seasons. The team finished with a 14-22 record and narrowly missed out on a playoff spot despite stellar efforts from Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard. Atlanta tied for fourth in the league in rebounds per game but finished 11th in points per game.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Rhyne Howard: Rookies in the WNBA can have volatile production while adjusting to the pace of play in the pros, but Howard hit the ground running as the No. 1 overall pick and was named the Rookie of the Year while averaging 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 31.4 minutes per game. While she'll have different teammates around her in 2023, she figures to be a focal point for Atlanta, especially considering her experience with the team. Howard remains one of the Dream's top scoring threats and should be among the elite fantasy options in 2023.

Allisha Gray: Gray spent the first six years of her career in Dallas and played a prominent role, averaging 11.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. The Wings traded her to Atlanta during the offseason, and she should have a chance to maintain significant production since the Dream lost Tiffany Hayes, Erica Wheeler and Kristy Wallace during the offseason. Gray's three-point output improved in 2022, as she attempted 4.8 three-pointers per game and converted 40.8 percent of those tries, both career-high marks. She's unlikely to have quite as much upside as Howard but still has the potential to provide solid fantasy production in most formats.

Fantasy Sleepers

Aari McDonald: McDonald stepped up in 2022 with 11.1 points, 2.6 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 24.3 minutes per game, and although the Dream improved their backcourt during the offseason, it wouldn't be surprising to see McDonald provide some mid-to-late-round fantasy value. Even if she continues to come off the bench this season, her teammates have talked about her becoming more of a leader, and she has defensive skills that will help prop up her fantasy output.

Deeper Sleeper

Haley Jones: The Dream have several undervalued guards who could step up this season, including Danielle Robinson, who was also in the mix for sleeper consideration. However, Jones is a player to watch as a late-round pick or early-season waiver option. She'll presumably face a period of adjustment as she adjusts to the pace of play in the WNBA. However, the guard from Stanford was a versatile contributor at the collegiate level and is a solid fit in Atlanta after being selected with the sixth overall pick.

Atlanta Dream Fantasy WNBA Outlook

While the Dream lost several key contributors during the offseason, they also made some solid acquisitions that suggest they could take another step in the right direction after a few lackluster performances. It wouldn't be surprising to see the team in the mix for a playoff position, but their players' fantasy production is slightly harder to predict due to the new look. While Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray enter the year as relatively safe fantasy options, Atlanta has numerous other players who could step up, including Aari McDonald, Haley Jones and Danielle Robinson. The Dream seem like a club with players who may go unselected in fantasy drafts but could provide value as waiver pickups during the season.

Chicago Sky Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The 2021 WNBA champion Sky kept most of their team intact last year and finished with the second-best record in the league while qualifying for the Commissioner's Cup Championship, which they lost to the Aces. Chicago came within one game of advancing to the WNBA Finals again but lost Game 5 of the semifinals to the Sun. 

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Kahleah Copper: While the Sky made several intriguing acquisitions during the offseason, coach James Wade said during the offseason that Copper will be a focal point within the team's offense. The 2021 Finals MVP had a career-best year last season, averaging 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28.7 minutes per game. She's now Chicago's longest-tenured player, and although the new-look Sky will likely have a different style of play in 2023, Copper should be a key contributor with plenty of fantasy upside.

Marina Mabrey: The Sky gave up a lot to acquire Mabrey from the Wings as part of a sign-and-trade move, as Chicago sent its first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 to Dallas while giving the Wings the option for a first-round pick swap in 2025. The 26-year-old averaged 13.6 points, 3.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 28.0 minutes per game last year, and she should maintain a significant role with her new team.

Fantasy Sleepers

Dana Evans: Evans had a limited role during her first full year with the Sky in 2022, averaging 4.3 points in 11.5 minutes per game. However, she had a stellar performance in the EuroLeague during the offseason and has an opportunity to take on a more significant role this season following the team's slew of offseason departures. Coach James Wade indicated at the start of training camp that Evans is a vital player for the Sky. She could provide fantasy value for those who select her in the middle-to-late rounds.

Deeper Sleeper

Rebekah Gardner: Gardner will be on the borderline of being drafted, but she could provide value for those who select her in one of the final rounds of fantasy drafts. She started just two games as a rookie last year but saw consistent minutes and averaged 8.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game. It's unclear whether Gardner will take on a starting role for the Sky in 2023. However, she could still be a relatively consistent contributor even if she continues to come off the bench during her second WNBA season.

