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 winding down, and there are plenty of trends to track as fantasy managers attempt to secure a championship. This weekly column is intended to analyze trends impacting production in season-long leagues. The discussion section is available for league-specific questions, such as waiver advice and start/sit questions.
Naz Hillmon, F, Dream: The Dream have been dealing with several injuries over the final few weeks of the season, which has thrust Hillmon into a starting role over the last nine games. The 22-year-old has had consistent playing time as a starter and has been a reliable source of scoring and rebounds. Over her last nine starts, she's averaged 6.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in 31.2 minutes per game. Since several of Atlanta's key contributors remain sidelined, it wouldn't be surprising to see Hillmon maintain her spot in the rotation over the final three games of the regular season.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, Sparks: Nelson-Ododa has taken on a starting role over the last three games since Chiney Ogwumike has been sidelined. Nelson-Ododa has been productive in her more prominent role, averaging 7.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per game over her last three appearances. While the 22-year-old's role for the final week of the regular season will depend on whether Ogwumike is cleared to return, Nelson-Ododa will likely remain somewhat involved, even if she retreats to the bench at some point.
Shey Peddy, G, Mercury: Peddy has trended in the right direction for several weeks, but she remains available in most fantasy leagues and is certainly a player who can help lift fantasy teams to a championship during the final week of the season. She displayed some signs of inconsistency for most of July but has been a much more well-rounded contributor over her last five appearances. During that time, she's averaged 13.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 34.0 minutes per game. Even if Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi return to action over the final few games of the season, Peddy should remain heavily involved.
Shakira Austin, C, Mystics: Austin has started every game since May 20 but has had more consistent playing time over the last week and a half. Over the last six matchups, she's averaged 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game while shooting 62.5 percent from the floor. She's topped 20 minutes of playing time in each of those appearances and has been a well-rounded contributor.
Maya Caldwell, G, Dream: Caldwell rejoined the Dream on a hardship contract in early August and has played at least 23 minutes in each of the last three games. She joined the starting lineup Sunday against Minnesota since Kristy Wallace was unavailable due to the league's health and safety protocols. Over Caldwell's last three appearances, she's averaged 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 26.3 minutes per game. Regardless of whether she maintains her starting role over the final three games of the regular season, she's been a strong contributor for Atlanta since rejoining the team.
Napheesa Collier, F, Lynx: Collier missed the start of the regular season after giving birth in May but made her season debut Sunday against Atlanta. She wasn't expected to play until at least Wednesday but took on a starting role Sunday with Aerial Powers sidelined. Collier was expected to play only in short spurts but totaled 21 minutes, which was about double what she expected. She was a prominent contributor for Minnesota over her first three professional seasons and should provide fantasy value over the final few games of the regular season as she regains her conditioning.
Queen Egbo, C, Fever: Egbo was a fairly reliable fantasy contributor for most of July but has played under 20 minutes in her last three appearances. During that time, she's averaged just 3.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game. Although the 22-year-old has maintained her starting role, Emma Cannon has had an increased role off the bench. It wouldn't be surprising to see Egbo's minutes remain somewhat low as the struggling Fever attempt to see the potential of some of their other players down the stretch.
Dearica Hamby, F, Aces: The Aces' starting rotation has been one of the most consistent units in the league this year, but coach Becky Hammon made a change Sunday by moving Hamby to the bench while Kiah Stokes took on a starting role. Hammon said after the game that the layout will stay in place for the foreseeable future, so Hamby will likely continue to come off the bench to close out the regular season. Hamby's production had dropped over the last few weeks, and she should continue to be an unreliable fantasy contributor now that she's playing a depth role.
Jessica Shepard, F, Lynx: Although Shepard has started the last six games, she's had inconsistent fantasy production and should see her role decrease even more now that Napheesa Collier is back in action. Shepard totaled just two points, six rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes during Sunday's win over Atlanta. There are likely some more reliable frontcourt options available to stream during fantasy championship week.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, G, Mystics: Walker-Kimbrough mainly appeared off the bench this season but displayed some glimpses of fantasy upside in July. Although her playing time has remained somewhat steady over the last few games, she's been held under five points in three of the last four matchups while averaging just 1.3 assists and 0.3 rebounds. Despite the upside that she showed earlier in the year, there are better options available in most fantasy leagues.
Sami Whitcomb, G, Liberty: Like Walker-Kimbrough, Whitcomb displayed some glimpses of production over the first half of July despite maintaining a bench role for the Liberty. However, Whitcomb has had a minimal impact over the last week and a half, averaging just 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game over her last four appearances. Although Natasha Howard is doubtful Monday against the Wings due to an ankle injury, Whitcomb can't be relied upon to be a significant fantasy contributor in Howard's likely absence.
