Indiana has a Fever and prescription is Mitchell
By Nicholas LeTourneau
The Fever are currently winless and without a doubt one of the worst teams in the WNBA, but it’s not all hopeless. The Fever are for sure in rebuild mode, but it looks like they have found their cornerstone to rebuild around in Kelsey Mitchell. The rookie out of Ohio State has thrived for the Fever since entering the starting lineup and has been giving everyone buckets.
She is currently averaging an astounding 19.4 points per game and has been the lone bright spot for an Indiana offense that ranks 10th overall in a league of just 12. As of June 9th in Synergy’s system, Mitchell accounts for almost one fourth of the offensive production for the Fever, scoring 1.007 points per possession. Three types of scoring plays make up over 80 percent of her total offensive output — scoring as the pick-and-roll ball handler, transition plays, and spot-up shooting.
Scoring as the pick-and-roll ball handler
If there is one thing Mitchell knows how to do, it is score as the ball handler out of the pick-and-roll. Almost 50 percent of her offensive output comes from these looks and she is in the 81st percentile of all WNBA players in this play type. She averages 0.952 PPP with a field goal percentage of 40.4 percent and an adjusted field goal percentage of 50 percent, meaning that she hits a good number of threes out of this look as well.
Mitchell takes a lot threes, eight per game, and converts them at a high rate of 43 percent. She has demonstrated routinely in her young WNBA career that she only needs a little bit of space and few things capitalize on that like scoring as the pick-and-roll ball handler. Let’s break down a few examples:
In the first clip we see just how Indiana plays to her strengths. The Fever set a series of three screens in a row for Mitchell that by the time her defender can recover, the shot attempt from deep is already up and through the basket. In the second play, we see again just how Indiana sets things up for Mitchell. She gets two screens this time but with the purpose of driving to the hoop. Mitchell gets a clean look at first but as Dallas collapses, she is forced to go to the reverse layup and hits a very acrobatic shot.
After that we see a great move from Mitchell following a screen from Natalie Achonwa. Dallas’ defense is out of position and Mitchell uses a hesitation move to blow by Liz Cambage. In the last clip, we get to see Indiana manufacture some offense on an inbounds play. Mitchell comes around a grouping of players, gets the ball but loses the handle for a moment before getting another screen and taking a lovely stepback jumper for three.
Few players in the WNBA are better or more efficient transition scorers than Mitchell. Almost 20 percent of her scoring output comes from scoring in transition and she scores 1.28 points per possession — good for 10th in the league. She converts about 55 percent of her shots from the field and has an adjusted field goal percentage of 67.6 percent, which again means that she is getting a lot of good three-point looks when running the floor. Let’s look at exactly how she does it:
In the first clip, you get a perfect look at both what makes Mitchell so dangerous and what her future will look like for her. Mitchell brings the ball up the floor, hits the defender with a killer ankle breaker, crosses behind her back and then rises up to nail the transition three. In the second clip, Mitchell quickly brings the ball up the floor and nails a three before the defense can get set. Lastly, we see Mitchell again quickly bring the ball up the floor, pass to the corner, then pop back out behind the three-point line where she gets the ball back and jacks up a beautiful three.
Mitchell is a very good and efficient spot up shooter already. These shot attempts account for about 15 percent of her offensive output and she hits an impressive 1.238 points per possession while converting 47.4 percent of the shots with an incredible adjusted field goal percentage of 68.4 percent. She ranks in the top 15 in the WNBA because of her sharp shooting. Let’s see how she does it:
To start things off, we see the Sun lose track of Mitchell after the action on the opposite side of the floor. Mitchell ends up getting a shot so wide open that there was no chance she was going to miss. Then we see a defensive lapse again from Connecticut after Mitchell brings the ball up and passes. Her defender unwisely sinks into the lane ever so slightly, then slips, and the rest is history for Mitchell.
In a matchup with Washington, we see something similar, in that the Mystics are out of position somewhere and are forced to rotate the defender off of MItchell, only to have her make them pay with another three-pointer made. In the final clip, we see another example from that game, one which demonstrates why it is so important to have lots of movement. Indiana keeps the ball moving and that stretches Washington’s defense thin and eventually leads to an open three-point attempt for Mitchell.
Indiana has been off to a bad start, one they probably can’t rebound from in time to make the playoffs but one thing is abundantly clear — they have found the future of the franchise in Mitchell. They can truly build around her for the foreseeable future and if they continue on the pace they are on now, the Fever could probably get a top three pick in next year’s draft to further fill their coffers.