Chicago Sky Fantasy WNBA Outlook

The 2023 Sky look vastly different from the squad that claimed the WNBA title in 2021. However, they still made some acquisitions during the offseason that signal a focus on re-tooling rather than fully rebuilding. While it's unclear exactly how the ball will be distributed among the team after the roster was overturned during the offseason, fantasy managers who take a chance on some of Chicago's less prominent players in the draft or with savvy early-season pickups could be rewarded.

Connecticut Sun Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Sun had another successful season in 2022 despite playing without Jasmine Thomas for most of the year, advancing to the WNBA Finals for the second time in the last four years. However, the team couldn't win its first championship, losing to the Aces in four games. Connecticut led the league in rebounds per game and finished third in scoring and assists.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Brionna Jones: After serving exclusively as a starter in 2021, Jones' role declined slightly in 2022, as she came off the bench in all but seven appearances and averaged 13.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25.1 minutes per game. Despite her depth role, she remained a steady fantasy contributor and should have a chance to see an uptick in usage in 2023 now that Jonquel Jones is in New York.

Alyssa Thomas: Thomas missed most of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury, but she returned to action in 2022 and was an elite fantasy contributor. The 31-year-old was a consistent threat to post double-doubles with Jasmine Thomas sidelined due to injury, and Thomas averaged 13.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 32.1 minutes per game. The Sun traded Thomas to Los Angeles during the offseason, so if Thomas can remain healthy in 2023, she'll have the chance to be a stellar contributor in multiple categories again.

Fantasy Sleepers

DeWanna Bonner: Bonner was a stellar fantasy option over her first two years in Connecticut but was more inconsistent during the 2022 campaign. Despite starting in every appearance, the 35-year-old averaged 13.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 30.0 minutes per game, all career-low marks. She isn't drafted as an elite fantasy player anymore, but she can still provide some upside for those willing to select her in the middle rounds. After the Sun lost several key players during the offseason, Bonner could also see her role pick back up slightly during the 2023 campaign.

Tiffany Hayes: Hayes missed most of the 2022 season due to a knee injury she sustained overseas but was a solid contributor for the Dream when healthy, averaging 16.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 27.5 minutes per game over 11 appearances. Atlanta made several backcourt acquisitions during the offseason and parted ways with Hayes, who will likely have more favorable opportunities with the Sun. After 10 seasons with the Dream, Hayes should continue to be a reliable scoring threat with her new club in 2023.

Deeper Sleeper

Rebecca Allen: Allen served mainly as a starter when healthy in New York last year but was traded to the Sun during the offseason as the Liberty put their superteam together. Regardless of whether DeWanna Bonner's role increases in 2023, there should be an opportunity for Allen to carve out a fantasy-relevant role. Allen flashed some upside last year but is being chosen late in most fantasy drafts, so she's a player who could outperform her ADP.

Connecticut Sun Fantasy WNBA Outlook

Although the Sun lost several integral players during the offseason, the team still has a solid foundation that should keep them firmly in the mix to contend as a team in 2023. Connecticut has several elite fantasy players who should continue to have plenty of opportunities to shine. At the same time, some of the team's departures should create more usage for some players whose production has declined in recent seasons. Although the era of superteams in the WNBA is upon us, the Sun are a team that could make an impact this year.

Indiana Fever Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

Although No. 2 overall pick NaLyssa Smith performed well as a rookie in 2022, the Fever finished with the worst record in the WNBA for a second consecutive season. The team played without leading scorer Kelsey Mitchell to close out the year, but she returned to action during the Athletes Unlimited league during the offseason and should be available to begin the 2023 campaign. Indiana was second-worst in the league in turnovers per game and last in scoring.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Kelsey Mitchell: Mitchell has shown improvement over her five seasons in the WNBA and averaged a career-high 18.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 32.6 minutes per game last year before missing the final five matchups due to her foot injury. She was dominant in Athletes Unlimited earlier in the offseason and should be ready to handle a significant role for the Fever again in 2023. While Indiana has several exciting young players, Mitchell has been a steady presence for the team to begin her career and shouldn't be overlooked in fantasy drafts.

NaLyssa Smith: Smith didn't garner as much attention as Rhyne Howard last season, but the No. 2 overall pick still made an immediate impact at the professional level while starting in all 32 of her appearances. While she tallied just eight double-doubles as a rookie, she was a consistent contributor in the scoring and rebounding columns, averaging 13.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game. Rookie Aliyah Boston will also be in the Indiana frontcourt during the 2023 campaign, but Smith should have plenty of opportunities to grow during her second year in the WNBA.

