The weekly WNBA Report has a much less positive tone this week. Throughout the season, the play of former Ohio State basketball players in the United States’ top domestic women’s basketball league has been put under the spotlight in a positive way. On Tuesday, the WNBA took away a lot of the fun when they announced the 2022 WNBA All-Star Reserves.
On June 15, Land-Grant Holy Land shared the case for Indiana Fever guard and former Buckeye All-American Kelsey Mitchell to earn her first All-Star nod in five pro seasons. Mitchell was a long shot to make the 10 starters due to the nature of fan voting and the Fever’s struggles over the year, as well as a failure to break through the bubble of WNBA fan attention.
On June 20, the starters were unveiled with the usual suspects like 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun and league legend and Chicago Sky forward, Candace Parker. Also, a lifetime achievement award of an All-Star spot was awarded to the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird, who’s having her worst scoring season of her 19 years in the league. Fortunately for Mitchell, there was hope with the reserve’s selection.
Fans vote is out the window for the remaining 12 all-stars, and it’s left to the coaches. A lone published stipulation of the coach vote is that they can’t vote for their own players. When the 12 were released Tuesday, Mitchell’s name was left off again.
The guard who, as of the announcement, was first in points scored (383), fourth in pointer per game (19.1), sixth in three-point field goals (45) and ninth in assists (82) misses out on the midseason exhibition in arguably her strongest season. Compare that to fellow backcourt player and reserve in Chicago’s Kahleah Copper, who played seven less games than Mitchell, but was still voted in from a stronger overall roster.
Unless the Fever’s experiment of fully loading their team with rookies pays off, and Indiana begins competing in the middle of the pack in 2023, it certainly feels like Mitchell doesn’t have a chance. Or another scenario of Mitchell leaving Indiana for a stacked team to earn the recognition and banter that the former Buckeye rightfully deserves.
Mitchell isn’t the only example of the coaches and fans getting it wrong. Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud, who is the best facilitator in the league averaging 7.3 assists per game on top of her best shooting season in a seven-season pro career with 11.0 points per game, also was left off the 22-player roster.
Onto the actual report for this week. Mitchell played only once last week, with the Fever losing their sole match of the seven-day stretch against the Dallas Wings. Dallas won big, by 26 points, but Mitchell did what Mitchell does. In just under 30 minutes on the court (backups came in towards the end due to the one-sided score line), Mitchell scored 22 points, assisted on four and added two rebounds.
In terms of fellow Buckeye Jantel Lavender, the forward continued earning only a few minutes to give starters on the Seattle Storm a rest. Lavender had seven total points and five rebounds across two games, a 14-point victory against the Washington Mystics and eight-point defeat to the Las Vegas Aces.
The Seattle roster, home to three 2022 WNBA All-Stars, added eight-time All-Star and 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles to their frontcourt. Charles and the Phoenix Mercury announced a “divorce” of Charles’ contract, who is looking to win a title before hanging up her basketball shoes. Phoenix, who are struggling without Brittney Griner, weren’t competing at the top of the league, a reason that many believe led to Charles’ move. With that move, it’s likely that Lavender’s minutes take a cut.