The Indiana Fever made a shocking announcement on Sunday afternoon that they have waived Lauren Cox, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. At this time the team has not put out a press release or statement about the decision, nor has there been a corresponding roster move.
After an impressive collegiate career at Baylor, during which she was named Big 12 Player of the Year in her senior season, the Fever had high hopes for Cox as a frontcourt partner for Teaira McCowan, who they selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft. Things have obviously not gone to plan. Neither of them had even been starting lately, and now Cox is gone.
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This is the latest twist in an unfortunate and disappointing start to Cox's professional career. She tested positive for COVID-19 last year and arrived at the WNBA bubble in Florida after the rest of her team. Then, after just 14 games, her rookie season was cut short due to a knee injury. She had hoped to make a fresh start this season under better circumstances, but suffered another knee injury in training camp and missed the first four games.
In total, Cox played just 278 minutes over 25 games during her time with the Fever, and averaged 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds on 38.7 percent shooting. Those are obviously not good numbers, and Cox has struggled to find her way in the pros. Even so, this is a baffling decision.
The Fever are the worst team in the league by some margin, and at 1-15 are on pace to finish with single-digit wins for the fourth time in five seasons. Just from a pure talent standpoint, they aren't in a position to be giving up on lottery picks this early. The fact that Cox has had horrible luck and hasn't even played a full season's worth of games yet only makes the move more confusing.
Waiving Cox also brings up some broader questions about the Fever's draft strategy and player development. Since their streak of 12 straight playoff appearances ended in 2017, the Fever have had five top-10 picks, including four lottery selections. None of those players has made an All-Star team, and reaching to take Kysre Gondrezick at No. 4 earlier this year was widely seen as one of the worst moves of the draft.
They also let Betnijah Laney go after the 2019 season and have watched her turn into 2020's Most Improved Player and a potential All-WNBA selection this season. Whether Cox joins Laney as another player the Fever will regret letting go remains to be seen. One thing that's clear, however, is the Fever have some real work to do, both on and off the court.