Fantasy Sleeper

Aliyah Boston: Boston is on the border of "stars" and "sleepers" consideration. Regardless of the label, the first overall pick in this year's draft is an intriguing fantasy option in 2023. She averaged 13.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 26.2 minutes per game during her time at South Carolina and has seemingly developed chemistry with her professional teammates early in training camp. While rookie production can be hard to predict in the WNBA, Boston has the potential to be a stellar fantasy contributor early on.

Deeper Sleeper

Erica Wheeler: Wheeler has been inconsistent in recent seasons but is returning to the Fever in 2023 after spending the last two years with Los Angeles and Atlanta. Her return to Indiana also means reuniting with new Fever head coach Christie Sides, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Wheeler take on a fairly prominent role with Indiana given the team's new-look backcourt combined with the guard's experience with Sides. Wheeler has the potential to be a solid late-round acquisition in fantasy drafts.

Indiana Fever Fantasy WNBA Outlook

While the Fever may not be ready to make a playoff run in 2023, the changes they've made during the offseason suggest that the team is poised to take a step in the right direction after residing at the bottom of the league's standings over the past two seasons. Coach Christie Sides has had success as an assistant elsewhere and will get to prove herself as a head coach, while Indiana has several young contributors that should help improve the team's fortunes and provide fantasy value.

New York Liberty Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Liberty finished with the league's worst record at 2-20 in 2020, but they've made steady improvements over the past few seasons now that Sabrina Ionescu has been relatively healthy. They qualified for the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 2022 but were eliminated from the postseason in the first round again. While New York finished last in the league in rebounds per game and fourth-worst in points, the team ranked fifth in assists.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Breanna Stewart: Stewart has taken the WNBA by storm (pun intended) since entering the league in 2016 and will be in a new uniform for the first time in her professional career after leaving Seattle in favor of New York during the offseason. The 28-year-old is no stranger to sharing the stage with another superstar, as she played alongside Sue Bird during her six years with the Storm. The 2018 MVP could be the top fantasy contributor with the Liberty. However, her full potential depends on how the workload in New York is distributed among top players like Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot.

Sabrina Ionescu: Ionescu missed most of her rookie season due to injury, and the 2023 campaign marked the first time she's been healthy for a full season over her first three years in the WNBA. Her production improved significantly last year, as she averaged 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 32.3 minutes per game after posting results that were already impressive in the prior season. While she hasn't played with the level of supporting cast she'll have in 2023, the 25-year-old's talent is undeniable, and she'll have the potential to be one of the top fantasy guards in 2023.

Jonquel Jones: The fact that Jones can be considered a tertiary option on her team speaks much more to the Liberty's loaded roster than it does to Jones' talent level. She was a steady source of points and rebounds over her final three years in Connecticut, averaging 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in 29.0 minutes per game while also averaging 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals over those three seasons. Jones has indicated during camp that she doesn't expect her role to change much in New York, and if that's the case, she'll remain an elite fantasy contributor.

Fantasy Sleepers

Courtney Vandersloot: Vandersloot spent her first 12 professional seasons in Chicago and signed with the Liberty in February, completing the superteam in New York. She had a prominent role with the Sky, but it wouldn't be surprising to see her operate as more of a table-setter with her new team due to the Liberty's overall talent. The 34-year-old is one of the league's best passers and is a reliable scorer, and she's averaged 11.8 points, 8.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 30.1 minutes per game over the past four seasons. She's being selected in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts but has plenty of upside if her production remains relatively steady with her new team.

Betnijah Laney: Amid the Liberty's offseason acquisitions, Laney has tended to be overlooked but has plenty of value due to her production in past seasons. She missed most of the 2022 campaign due to knee surgery, but she averaged 17.0 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 33.6 minutes per game over the previous two seasons. While it wouldn't be surprising to see the 29-year-old's decrease slightly this year due to the All-Stars surrounding her, she still has solid fantasy upside heading into 2023.

Deeper Sleeper

Marine Johannes: Johannes has shown some glimpses of fantasy upside in recent years, including last season, when she topped 20 ESPN Fantasy points in 13 appearances. It's not yet clear whether she'll be ready for the start of the regular season or what role she'll have alongside New York's superstars, but if she can see steady minutes off the bench, she'll have an opportunity to contribute in fantasy as a late-round pick or waiver acquisition.

