PG: Briann January/Erin Phillips
SG: Shavonte Zellous/Jeanette Pohlen/Layshia Clarendon
SF: Katie Douglas
PF: Tamika Catchings
C: Erlana Larkins/Jessica Davenport
(plus two of SF Karima Christmas, PF Jessica Breland and C Sasha Goodlett, pending a final cut. All three may start the season in Indiana if a hardship exception is granted due to injuries)
Significant gains: Confidence and rings from winning a championship
Significant losses: The monkey off their back from finally winning that championship. Oh, and Tammy Sutton-Brown’s gone.
Fever head coach Lin Dunn and general manager Kelly Krauskopf approached this offseason with a pretty straightforward mindset – when you’ve found something that works, don’t screw it up. After a solid regular season, Indiana kicked it up a notch in the playoffs and rode the wave to their first WNBA championship. So they re-signed every significant piece that was out of contract – Tamika Catchings, Briann January, Shavonte Zellous, Erlana Larkins – and kept their nucleus intact. Smallball won them a title in 2012, and they’ll be riding it again in 2013.
Catchings remains the heart and soul of this franchise, and one of the best players on the planet. The move to play her full-time at power forward last season looked risky initially, but she took it in stride and the benefits ultimately outweighed the drawbacks. She had more space to attack, created immediate mismatches against virtually every opponent, and her own strength and activity allowed her to stand up to whoever she had to guard defensively. They were a poor rebounding team all season as a result, but they overcame that in other areas. The Fever jumped to another level in the playoffs when Erlana Larkins moved into the starting lineup at center, creating an even more undersized group than they’d been working with all season. It leaves them short of inches, but the energy, mobility and effort made up for it, and the collective team defense worked like a charm. The question is whether what worked for a playoff series or two can succeed through the course of an arduous regular season. If they need to go big with a more traditional post, Jessica Davenport is still around, and Sasha Goodlett may have more to offer in her second year (if she makes the roster). With Catchings at the core of it all, they’ll probably work it out.