WNBA teams can begin negotiations with free agents beginning tomorrow, with signings to start on February 10th. This is a big off-season for the Lynx, who have clear needs and a good amount of cap space to try to fill them as they try to get back to championship contention.
That’s a difficult but not unreasonable goal after last season’s surprising 18-16 regular season with a revamped roster from their championship seasons. They have a core in place that includes center Sylvia Fowles, who remains one of the top bigs in the league, rookie of the year Napheesa Collier, and combo guard Odyssey Sims. In total, they have nine players under contract for about $737,000 against a cap of $1.3M.
Last week’s announcement that Maya Moore would not be returning to basketball this season helped clarify the Lynx needs, which can be summed up this way: Play making and shooting from the perimeter.
They survived last season with excellent defense and scoring mostly in the paint, but their offense struggled—they led the league in turnovers and were one of the worst three point shooting teams in the WNBA, two not unrelated problems. Teams packed the paint defensively against the Lynx, knowing they were unlikely to be beaten from the perimeter. That made it tough to get the ball inside, and led to a lot of traffic and hence turnovers.
That must change if they want to win big this season. They are in good shape in the front court, with Collier and Fowles likely to start at the four and five respectively, and a resurgent Damiris Dantas available off the bench. In addition, Jessica Shepard will hopefully return healthy and show more of the flashes of quality we saw in her rookie year prior to her injury.
They Lynx themselves have two unrestricted free agents from last season’s team: Seimone Augustus and Danielle Robinson. It’s impossible to imagine Augustus playing for any other team at this point in her career, but Robinson is an interesting question. She was brought in a couple of years ago to take over at point guard for Lindsay Whalen, but she’s been up and down. She has terrific quickness and driving ability, but has no three point shooting ability and is not a natural play maker. She was in and out of the starting lineup last season, and it’s not clear whether the Lynx will or should commit to her at that spot.
Here is a list of free agents, though several of the players here have been designated “core” players by their teams, meaning they are no longer on the free agent market but will be paid max salary for the season. These include Brittney Griner, Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins-Smith.
There are several interesting names on that list. Angel McCoughtry has been connected with the Lynx, at least speculatively, though she’s not much of a shooter either. If they decide to go in another direction at point guard, Courtney Vandersloot is coming off an All-Star season with Chicago and has led the league in assists per game for the past three seasons.
DeWanna Bonner is a wing scorer who in my memory has killed the Lynx several times when they’ve played the Phoenix Mercury. She’s a three time All-Star who would take pressure off Fowles and Collier to score.
They are also in position to possibly make some trades given their available cap space. They currently hold the sixth pick in the draft this season, and we’ll see if that’s something they might part with to acquire ready talent.
Cheryl Reeve has the tough task as both coach and general manager of balancing current needs with future performance against a back drop of unprecedented success. Revamping the perimeter has to be the priority, but like so many things is easier said than done.
Who would you like to see the Lynx pursue in free agency?
Meanwhile, the US Women’s National team is slated to take on the University of Connecticut tonight, co-coached by Cheryl Reeve and including Sylvia Fowles. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 6:00 pm.