New York Liberty Fantasy WNBA Outlook

Anyone who followed any WNBA news during the offseason has presumably heard about New York's splashes in free agency and the trade market. The Liberty already had an elite player in Sabrina Ionescu, and she now has teammates that make the club one of the heavy favorites to win the WNBA title ahead of the 2023 campaign. While some of their players could see their fantasy production shift now that they'll have to share the stage with other superstars, the Liberty have some of the most intriguing fantasy players of any team in the league and are in a solid position to contend for their first championship.

Washington Mystics Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Mystics had losing records in 2020 and 2021 while mainly playing without Elena Delle Donne, but they improved in 2022, finishing with a 22-14 record that tied for the fourth-best mark in the league. However, the team lost to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs. Washington ranked in the bottom half of the WNBA in points (80.2) and rebounds (20.3) per game, but the club's potential was also limited by Delle Donne receiving regular days off due to her lingering back issue.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Elena Delle Donne: Delle Donne's talent has never been in question, but she's dealt with injuries over the past several seasons. She missed the entire 2020 campaign and played just three games in 2021 due to a lingering back injury, an issue that also led the Mystics to give her regular rest days in 2022. Despite her days off last year, the 33-year-old averaged 17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 27.8 minutes per game. Delle Donne said at the start of training camp this year that she feels the strongest she's ever been and doesn't plan to miss any games in 2023. She's being drafted in the second round of most ESPN Fantasy leagues, but if she can move past her back issue and stay on the court this year, she could be among the league's top contributors.

Ariel Atkins: Atkins' scoring output took a slight step back in 2022 after she averaged a career-high 16.2 points per game the year before, but she still had solid averages of 14.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals in 30.0 minutes per game last season. The 26-year-old didn't have the same fantasy upside as some of the top contributors last year, but she still had steady production that made her a must-start player in most formats. Although the Mystics acquired Brittney Sykes during the offseason, Atkins should see plenty of run in 2023.

Fantasy Sleepers

Brittney Sykes: Sykes is valued as a sleeper in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts, but she was dominant in a career-best season with the Sparks in 2022 and will attempt to maintain her production in her new threads this season. The 29-year-old regularly scored in double figures down the stretch while recording multiple steals in 20 of her 32 appearances. Overall, Sykes averaged 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals despite coming off the bench in 12 outings last year. If she can stay efficient from the floor with her new team, Sykes has enough well-rounded stat lines to keep her as a viable fantasy consideration in 2023.

Myisha Hines-Allen: Hines-Allen was ranked among some of the league's better fantasy options ahead of the 2022 campaign, but she primarily came off the bench and underwhelmed with 8.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 19.3 minutes per game, all her worst marks since 2019. While she missed just two games last year, she underwent surgery in early September to repair a partially-torn patellar tendon in her left knee. It's unclear how much the knee issue contributed to her decreased results last year, and the Mystics haven't officially determined her availability for the start of the 2023 campaign. However, if she can return to full health and conditioning sooner rather than later, she could provide upside for fantasy managers willing to take a risk on her in mid-to-late rounds of drafts.

Deeper Sleeper

Amanda Zahui B.: Zahui B. was traded twice during the offseason but will begin the year with the Mystics. She missed the entire 2022 campaign while on the full-season suspension list but will be back in action in 2023 and will compete with Shakira Austin for a role in Washington's frontcourt. Zahui B. served mainly as a starter with the Liberty and Sparks in her last three seasons and averaged 8.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per game. Even if she has to settle for a bench role with her new team, she's on the fringes of being selected in fantasy drafts and is a player who could be an underrated fantasy asset this year.

Washington Mystics Fantasy WNBA Outlook

The Mystics had one of the steadiest offseasons of any team in the league this year, as the team didn't make many significant acquisitions but kept most of its best contributors from 2022 in the fold. There's reason to be optimistic about Washington this year, as Elena Delle Donne should be fully available to begin the year without receiving scheduled rest days, while Brittney Sykes should also provide a boost, especially on the defensive end of the court. The Mystics may struggle to keep up with top teams such as the Liberty and Aces, but they should still be considered solid playoff contenders.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason
Jason joined RotoWire in 2019. In 2023, he was named the FSWA Player Notes Writer of the Year. In addition to RotoWire, Jason writes for the Sports Broadcast Journal. In 2024, he was dubbed "The Polish Parlay" for his WNBA hot betting streak.
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