The only constant in sports (and life) is change. While consistency is key to a winning strategy, the ebb and flow of production often can't be avoided.
Tracking the endless ups and downs over 40 games and nearly four months can become a heady operation. Segmenting the journey, however, into weekly updates allows managers to live (and play) in the now.
That's exactly what my Risers and Fallers column aims to accomplish, as we utilize ESPN's metrics database and resident stats ace Kyle Soppe for a deeper look at the numbers.
Veronica Burton, Guard, Dallas Wings (11.7% rostered, +6.3)
June has brought some trademark gloom to the Wings at the start of the month. The team has posted exactly 74 points and has taken Ls in back-to-back efforts. Burton, however, is emerging as a ray of light. Despite working primarily as a bench option in 2022, the second-year player has materialized as a regular starter, averaging just under 30 minutes per game since the season tipped off. While she shines on defense, her versatility is making her an intriguing fantasy addition.
Burton put together arguably her best game of the season in the Wings' six-point loss to the Suns last Sunday. On the court for a season-high 37 minutes, the former Northwestern player managed her first double-digit points (10) of the year as well as 6 rebounds and 7 assists. She's now gone over 5 rebounds in three straight games, 6 assists in three of her last four efforts, and 8 steals since Memorial Day Weekend. While the usage of the team's Big Three (Natasha Howard, Satou Sabally, and Arike Ogunbowale) caps Burton's long term upside, the 22-year-old could be in for an extended hot streak with five or her next six outings at home.
Layshia Clarendon, Guard, Los Angeles Sparks (6.0% rostered, +2.2)
Clarendon was largely counted out by fantasy managers heading into 2023. After dealing with injuries and despite not being on a roster last year, however, the savvy vet appears to have carved out a starting role on the Sparks. Not only is Clarendon averaging over 30 minutes per outing, but the 32-year-old's scoring has increased in each game.
Coming off of a season-high 16 points, Clarendon has additionally recorded at least 6 assists and 3 steals in two of their last three efforts. A stabilizing presence on a team in the throes of a rebuild, Clarendon's fantasy stock is trending up as they continue to earn minutes and stretch production.
Kayla McBride, Guard, Minnesota Lynx (91.8% rostered, +1.4)
McBride has been on a tear since missing two games (personal) over the opening month of the season. The 30-year-old led the Lynx to the team's first victory last Saturday, sinking 4 3-point shots and recording a season-high 24 points. McBride has been good for 4-5 rebounds per effort while also managing 3 dimes in two of her last three efforts.
Efficiency has admittedly been an issue (38.2 FG%) for the former All-Star. However, solid playing time (32 minutes, top-20 overall) and increased usage from beyond the arc figures to bolster her overall stock. McBride has the potential to go from fifth round fantasy pick to must-start fantasy star... assuming the ascent outlined above continues.
Kelsey Plum, Guard, Las Vegas Aces (99.8% rostered, +/-0)
I mentioned Plum's shooting struggles in last week's WNBA fantasy roundtable. Unfortunately, those issues have persisted, particularly from distance. Plum converted an impressive 42% of her 3-point attempts last season. Thus far into 2023, however, the 28-year-old has stalled out at 20% and has missed on each of her nine 3-point attempts over the Aces' last pair of games. That's problematic, particularly considering nearly 45% of Plum's career shots have been on 3's.
Slumps happen to everyone. And a baller of Plum's esteem certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. But Plum's first-round fantasy draft capital largely came from ability to win from the field. Her ability to produce elsewhere (at least this season) is somewhat limited. The former All-Star has managed no more than 3 rebounds in five straight games and has yet to clear 5 assists in an outing this season (after averaging 5.1 assist in 2022). Whether this is a temporary cold streak or a harbinger of something more, fantasy managers can't rely on the specter of Plum's star for at least the immediate future.
Kia Nurse, Guard, Seattle Storm (39% rostered, +1.3)
This one hurts. I was so all-in on Nurse over the preseason. Plus, her shoe game is unstoppable. But her production has remained frustratingly sporadic. Since a 20-point effort back on May 26, Nurse has only managed 11 total points while converting 4 of 18 field goal attempts in 63 minutes over her last two games. Nurse's assists and rebounds have additionally underwhelmed, as the Ontario native recorded just three boards and 2 dimes in the Storm's most recent outing at Los Angeles.
Nurse's troubles might benefit rookie Jade Melbourne, however. The Australian standout has impressed early, which has resulted in a steady increase in playing time. Both players' minutes need to be monitored by fantasy managers.
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