The Case for Making Indiana’s Vivians An All-Star
By Tyler Berry
When the first returns from WNBA All-Star voting came out last week, three Indiana Fever players were on the list of 40 players. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t veteran Candice Dupree or starting rookie guard Kelsey Mitchell sitting in the top 25 on that list – it was the rookie out of Mississippi State, Victoria Vivians.
As of this writing, Vivians sits 25th in total votes and will need an extra push over the final couple of days to make it into the top 22 and have the chance to play in the July 28th All-Star Game in Minneapolis. Here’s why she deserves a roster spot.
Thriving as a Starter
Much like Mitchell, head coach Pokey Chatman saw a lot of positives in Vivians’ game off the bench during the first part of the season that she decided to insert the rookie into the starting lineup. In 11 games as a starter, Vivians has given Indiana nearly 30 consistent minutes a night as a spot-up shooting threat, an adequate rebounder, and a solid perimeter defender. Her two-way ability has been important night in and night out and has allowed the Fever to go slightly bigger with its starting five. Along with that, it’s freed up guard Erica Wheeler to come off the bench and run the second unit, which for much of the season, was lackluster in its production.
With an increased role, it’s allowed Vivians to do more with the basketball. While she’s best as a spot shooter, her ability to create space with the ball has become an asset in recent games. You’ll often find her curling off a screen, receiving a pass and dribbling into the midrange to create opportunities. While she doesn’t have the quick feet or dribble moves that Mitchell has, she makes smart decisions with the basketball and can fool her defender with a step back and a smooth, fast-shooting stroke. When she creates that space, her shot is usually money. As she gets more comfortable in these situations with the basketball, she’ll only become more dangerous offensively.
While many will look at the total season’s stats – and I’m not saying you shouldn’t – it’s important to look at Vivians’ growth as a starter in such a short time. With just over half a season of professional basketball under her belt, she clearly has the makings of a multiple-time All-Star, and her numbers in the starting lineup show that.
Three Point Consistency
While early on in the year, most were marveling at Mitchell’s outside shooting, Vivians has shown a similar shooting prowess, often with more consistent results. Granted, she’s not a high-volume shooter in the way that Mitchell is, but she’s shown an ability to get open off-ball and knock down her looks. Since becoming a starter, Vivians has shot 47.4 percent from behind the arc (28-of-59).
With opponents averaging 83.5 points per game against Indiana, a high-percentage wing shooter has been crucial in close games and wins. Against Atlanta in the team’s first win of the season, it was Vivians’ ability to space the floor and knock down her open looks that really opened the game up for Indiana. She went 5-for-8 from three in that one, finishing with a team-high 21 points.
Just a couple of weeks later, again against Atlanta, Vivians used a similarly hot shooting night to post a career-high 27 points (5-of-7 from three) and help the Fever mount a second-half comeback that fell just short. That game marked her third game with five threes and her sixth with at least three.
Fun Fact: Prior to the 2018 season, a Fever rookie made five or more 3-pointer in a game just nine times in 18 seasons. Mitchell has done it three times. Vivians has also done it three times, and in five less starts.
By the Numbers
Vivians is shooting 40.4 percent from three on the year and, as previously stated, 47.4 percent in her 11 starts.
Shooting 41.9 percent from the field on the year and 43.3 percent (46-for-106) since becoming a starter.
While not prone to getting to the foul line, she is a perfect 18-for-18 as a starter and has missed just once all season.
She averages 12.5 PPG as a starter.
Her effective FG sits at 54.7 percent and her True Shooting at 58.3 percent.
This season might arguably be the highest level of play the WNBA has ever seen and there are quite a few rookies – Vivians included – contributing to that. Her numbers and ability to quickly adapt to a starting role at the professional level make her deserving of an All-Star spot. While there’s a possibility she misses out by a few votes this year, it won’t be because she’s undeserving of a spot. It’ll simply be because there are just too many phenomenal basketball players in the league – and that’s certainly not a bad thing.