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WNBA Draft: Lynx Looking for Talent Infusion

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It’s transition time for the Lynx

WNBA: Finals-Los Angeles Sparks at Minnesota Lynx Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

WNBA Draft
6:00 pm CDT
ESPN2

The Minnesota Lynx are in transition. After an incredible run that included four championships in a seven year span, the Lynx struggled last season to an 18-16 record and a first round ouster in the playoffs. It was inevitable that the run would end eventually, that their core group would age out and eventually an infusion of new talent would be necessary. The organization did an amazing job of maximizing their window, headlined by the mid-run trade for Sylvia Fowles which bought them more time and at least one more title.

But things are changing now. Lindsay Whalen has retired. Maya Moore is on sabbatical for at least this season. Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson are expected back with the team, but are no longer the game changers they once were. Only Fowles remains as an All-Star still in her prime.

Which brings us to tonight’s WNBA draft. The draft has been something of an afterthought for the Lynx in recent years, as they generally picked late and did not have a lot of time or roster flexibility for developing young players as they pursued championships. Now, however, the Lynx are in need of talent as they can no longer boast a roster of All-Stars.

The Lynx hold four of the top 20 picks in tonight’s draft, starting with their first rounder, pick six overall. They also hold the 16th, 18th, and 20th overall picks, plus the 30th pick in the third and final round of the draft.

What they do with these picks remains to be seen: They could try to consolidate some of them, or move a couple of them for veterans. This isn’t going to be a complete rebuild; they still have Fowles, and a tear down and rebuild from scratch doesn’t seem to be their style. Certainly coach and GM Cheryl Reeve would like to get back to winning at a high level as quickly as possible.

Still, unlike previous years, they cannot just cobble together pieces around a hugely talented and successful core. They have to add to the remaining core, which really comes down to Fowles.

Their struggles last season came primarily on offense, where they had the second fewest three point attempts in the league even as pace-and-space becomes more prevalent in the W, and the third most turnovers. Opponents were successful pressuring the ball against the Lynx as well as double-teaming Fowles, and the Lynx were unable to consistently make teams pay by stretching the floor.

They really need help on the perimeter, both initiating and creating offense, but also with long-range shooting. Moore had nearly three times as many three point attempts as the next most frequent shooter, and without her an already anemic perimeter shooting attack looks completely bereft.

I don’t pretend to know who the Lynx should draft; I rarely watch either women’s or men’s college basketball. Here is SBN’s mock draft, and here is one from ESPN.

The big news since the tournament ended is that Sabrina Ionescu, who would likely have been the first pick, has decided to return to Oregon for her senior year. Meanwhile, Liz Cambage, who was second in the MVP vote last season, has asked to be traded from the Dallas Wings, so there could be a lot of action on draft night.

The player both of the above mocks have going to the Lynx with the 6th pick is Arike Ogunbowale from Notre Dame. She was the hero of the 2018 Final Four, making huge plays on the way to leading the Irish to the title. She almost did it again this season, but missed a late free throw that would have tied the title game with Baylor. She’s a bit of an undersized scoring guard at 5’8”. Both mocks have the Lynx leaving sharpshooting forwards Katie Lou Samuelson of Connecticut and Alanna Smith of Stanford on the board. We’ll see how it plays out.

Regardless of what they do, it’s a big night for the Lynx and their future. We’ll have the aftermath for you after the draft.