The She Plays fantasy sports app is dropping soon, so let’s prep with some of our top WNBA picks.
By Will Lewis
With the WNBA season tipping off Friday, let’s review the upcoming She Plays fantasy app scoring format and highlight the top players to target at each position.
How it works
In fantasy leagues with 12 teams, each team will draft nine players to their roster. Of these nine players drafted, six must be set as starters at the beginning of each week. The position requirements of these six starters must include two guards, two forwards, one center, and one utility player (any position). I would recommend drafting at least three guards, three forwards, and two centers.
A player’s fantasy performance will be correlated with real-life statistical performance, and so it will be important to draft players who stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Players will accumulate fantasy points at the following rates: 1 fantasy point for every point, 1.2 fantasy points for every rebound, 1.5 fantasy points for every assist, 3 fantasy points for every block or steal, and -1 fantasy point for every turnover. Players who heavily contribute on the offensive end are extremely valuable, but the players who also rack up blocks and steals can separate themselves into an elite tier with 3 fantasy points awarded for these plays.
Players will also be rewarded with bonus points for high field goal and free throw percentages, minutes played, and made three-pointers. Likewise, bonus points will be given for double-doubles, giving high-performing forwards and centers easier paths to higher fantasy scores. Consistent with years past, the league’s best players from a real-life and fantasy perspective this year are forwards and centers. Because interior players like Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, and Sylvia Fowles often lead their teams in scoring, have ample rebounding opportunities, and also are in better positions to rack up blocks and steals, they should be prioritized early in the draft.
Forwards to draft
Arguably the top three players available to draft are all forwards, and one could make a case for any of A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, or Jonquel Jones to be the top overall fantasy pick. If I have a top-three pick in my draft, I’m making sure I walk away with one of them. There are too many positive things to say about each one, so instead, here’s my case against each as the top overall pick—Wilson has made one three-pointer in her career, Stewart is coming off minor off-season surgery, and Jones’ usage could take a hit with Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams back. Personally, I see it like this: 1) Stewart, 2) Jones, 3) Wilson.
If you’re not able to draft one of the top forwards, I believe there are plenty of viable options later in the draft that can be consistently used in your starting lineup. Alyssa Thomas returned at the end of last season and looked like her old self. An excellent rebounder and defender, she can rack up fantasy points without needing to score and becomes even more valuable in a scoring system that heavily rewards blocks and steals. Brianna Turner will be relied on even more on the defensive end in the absence of Brittney Griner, as Tina Charles is not the same defensive presence as Griner. Turner should flirt with double-doubles nightly and be among the league leaders in blocks and steals, making her an excellent target in your draft.
A couple of late-round fliers that could be worth a look include Cheyenne Parker, Gabby Williams, and NaLyssa Smith.
Centers to draft
After the top three forwards are off the board, I believe two centers should be the next players drafted. Tina Charles, fresh off leading the league in scoring a season ago, is now in Phoenix. Known primarily for her scoring, Charles stretches the floor with her outside shooting better than any other center in the league, which is an added bonus in a scoring system that gives extra for three-pointers.
Sylvia Fowles, in her final season in the league, will be forced to carry the interior load with Napheesa Collier set to miss the 2022 season. Fowles has put up some of the greatest single-game fantasy performances of all time, as 20 point/20 rebound games are very well within her range of outcomes. Fowles will rack up more blocks and steals than Charles but has also missed more time with injury over the past few seasons.
There are fewer centers in the league than any position, so you might only be carrying two on your roster, making it important that you draft at least one starting-caliber player. Liz Cambage, now in Los Angeles, is one of the most dominant traditional centers the league has ever seen. Her role is largely unknown on a team with both Ogwumike sisters, but she needs very little time to make a fantasy impact, and all signs point to her being an extremely important anchor to this team. Teaira McCowan was traded to Dallas in the offseason and will be a nightly double-double bonus threat. Lastly, I think Ezi Magbegor or Mercedes Russell will emerge to be a reliable fantasy starter, and I wouldn’t be opposed to drafting both Seattle centers.
A few other late-round centers that could be worth a shot include Azura Stevens and Shakira Austin.
Guards to draft
While guards traditionally do not flash the same upside in fantasy as forwards and centers, a few of the top guards have the ability to make a solid impact on your fantasy team. Skylar Diggins-Smith would be the first guard I’m looking to draft this season, as her all-around game should be even better this season as the team will rely on her more than usual. Her defensive contributions are rare for a guard and give her an immense upside when they come along with strong scoring games.
Sabrina Ionescu is not far behind and easily could be the top-scoring fantasy guard this season. New coach Sandy Brondello will craft the offense around Ionescu, similar to Taurasi in Phoenix, and will take advantage of the fact that Sabrina is the healthiest she’s been in two years.
There are plenty of viable guard options later in the draft, so waiting to draft guards could be an optimal strategy. Kelsey Plum came alive the second half of last season and could be even better this season as rumors have it that Becky Hammon wants to play fast and shoot more threes, which would complement Plum’s game perfectly. Kelsey Mitchell will be forced to shoot at will this year on an Indiana Fever team that is worse than a season ago. You’ll have to deal with the occasional woeful shooting performance from Mitchell and the Fever, but you likely won’t find a player with this level of usage later in your draft.
Some other guards that could return excellent value at their draft position include Kayla McBride, Marina Mabrey, and Rhyne Howard.
The WNBA season tips off Friday, May 6 with four games available to watch on NBA TV and Facebook. The full WNBA season schedule can be found here.