Note: Updated injury and absence information throughout the week can be found on RotoWire's Injury News page.
Atlanta Dream: Kristy Wallace missed Sunday's loss to the Lynx due to the league's health and safety protocols, while Maya Caldwell took on a starting role against Minnesota. Caldwell joined the Dream on a hardship deal last Tuesday and has averaged 26.3 minutes per game over her first three appearances following her return to the team. Tiffany Hayes has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, leading to an uptick in playing time for Aari McDonald. Nia Coffey has made just one appearance since June 17 and has officially been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Chicago Sky: Li Yueru missed Tuesday's game against Dallas but was back in action over the last two matchups. Her status hasn't impacted Chicago's rotation.
Connecticut Sun: Odyssey Sims signed a seven-day contract with the Sun on Wednesday and averaged 6.5 points and 2.0 assists in 12.0 minutes per game with her new club. It's unclear whether she'll remain with the team to close out the regular season.
Dallas Wings: Satou Sabally hasn't played since July 12 and has been ruled out Monday against New York but returned to practice Monday and could be back on the court sometime during the final few games of the regular season. Arike Ogunbowale sustained a hip injury Saturday and will be unavailable Monday against the Liberty. Veronica Burton and Tyasha Harris should see increased run in Ogunbowale's absence.
Indiana Fever: Tiffany Mitchell was unavailable Saturday against Dallas, while Lexie Hull played 35 minutes as a starter in her absence. Danielle Robinson sustained a shoulder injury Saturday, and it's not yet clear whether she'll be available Friday against Washington. If Robinson misses additional time, Hull, Victoria Vivians and Destanni Henderson should see increased workloads.
Los Angeles Sparks: Chiney Ogwumike has missed the last three games with a facial injury, allowing Olivia Nelson-Ododa to take on a starting role. Kristy Toliver has been unavailable for the last four games with a calf issue, so Brittney Sykes and Jordin Canada have been featured more prominently in the backcourt. Rae Burrell has been sidelined since late May due to knee surgery, and she's officially been ruled out for the rest of the regular season.
Minnesota Lynx: Napheesa Collier made her season debut Sunday against the Dream and played 21 minutes as a starter. While the Lynx monitored her playing time, she logged more minutes than expected and should have a chance to contribute as the team fights for a playoff spot. Her return was accelerated by the absence of Aerial Powers, who missed Sunday's game with a knee injury. It's not yet clear who Minnesota's starting forwards will be if Powers returns sometime this week.
New York Liberty: Betnijah Laney missed most of the season with a knee injury but returned to the court Saturday against the Mercury and played 21 minutes off the bench. Crystal Dangerfield saw decreased run against Phoenix. Natasha Howard suffered a right ankle injury Saturday and is doubtful Monday against the Wings, which could lead to increased run for Rebecca Allen and Han Xu.
Phoenix Mercury: Diamond DeShields recently missed five games due to a hip injury but has been back on the court with a starting role over the last two games since Diana Taurasi has been sidelined with a quad injury. Taurasi has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, so DeShields will likely retain her starting role down the stretch. The team also signed Yvonne Turner to provide additional assistance. Skylar Diggins-Smith was scratched from Saturday's game due to a non-COVID illness, leading to increased run for Jennie Simms, Shey Peddy and Sophie Cunningham. Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained in Russia and was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison this week after being found guilty of drug possession and smuggling. The United States is actively negotiating a potential prisoner swap, so she may be back on the court sometime next season.
Seattle Storm: Stephanie Talbot has sustained ankle injuries in the last two games that have limited her to just 11 minutes of playing time over that stretch. Gabby Williams has seen additional playing time when Talbot has been hurt.
Washington Mystics: Elena Delle Donne rested Friday against Chicago but returned to action Sunday against the Sparks. It's not yet clear whether she'll have any more rest days to close out the regular season.
Note: Projected lineups and up-to-the-minute lineup confirmations can be found on RotoWire's Daily Lineups page.
Minnesota Lynx: Napheesa Collier joined the starting lineup in her season debut Sunday since Aerial Powers was out, but it's not yet clear which forwards will start once the team is back at full strength in the frontcourt.
Phoenix Mercury: Diamond DeShields has started the last two games with Diana Taurasi sidelined and will likely retain the starting role now that Taurasi has been ruled out for the season. Jennie Simms started Saturday with Skylar Diggins-Smith unavailable.