This article is part of our WNBA Fantasy Primer series.
WNBA Fantasy Basketball Update
The first season of season-long WNBA Fantasy on ESPN is underway, and there are plenty of trends to track to stay competitive in leagues. This weekly column is intended to provide an analysis of trends impacting production in season-long leagues, and the discussion section is available for league-specific questions, such as waiver advice and start/sit questions.
Moriah Jefferson, G, Lynx: Jefferson has been trending in the right direction for several weeks, but she's been among the most elite players in the league in recent games. She's available in over half of ESPN leagues despite averaging 13.5 points, 5.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game over her 10 appearances since returning to the court. She posted her first career double-double last week and should remain heavily involved for Minnesota down the stretch.
Sophie Cunningham, G, Mercury: The Mercury made a surprising move by parting ways with Tina Charles last week, and Cunningham has stepped up over the last several games. She's joined the starting lineup in each of the last four matchups and has averaged 14.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 31.3 minutes per game during that time. She's available in over 80 percent of ESPN leagues and has had plenty of fantasy value since Charles' departure.
Aari McDonald, G, Dream: McDonald has returned to a bench role over the last three matchups since Erica Wheeler and Tiffany Hayes are back in action. However, McDonald has remained involved in Atlanta's offense, as she's averaged 10.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game over her three appearances since returning to the bench role. She's shot just 36.8 percent from the floor during that time and hasn't displayed as much upside, but she's still been a fairly reliable fantasy asset.
Lexie Brown, G, Sparks: Brown is more of a short-term option than some of the other risers this week since her recent uptick in production can be at least partially attributed to Brittney Sykes being unavailable due to the league's health and safety protocols. Although the Sparks' backcourt has been crowded since Kristi Toliver made her season debut, Brown has averaged 12.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 31.0 minutes per game over her last three appearances. She should see decreased playing time once Sykes and Chennedy Carter are back in action, but she's been productive ahead of the fantasy playoffs.
Rachel Banham, G, Lynx: Banham was held to single-digit scoring totals in all but two of her appearances in June, but she's been a much more prolific scorer since the start of July. Over her two appearances this month, she's averaged 18.5 points and 3.0 assists in 22.5 minutes per game while shooting 60 percent from the floor. In spite of her bench role, Banham has managed to become a more fantasy-relevant option in Minnesota's talented backcourt.
Tina Charles, F, Storm: Charles joined Seattle early last week but has taken on a bench role during her first three appearances with her new team. She's had limited production, averaging just 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game during her time with the Storm. Given the upside that she's displayed in the past, she isn't necessarily a drop candidate outside of the shallowest of leagues. However, it's worth considering other options in start/sit decisions until Charles is more productive.
DiJonai Carrington, G, Sun: Carrington recently displayed decent fantasy results, as she averaged 8.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game over eight appearances between June 5 and June 26. However, she's taken on a decreased role over her last two appearances, as she's been held scoreless while totaling just 16 minutes over those two games. While the 24-year-old was a solid fantasy contributor for most of June, she's had a minimal role for the Sun over the last few games.
Isabelle Harrison, C, Wings: Harrison posted two double-doubles over six appearances between June 15 and June 25, but her playing time has dropped off over the last two games despite maintaining her starting role. The center has averaged just 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per game over her last two appearances, while Teaira McCowan and Awak Kuier have taken on increased playing time recently. Although she's continued to start for the Wings, Harrison has been an inconsistent fantasy option over the last two games.
Kayla Thornton, F, Wings: Thornton averaged 28.9 minutes per game over her first 10 appearances in June but has taken on a decreased role over the last two matchups, averaging just 21.5 minutes per game during that time. Although she maintained her starting role with Satou Sabally back on the court, it's certainly possible that her playing time will continue to drop as Sabally regains her conditioning. Thornton was a strong contributor for most of June but has been more inconsistent over her last two appearances.
Asia Durr, G, Dream: Durr's playing time picked up in mid-June after she had a relatively minimal role for the Dream over the first month of the season. However, she's played just 16 minutes in each of her last two appearances and has averaged 9.0 points per game during that time. Now that Erica Wheeler and Tiffany Hayes are back in action, it appears as though Durr will have fewer chances to contribute in Atlanta's backcourt.
Note: Updated injury and absence information throughout the week can be found on RotoWire's Injury News page.
Atlanta Dream: Erica Wheeler has been back in action over the last three games, while Tiffany Hayes made her season debut Thursday against the Liberty. Both players have taken on starting roles in the backcourt, leading to decreased playing time for Aari McDonald, Kristy Wallace and Asia Durr. Wallace returned from a three-game absence of her own Tuesday and started during her first game back but has come off the bench in her last two appearances. Kia Vaughn returned from a five-game absence Tuesday, leading to decreased playing time for Beatrice Mompremier and Naz Hillmon. Maya Caldwell was released from her hardship contract Monday after starting in three games for Atlanta.
Chicago Sky: Kahleah Copper returned from a one-game absence Wednesday and hasn't had any restrictions since returning to the court, while Rebekah Gardner has retreated to the bench over the last two games.
Dallas Wings: Allisha Gray recently missed two games with an ankle issue but returned to the court Friday with no restrictions. Tyasha Harris, Veronica Burton and Jasmine Dickey have had decreased roles with Gray back in action. Satou Sabally also returned to action Friday but was on a minutes limit after missing seven consecutive games. Once she's cleared to take on a full workload, Kayla Thornton, Teaira McCowan and Awak Kuier could see decreased roles.
Las Vegas Aces: Chelsea Gray missed the Aces' win over the Sparks on June 27 due to a personal matter but has been back in action over the last three games. Riquna Williams has also been back on the court for the last four games, which has led to a diminished role for Aisha Sheppard.
Los Angeles Sparks: The Sparks' backcourt has dealt with various absences recently. Brittney Sykes has missed two consecutive games due to the league's health and safety protocols, while Kristi Toliver sustained a calf injury Sunday against the Liberty and Chennedy Carter was a late scratch Sunday due to a left knee injury. If any of those players are forced to miss additional time, Jordin Canada, Lexie Brown and Katie Lou Samuelson would be in line for increased run.
New York Liberty: Rebecca Allen recently missed five games with a concussion but returned to the court Sunday against the Sparks. However, she sustained a head injury in the first quarter and is being evaluated for a concussion. If she faces another absence, Stefanie Dolson and Han Xu should handle increased roles. Sami Whitcomb sat out Sunday for rest purposes, but it seems likely that she'll be back in action going forward. Crystal Dangerfield rejoined the team on a rest-of-season contract and returned to a starting role, while Allen retreated to the bench.
Seattle Storm: Tina Charles officially joined the Storm last week but has taken on a bench role while Ezi Magbegor has remained in the starting lineup. However, her presence has led to a slight decrease in playing time for Magbegor and Gabby Williams.
Washington Mystics: Elena Delle Donne missed Sunday's game for rest purposes, but coach Mike Thibault recently expressed optimism that she would be able to play in more games over the final few weeks of the season.
Note: Projected lineups and up-to-the-minute lineup confirmations can be found on RotoWire's Daily Lineups page.
Atlanta Dream: Erica Wheeler reclaimed her starting role upon her return after Maya Caldwell was released, while Kristy Wallace has retreated to the bench with Tiffany Hayes joining the starting lineup.
New York Liberty: Sami Whitcomb started Thursday's game against Atlanta since Crystal Dangerfield hadn't yet rejoined the team, but Dangerfield reclaimed her starting role Sunday after signing a rest-of-season contract. Although Whitcomb was unavailable for rest purposes Sunday, it seems likely that Dangerfield will be the preferred starting option.