Throughout the course of a WNBA season, the respective fantasy basketball values of players will inevitably fluctuate. It doesn’t have to be due to injuries, either; sometimes one player will leapfrog a teammate in their team’s depth chart, or a head coach will want to try out different lineup combinations for various reasons.
The Los Angeles Sparks are at a bit of a crossroads, and forward Nia Coffey has benefited. Knee injuries to both Nneka Ogwumike (out 4-6 weeks) and Chiney Ogwumike (week-to-week) leave the Sparks with few options in the frontcourt; Coffey immediately proved her value as a small-ball forward when she blocked six shots on June 1, so it’s safe to assume Los Angeles will keep rolling her out there.
Elsewhere, Myisha Hines-Allen, who broke out for the Washington Mystics in 2020, is out to show she’s no one-year wonder. With the Mystics still waiting on Elena Delle Donne to get healthy, there’s plenty of opportunity for Hines-Allen, who put together a gem of a performance last Sunday against Las Vegas.
Are Coffey and Hines-Allen for real or are they fool’s gold? Here’s our fantasy basketball-geared outlook for both players — as well as a few you should shy away from — in “Three Up, Three Down:”
Myisha Hines-Allen (Washington Mystics)
It didn’t take long for Hines-Allen to get reacclimated with the Mystics. In just her fourth game back with the team, Hines-Allen scored a career-high 32 points (nine of which came at the free throw line) and pulled down 13 rebounds against the WNBA’s toughest frontcourt. She also recorded two steals and a blocked shot for good measure.
Outlook: Hines-Allen’s shooting has been inconsistent thus far in 2021, but she’s taken at least 14 field goal attempts in each of her past three games while also recording double-digit rebounds. Aside from Tina Charles, the Mystics don’t really have many players who are capable of carrying an offense, so Hines-Allen is primed to be a fantasy basketball monster until further notice.
Nia Coffey (Los Angeles Sparks)
Down both Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike, the Sparks have been forced to reinvent themselves on the fly, with head coach Derek Fisher playing more and more small lineups. That means Coffey, as one of the team’s few remaining power forward options, has been getting plenty of burn, and she’s been a pleasant surprise lately: In her past four games, Coffey is averaging 11.5 points, 1.8 steals and three blocks per game and has made 50 percent of her 3-point attempts.
Outlook: Coffey has been one of the 2021 season’s more pleasant surprises, and while her outside shooting will inevitably regress, her athleticism makes her a great fit in Sparks lineups that emphasize dribble penetration and forcing turnovers. It’s not looking like Nneka Ogwumike will be back anytime soon, and even if Chiney Ogwumike returns in the near future, she’ll likely be limited, so Coffey will continue to stuff the stat sheet, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
Sami Whitcomb (New York Liberty)
Whitcomb continues to fly under the radar as one of the Liberty’s most important — and yet lesser-heralded — players. She’s made at least three 3-pointers in seven of her last eight games, and she’s shooting 48.1 percent from deep on the season while playing a career-high 28.6 minutes per game.
Outlook: One flaw of New York’s that has been exposed recently is the absence of a consistent secondary playmaker, so it’s a little surprising that Whitcomb’s assist rate currently sits at just 13.5 percent. Regardless, the catch-and-fire approach suits Whitcomb’s fantasy metrics just fine, and given how heavily the Liberty emphasize the 3-point shot in their offense, she’ll continue to launch away.
Kaila Charles (Connecticut Sun)
After a promising second half of her rookie season, Charles has more or less fallen out of the Sun rotation completely in 2021, losing her place on the depth chart to DiJonai Carrington. It’s hard to fault Connecticut head coach Curt Miller for this move; through eight games, Charles is shooting just 15 percent from the field, and she hasn’t recorded a steal since the Sun’s first game of the season.
Outlook: In Charles’ defense, Miller has leaned towards bigger lineups with DeWanna Bonner at small forward for most of the season, an approach that would have limited the second-year wing’s role in any case. She hasn’t done much to earn back those minutes, though, and with Natisha Hiedeman giving the Sun a sorely-needed playmaker off the bench, Charles’ prospects don’t look very bright at the moment.
Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky)
The injury that limited DeShields last season seems to be a thing of the past, but she still hasn’t rediscovered her pre-2020 magic. Through nine games, DeShields is shooting 36.3 percent from the field, dragged down by a surprisingly poor showing from 2-point range. Her total rebounding rate (5.5 percent) is also down significantly from her career norms, though her assist rate (16.4 percent) is up slightly, and she’s stealing the ball at roughly the same rate (2.1 percent) as usual.
Outlook: DeShields has simply struggled to shoot the ball in 2021, knocking down just 17.6 percent of her long 2-point jumpers (per Basketball Reference). She’s also finished poorly at the rim, shooting 36.4 percent from there. The good news is that DeShields is attempting a career-high 31.4 percent of her 2-point shots at the rim, and she’s not really in danger of losing many of her minutes, so there’s a good chance those percentages bounce back a bit.
Lauren Cox (Indiana Fever)
Can anyone figure out what’s going on in Indiana? The Fever are firmly in the WNBA’s basement at 1-9 and don’t appear poised to make a run anytime soon, but head coach Marianne Stanley continues to roll with her veteran players. That’s been costly for Cox, who has played sparingly (10.1 minutes per game) and is shooting just 18.2 percent from the field.
Outlook: Perhaps Stanley is letting Cox work her way back from her early-season knee injury slowly, or maybe Cox’s lack of production has frustrated the Fever head coach into giving her a short leash. Regardless, it’s frustrating for fantasy basketball players when a clear lottery team isn’t keen on developing its youngsters, and while it would be a shock to see Cox drag along at this pace for the entire season, the Fever haven’t yet hinted that her role will expand in the near future.
All statistics for the 2021 WNBA season are current through June 7, 2021.