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Free Agent Targets that Could Help the Lynx’s Offense Improve

This article is part two of a yet-to-be-determined number of articles looking at the upcoming offseason for the Minnesota Lynx. Part one can be found here. In this article, areas in which the Lynx need to improve on offense are highlighted, and potential free agent targets that could fill the team’s holes are discussed.

Los Angeles Sparks v Dallas Wings Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx finished the 2021 regular season with the fifth-best offense as determined by offensive rating (102.8). They also claimed the second-best effective field goal percentage (50.8%) and third-best true shooting percentage (55.3%) thanks to their ability to convert at the line (83.7% on 17.4 attempts per game) and in the paint (1.163 PPP via post-up, best in the WNBA; 45.1% of their points came in the paint).

However, the Lynx’s offense wasn’t without its warts. Following a 2020 season in which the team arguably overperformed, particularly from beyond the arc (1.134 PPP; 3rd) and in transition (1.088 PPP; 5th), Minnesota fell back to Earth in multiple offensive categories, including in transition, spot-up, catch-and-shoot, and 3-point situations.

General manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve has intimated on more than one occasion since her team’s season ended that the point guard and frontcourt positions will be the two areas with which the Lynx will be the most aggressive in pursuing this offseason. Notably, both are areas can effectively address Minnesota’s offensive deficiencies.

Below, each offensive category in which the Lynx placed near the bottom of the league and potential free-agent targets that could help improve the team’s numbers are highlighted. Points per possession (PPP) and percentile rankings come via Synergy Sports.

Transition: 1.026 PPP (9th)

Notable names and numbers from 2021:

  • Bridget Carleton*: 0.925 PPP (29%ile)
  • Rachel Banham**: 0.792 (15%)
  • Aerial Powers: 0.714 (8%)
  • Damiris Dantas: 0.688 (7%)

*Reserved Player

**Free agent

Potential Targets: G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (1.280; 81%); G Sophie Cunningham (1.087; 53%)

The 2022 WNBA free-agent class is pretty light on athletes who significantly impact the game in transition and fit the Lynx’s needs.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is a five-year vet who has spent most of her time with the Washington Mystics, including the 2019 season in which they won the title. This past season, she signed two seven-day contracts with Washington after appearing in a single game for the Connecticut Sun before signing a contract for the remainder of the season.

Walker-Kimbrough would slide in well as a Rachel Banham replacement due to her ability to play effectively both on- and off-ball. She has a nose for getting ahead of defenders in transition and is decent in catch-and-shoot situations as well.

If this past season is any indication, she could likely be signed for relatively cheap and wouldn’t take up a protected veteran slot.

Sophie Cunningham — a 25-year-old former second-round pick — is a valuable, if perhaps slightly underappreciated, member of a Phoenix Mercury team that surprisingly finds themselves in the WNBA Finals. She’s more of a pure shooting guard whose primary strength is in catch-and-shoot 3-point situations; however, she’s also good, but not great, in transition as well.

Cunningham is a poor finisher around the rim and leaves a lot to be desired defensively. Still, her 3-point shooting and ability to get out in transition would be valuable to the Lynx should she decide to leave Phoenix.

Spot up: 0.880 (9th)

Notable names and numbers from 2021:

  • Aerial Powers: 0.744 (22%)
  • Napheesa Collier: 0.724 (21%)
  • Layshia Clarendon**: 0.647 (13%)

Potential Targets: G Leilani Mitchell (1.196; 92%), G Briann January (1.075; 82%); F Nia Coffey (1.066; 80%); G Sophie Cunningham (1.037; 76%); G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (0.975; 66%); G Rebecca Allen (0.962; 63%)

Catch-and-Shoot: 0.944 (10th)

Notable names and numbers from 2021:

  • Crystal Dangerfield: 1.118 overall (74%); 0.529 guarded (5%); 1.412 unguarded (93%)
  • Rachel Banham: 1.020 overall (54%); 0.700 guarded (25%); 1.233 unguarded (72%)
  • Aerial Powers: 0.783 overall (21%); not enough data for guarded; 0.562 unguarded (4%)
  • Napheesa Collier: 0.782 overall (20%); 0.439 guarded (2%); 1.087 unguarded (48%)

Potential Targets: F Nia Coffey (1.264; 90%); G Briann January (1.250; 87%); G Leilani Mitchell (1.208; 82%); G Rebecca Allen (1.170; 78%); G Sophie Cunningham (1.167; 77%); G Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (1.115; 73%)

3-Point Jumpers: 0.983 (9th)

Notable names and numbers from 2021:

  • Crystal Dangerfield: 0.972 (46%)
  • Layshia Clarendon: 0.857 (25%)
  • Napheesa Collier: 0.770 (16%)

Potential Targets: F Nia Coffey (1.278; 92%); G Rebecca Allen (1.194; 82%); G Sophie Cunningham (1.182; 80%); G Briann January (1.158; 78%); G Leilani Mitchell (1.082; 69%)

While technically all three categories are separate statistical categories, there’s often quite a bit of overlap among spot-up shooting, catch-and-shoot, and 3-point jumper situations in the current iteration of basketball. As such, all three are lumped together in this section.

The Lynx have been a poor shooting team, particularly from deep, for a few seasons now. While they took a step in the right direction with the signing of Kayla McBride last offseason, it remains a nagging weakness for them.

Luckily, there are a few more potential free agent targets in the front and backcourt, of which shooting is a strength.

One intriguing name is Nia Coffey, and it’s not solely because she’s a Minnesota native. Coffey is a perimeter-oriented big a la Damiris Dantas who is coming off a career year with the Los Angeles Sparks.

She’s an above-average scorer from beyond the arc and at the rim, making her an excellent complement to Napheesa Collier and Sylvia Fowles, assuming Fowles returns to the Lynx next season. She’s also a passable defender both in the post at the perimeter, which would give the Lynx some flexibility to experiment with frontcourt combinations.

As for guards, veteran Leilani Mitchell would make a lot of sense for the Lynx. While it would be easy to compare Mitchell’s game to that of fellow diminutive guard Crystal Dangerfield, they generally attack different court areas.

Mitchell primarily functions beyond the 3-point line — she only attempted 38 2-point field goals this past summer — whereas Dangerfield likes to hoist up mid-rangers and get into the paint.

While she isn’t a great outside shooter, per se, Mitchell’s skillset would make the Lynx better from deep while not overlapping too much with that of Clarendon and Dangerfield.