Fantasy Basketball

WNBA: Marina Mabrey sliding into higher-usage role for Dallas Wings

The Dallas Wings have officially clinched a spot in the 2022 WNBA playoffs, defeating the New York Liberty 86-77 on Monday for their fifth consecutive win.

Though the Wings dropped their rematch against the Liberty days later, they’ve already made a strong impression during the biggest juncture of the regular season — and they’ve done it without their biggest star. During the Wings’ five-game win streak, which included victories over the WNBA’s top two teams (the Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces), guard Arike Ogunbowale played a total of just 25 minutes, sitting out Dallas’ games against Las Vegas and Chicago due to an ankle injury and leaving its Aug. 6 matchup against the Indiana Fever with an injured abdomen.

Ogunbowale hasn’t played since then, and underwent a procedure that the Wings say will keep her out through the first round of the 2022 playoffs.

Marina Mabrey has played a huge role for the Wings during their recent hot streak.
Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

That hasn’t stopped the Wings from competing, though, and while Ogunbowale’s absence has forced several Wings to step up their games, they’ve largely risen to the challenge, playing their best basketball of the season and elevating Dallas from the pack of WNBA teams that continues to battle for the league’s lower playoff seeds.

Chief among those players is Marina Mabrey, who has embraced her new role as the Wings’ primary perimeter scorer and led the team’s backcourt during the team’s hot streak. While Mabrey was already playing better-than-adequate basketball prior to Ogunbowale’s string of injuries — on the season, she’s averaging 13.3 points and 3.6 assists per game — she’s been lights out without her usual partner and fellow Notre Dame alum, scoring 21.8 points per game on a 55.4 percent true shooting percentage over her last five games.

Mabrey has always been able to score, but her play as of late has proven that she’s capable of extending her game — which emphasizes on-ball shiftiness and leveraging her size and physicality as a lead guard — to a high-usage role, even if it’s just temporarily. Impressively, Mabrey has not only increased her scoring efficiency during this span, but she’s also shown improved playmaking chops and ball security, posting a 2.08 assist/turnover ratio (up from 1.46 in 27 games prior to August).

Money bag Mabrey?

As grateful as Dallas surely is for Mabrey’s recent surge and its effect on the team’s trajectory, it’s worth mentioning that her contract is up after the 2022 WNBA season, and that the Wings will need to pay up if they want to keep her — especially after what she’s shown in recent games.

According to Her Hoop Stats, Mabrey is currently making $72,141 — the minimum base salary for a player with three or more seasons of WNBA experience. It’s safe to say that she’ll be making a good deal more than that after the conclusion of the next free agency period, but which team will be paying her depends on how much salary cap space the Wings will be willing to use. Mabrey will be classified as a restricted free agent, which means that Dallas will be given the opportunity to match any offer made by other teams.

While the Wings project to have plenty of cap space available, Mabrey isn’t their only player who will be entering restricted free agency, which could complicate things. Center Teaira McCowan, who has recorded six double-doubles in her last seven games and is averaging 18.9 points during that span, will also be coming off the books as a restricted free agent. The Wings should have enough cap space to match offers for both players, but will need to consider how much they’ll be paying in guaranteed salary down the road.

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