Fantasy women’s basketball: Can Rhyne Howard take another leap in year two?


Rhyne Howard was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA draft and quickly acclimated to the WNBA game, making the All-Star team as a rookie before going on to be named Rookie of the Year.

Howard was 12th in the WNBA in scoring last season with 16.4 PPG and posted solid peripheral numbers with 4.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG and 2.5 3PG. She is a do-everything player and the foundation of the Dream moving forward.

Aari McDonald was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA draft. She had a solid rookie season, primarily off the bench, but her shooting percentages (32.2 FG%) were too low for her to have a bigger role. McDonald took a giant step forward in her sophomore campaign, almost doubling her scoring average while improving her FG% by 8.9% (up to 41.1 FG%) to become a dangerous scoring threat.

McDonald was especially potent during her six games as a starter last season, averaging 16.0 PPG (47.8 FG%), 4.7 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG and 1.3 3PG (36.4 3P%) in 35.0 MPG in that midseason stretch.

The Dream’s rotation this season is not yet clear. The Dream brought in two veteran, starting-caliber guards this offseason in 2017 Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray (formerly of the Dallas Wings) and Danielle Robinson (formerly of the Indiana Fever). Both Howard and McDonald are listed as guards, but at 6-foot-2 Howard has the versatility to play forward and it’s possible that the 6-foot Gray could get some small ball minutes on the wing as well.

Howard is the franchise player and is expected to take a leap as a sophomore to among the best in the league. There was some buzz that McDonald might start this season but with the offseason moves her role isn’t clear. McDonald did get a contract extension this offseason which indicates the team sees her as a key piece of the future.

If both Howard and McDonald made improvements over the offseason, it would have big implications for both the Dream franchise and fantasy hoops squads alike.

What to watch

Howard had the 10th highest fantasy basketball scoring average last season at 30.8 FP/G, but this season ESPN projects her with the fifth best fantasy scoring average at 33.5 FP/G. She has the second highest projected scoring average among guards, trailing only Sabrina Ionescu, which would make her a first round pick in fantasy hoops drafts.

Gray ranked 23rd in fantasy scoring average last season at 26.3 FP/G while with the Wings. As the prize offseason acquisition for the Dream, it is assumed her role will be similar and that she should just be a solid fantasy hoops option this season as well. She went in the fourth round of our recent ESPN fantasy women’s basketball mock draft.

Cheyenne Parker was the only other Dream player picked in that mock draft, going at the end of the fifth round. Parker is the one pure frontcourt player that seems guaranteed a starting slot for the Dream this season. She started 35 of 36 games last season and was a nightly double-double threat with averages of 11.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG and 0.9 BPG.

If McDonald’s fantasy scoring average from her six fantasy starts (27.4 FP/G) would’ve been for the entire campaign, it would have translated to her having a top-20 fantasy scoring average last season. McDonald went undrafted in the ESPN fantasy women’s mock draft, but she was on my radar as a late-round pick with upside. If undrafted, she is perhaps the top streaming option with the most upside among potential fantasy hoops free agents.

The Dream brought in multiple rookies from this season’s WNBA Draft, including first rounders Haley Jones and Laeticia Amihere, but typically rookies who aren’t taken at the top of the draft don’t contribute a lot their first season.

Keep an eye on AD Durr as another potential streamer with upside, however. Durr joined the Dream midseason last year after beginning the campaign with the Liberty and they had a strong 12-game stretch averaging 11.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.5 3PG in 21.1 MPG while scoring more than 20 points three times. If called upon, Durr has shown they can put points on the board in a hurry.

Dream team profile

2022 Record: 14-22
Coach: Tanisha Wright
Key Additions: Allisha Gray, Danielle Robinson
Key Losses: Tiffany Hayes, Erica Wheeler, Maya Caldwell, Nia Coffey, Kristy Wallace, Kia Vaughn

2022 Offensive efficiency: 98.1 (11th)
2022 Defensive efficiency: 101.8 (5th)
2022 Pace: 79.5 possessions per 48 minutes (3rd)

What to expect in 2023: The Dream took a big step forward as a team last year, going from the second-worst record in the WNBA in 2021 to just a game out of the playoffs in 2022. They surrounded Howard with veteran producers this offseason in the attempt to continue to build the squad moving forward. The team goal this season is likely to make the playoffs, as another step in the longer-term process of rebuilding the squad back to future contention.

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