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Fantasy women's basketball: Azura Stevens among top waiver-wire pickups during championship matchup

Azura Stevens has delivered big games during the fantasy playoffs. Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

I just won a nail-biter in the semifinals of my fantasy women's basketball league. I edged my editor, Joe Kaiser, who had the best team all season, by nine fantasy points in a game in which almost 2,200 fantasy points were scored. The point? Small roster decisions can absolutely be the difference between a championship and having to tell your opponent "GG" (good game) in disappointment. (Editor's note: GG, Dre'.)

The WNBA players in this article are all reaching a peak at the optimum time to help your fantasy hoops squads get to the finish line. Let's look closer.

Azura Stevens, Chicago Sky (49.9% rostered in ESPN leagues): Stevens produces fantasy-worthy numbers in her typical role off the bench for the Sky but has started the past two games with Candace Parker out with a non-COVID-19 illness. In those two recent starts, Stevens has averaged 12.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 2.0 3PG, 2.0 APG and 1.5 SPG in 35.0 MPG. Parker could return in any game, but Stevens' opportunity has come during the fantasy playoffs, and she should absolutely be rostered and started universally for as long as she holds the starting job.

Shakira Austin, Washington Mystics (37.4%): Austin is a rookie who has started and played well for most of the season, and she is ending the season on a high note. She has scored at least nine points in three straight games, with two of those outings in double figures, for only the second time this season and the first since May 22. She has averaged 10.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 BPG and 0.7 SPG in those three outings, one of which was a game sat by star Elena Delle Donne. Delle Donne has typically missed a game every handful of games and is coming off playing both ends of a back-to-back. There's a solid chance Austin is called upon to play a larger role at least once during the next fantasy hoops session.

Moriah Jefferson, Minnesota Lynx (32.1%): Jefferson was a fixture in this space for long stretches of the season. She had an elite stretch in May, when she first joined the Lynx, in which she averaged 14.2 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.5 3PG and 1.5 SPG for six games before missing three games because of injury. She recovered and had another strong seven-game run starting in mid-June in which she averaged 16.1 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.1 3PG and 1.3 SPG in 30.1 MPG. Then, starting July 6, she had a shocking seven-game slump in which she averaged only 5.3 PPG and 3.3 APG in 24.0 MPG. Well, she has bounced back over her past two games, posting 18.0 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 3PG and 2.0 RPG to look more like the player she's been most of the season. Her return to strong play is timely, just in time for the fantasy hoops championships.

Kayla Thornton, Dallas Wings (29.4%): Thornton is in the midst of her best scoring stretch of the season. She's averaged 11.5 PPG in her past six outings, capped by a season-high 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 3-pointers and 2 steals in her most recent game against the Wings. Thornton is typically a strong rebounder and defensive player when playing well, and if she adds points to the mix, she's a formidable player who's peaking at the right time.

Shey Peddy, Phoenix Mercury (21.7%): Peddy has started the past 13 games for the Mercury, but she has settled into her role and played excellent ball for almost a full month straight. In her past eight games, she has averaged 11.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.4 SPG and 1.0 3PG. She scored at least 20 fantasy points in all eight games, and at least 26 in six of the eight. She is an impact player on the Mercury, and her productive streak has coincided perfectly with the fantasy women's basketball playoffs.