The Lynx are back! Well, actually only three Lynx players are back, but the season is here! There is a lot to learn about this entirely new team, but here are eight things that seem like they will be very important this year.
The 2017 MVP returns as the most important player on the team yet again. Sweet Syl is the Lynx’ best player on both ends of the floor and she will be counted on to deliver at an all-league level. Fowles has also been named a captain for the first time in her Lynx tenure. She wasn’t as effective scoring the ball last season due to the league scheming new ways to make her play in a crowd. Remedying this will be paramount this year for Cheryl Reeve and Fowles. The Lynx will go as Syl goes.
For the first time since 2012 the Lynx will feature a blue chip rookie on the roster. Napheesa Collier was selected sixth by Minnesota in the 2019 draft. The UConn standout is a combo forward who can do a little bit of everything. Crazy-long arms in tow, Collier can disrupt on the defensive end, and finish around the hoop on offense. Rookies don’t typically find minutes in a Reeve rotation but this season will be different. Collier represents the future of the Minnesota Lynx. Even more rare than a Lynx rookie is a Lynx second round rookie. Jessica Shepard was picked 16th overall and is already looking like a steal. She’s a high-IQ power forward with a knack for high-low passing and seemingly always being in the right place at the right time. She’s going to get minutes this year, and she’s going to impress you.
Defense has always been a hallmark of any Lynx team in the Reeves era. Even last season’s 4th place finish in defensive rating can be improved upon this summer. In order to reach their ceiling, the team needs to be one of the top three defenses in the league. Good news: they have the personnel to make this happen. Point guards Danielle Robinson and Odyssey Sims are some of the WNBA’s best at their position. Fowles has won three defensive player of the league awards. Above average defenders in Karima Christmas-Kelly, Damiris Dantas, and Temi Fagbenle round out a group that is going to be a terror to play against.
Rebounding is another franchise mainstay. The Lynx have finished no worse than fourth in rebound percentage in the Reeve era and are usually first or second. Rebounding is all about controlling the possession battle. Grabbing a defensive rebound is the conclusion of your opponent’s play, and getting your own offense rebound gives you another shot at scoring points. It’s a very important part of basketball that the Lynx consistently excel in. They’ve prioritized it again in this roster. All of their bigs are quality on the glass and even Robinson vacuums up boards at a high rate for a guard. It will take a committee to make up the rebounding lost in Rebekkah Brunson’s absence, but Minnesota has a pretty nice committee.
Being a veteran team has its advantages. Experience and continuity are massive in the WNBA. Young teams simply don’t win in this league. However, veteran teams are slow and predictable. The Lynx have been more resigned to keep the pace low, opting instead to set up their offense and enter the ball into the post. As noted above, Fowles is still the key to everything, but younger, fresher legs will propel the team to more transition basketball this season. Robinson is one of the fastest end-to-end players in the WNBA. Sims and Lexie Brown will also look to push the ball and run to the corners for open shots. If you’re at Target Center this summer, don’t blink.
In order for Fowles to be as effective as possible this season she’s going to need space to operate (sound familiar Timberwolves fans?). This is generally obtained by having three point threats spread out around the floor. Want to leave your man to help on Syl? Fine, she’ll kick it out to her now open teammate. That’s how its supposed to work anyway. The biggest question about this Lynx season is if their roster can knock down open threes. The Lynx were second to last in three pointers attempted and percentage of shots from three (20.5%) last year and have lost their best shooter in Maya Moore. The Lynx lack of spacing hurt them in 2018, can this year be worse? Brown was brought in with shooting in mind, but after her, who else do opponents fear from behind the line?
The Lynx will likely struggle to score efficiently in the half court this year. One way they can get easy points is to get to the free throw line. Minnesota’s offense will be a lot more effective if Christmas-Kelly can drive and cut her way into trips to the line. High Post Hoops’ Ben Dull pointed out that Christmas-Kelly was 2nd in the league in free throw rate in 2017. Minnesota typically fields an average foul drawing team. If they buck that trend and ascend the FTA rate standings, KCK will probably the reason why.
The bi-annual EuroBasket tournament is happening June 27th through July 7th in Latvia Serbia. Many WNBA teams will be impacted by their European players’ participation. For the Lynx this means that Ceci Zandalasini (Italy) and Fagbenle (Great Britain) will miss nearly half of the regular season. These are two highly important players to Minnesota’s success this year. This Lynx roster can be split into two iterations: pre and post-EuroBasket.
Its going to be a very interesting Lynx season. Follow along all season right here on Canis Hoopus!
If you want more Lynx season preview content check out these two podcasts:
First, the latest episode of the Lynx Dynasty podcast. This episode features Danielle Robinson.
Second, I joined the aforementioned Ben Dull on the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast to preview the Lynx season. We talked for 45 minutes or so. Give it a listen!