Inside the Fever

Updated: May 14, 2007, 11:21 AM ET
ESPN.com

Editor's note: Before the 2007 season tips off Saturday, ESPN's Nancy Lieberman and ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel and Graham Hays each tackle one question facing all 13 WNBA teams. Here, the experts take a closer look at Indiana.

MORE ON THE FEVER
QUICK FACTS:
The Fever went 21-13 in the regular season before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Coach Brian Winters is entering his fourth season in Indiana.

2006 LEADERS:
Tamika Catchings led the Fever in scoring (16.3 ppg), rebounding (7.5), assists (3.7), blocks (1.1) and steals (2.9). All five starters and last season's top five scorers return.

WNBA.com:
ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

• WNBA.com's Fever preview

What makes you want to watch this team?

Beyond the fact that Tamika Catchings is one of the league's elite talents, what's intriguing is how a really solid team has been constructed around her. The Fever have the right balance of types, ages and personalities. You get the sense that Indiana will be a dominating defensive team that's still fun to watch on offense. -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel

What's the best-case scenario for the team? Worst-case?

Best of times: The Fever finally take the last step toward unseating the Shock and Sun atop the Eastern Conference, putting all the right parts in place around Catchings. The "other" Tamika, Tamika Whitmore, proves last season's offensive production was no fluke and continues diverting defensive attention from Catchings, while rookie center Alison Bales spells Tammy Sutton-Brown and gives the team a big body to counter the likes of Margo Dydek, Kara Braxton and anyone who might think of driving the lane. Anna DeForge continues to hit at a good rate from behind the arc, while Tan White pushes both her and point guard Tully Bevilaqua for minutes after steady improvement in her second season. And Sheri Sam, free from the misery of playing for Charlotte, fills the same multitasking role on the wing for the Fever that she did on Seattle's championship team.

Worst of times: All the new faces in key places -- Sutton-Brown, Sam and Bales lead a group of newcomers that also includes Ann Strother -- fail to jell with the core of last year's team. The new bodies in the post clog up the interior, making it more difficult for Catchings and Whitmore to get inside for easy points. Or even worse, Whitmore can't match last season's offensive production and the Fever are once again left with no clear second option behind Catchings. Bevilaqua, who turns 35 in July, begins to slow down and White proves incapable of running the point on any extended basis, further limiting any offense that doesn't begin and end with Catchings isolating against a defender. And suddenly all of Catchings' all-around versatility begins to look more and more like the WNBA version of Kevin Garnett. -- ESPN.com's Graham Hays

Did offseason changes make the team better, the same or worse?

Better. The Fever should be considered a favorite after adding a lot in the offseason. Indiana filled every spot that could have been perceived a weakness, signing Sutton-Brown, a 6-foot-4 center who averaged 11.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg last season, picking Sam, a versatile guard/forward who averages of 11.8 ppg, 2.5 apg in her career, in the dispersal draft and selecting Bales, a 6-foot-7 center who stared at Duke, in April's draft. Indiana also made sure to re-sign Bevilaqua and DeForge, the team's key free agents. -- ESPN's Nancy Lieberman

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