Like most things in 2020, this season of WNBA basketball is going to be unprecedented. All 12 teams have gathered in Bradenton, Florida at the IMG Academy and will play 22 regular season games. Players and staff are being tested for covid-19 every day and must remain “on campus” until their season is over. A very different season indeed.
Social justice will also take center stage this season, something the Lynx have been raising awareness about for years. In 2016, the team responded to the killing of Philando Castile by wearing Black Lives Matters shirts in pregame warmups. That moment now feels like it planted the seeds for how the league and its players would confront these issues today. The WNBA has always been progressive and forward-looking with an eye on the injustices facing minorities and women. This year will be no different. The league announced that the 2020 season will be “dedicated to social justice with games honoring the Black Lives Matter movement and the #SayHerName campaign.” Players will have the ability to display the names of victims of police brutality or racial violence on the back of their jerseys. You can bet the Lynx will be active in this aspect of the 2020 season.
Onward to the basketball! For the third straight season there are a lot of new faces. Sylvia Fowles is the only player who remains from the 2017 title team. Only five players from this year’s roster suited up for the Lynx last season, and one of them (Karima Christmas-Kelly) appeared in a mere six games. 2019 All-Star Odyssey Sims will likely miss the entire season after recently giving birth. There is some hope that she could return to the team mid-season but it seems her incentives to do so are limited. Other young promising Minnesota players Jessica Shepard (injury), and Cecilia Zandalasini (personal decision) will also not be with the team this summer in Florida.
Minnesota’s three best players are Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier, and Damiris Dantas. It’s likely the top starting front court in Bradenton. Dantas only played 26 games last season but these three have great synergy. Fowles demands a double team when she gets the ball in the post, Dantas morphed her game into a volume stretch-big last season and Collier is the Swiss Army knife who always seems to know exactly where to be. On defense they might be even better. The rim will be well defended and many rebounds will be grabbed. This is the main reason to watch Lynx basketball this season, especially to witness the second-year growth of the 2019 rookie of the year (Collier).
The backcourt is an entirely different story. Newcomer veteran guard Shenise Johnson will be the starting point guard. She can do a little bit of everything and fills the “floor general” role on the team. Unfortunately she had meniscus surgery on her left knee last August. How her knee handles the intense, seven week season will be important. Lexie Brown will start next to her at shooting guard. She’s been one of the deadliest three point shooters in the WNBA since she entered the league two seasons ago. She’ll get the opportunity to answer big questions about her ability to be more than just a shooter this year. The same goes for Lakeville North’s Rachel Banham who Minnesota acquired via trade. Banham also is looking to prove herself and show that she deserves minutes on a good team. It will be fascinating to watch the development of these two young guards.
Imagine being a rookie and having THIS as your first WNBA season. What a strange way to enter the league. On the other hand, they don’t know any better! The Lynx roster features two first-year players. Mikiah “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan was selected 6th overall and Crystal Dangerfield was selected 16th overall by Minnesota in April. Kiki will backup Dantas and can hopefully provide energy and rebounding off the bench. Dangerfield’s role is a little murkier at this point. She’s the fourth guard on the team, but with so much uncertainty in the future of the Lynx backcourt, it seems wise to throw her out there and see what you have.
It’s going to be a fascinating season for the Lynx inside the Bradenton Bubble. A rapid-fire slate of games, charting the development of the youngsters, and daily COVID tests! It will be one to remember and it starts Sunday.
For more Lynx season preview content be sure to listen to the latest episode of the Los Lynx Talk Show. Winsidr’s Aryeh Schwartz joined me to talk about the team. Be sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast app!