As the Minnesota Lynx enter the 2022 offseason, one question lingers over their heads: What will Sylvia Fowles do?
Fowles — who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in January — has kept a low profile since the 2021 season concluded, leading many fans to wonder what to make of her future with the team.
In short, she has three options: Re-sign, retire, or sign elsewhere.
OPTION NO. 1: FOWLES RE-SIGNS
It goes without saying that this is the most desirable scenario for the Lynx. Minnesota general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve has gone out of her way to mention that bringing back Fowles is one of the team’s top priorities this offseason and for good reason.
Fowles has been the focal point of the team’s defense — and at many points, particularly over the last couple of seasons, their offense — since getting traded from the Chicago Sky during the summer of 2015. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year and former MVP was among the most efficient scorers, per Synergy, in the WNBA in post-up (1.241 points per possession; 94th percentile) and transition (1.375 ppp; 91st percentile) situations last summer, while holding opponents to 0.533 ppp in the paint. She’s also among the league’s top rebounders — on both sides of the glass — shot blockers and ball stealers.
Suffice it to say that despite recently turning 36-years-old, Fowles has shown zero signs of slowing down. She continues to play at an elite level and would arguably be even more important to the Lynx’s 2022 success than previously thought with the recent announcement of Napheesa Collier’s pregnancy.
The Lynx have three open roster spots and just over $432,000 in cap space entering the 2022 free agency period, which is more than enough to re-sign Fowles. (A maximum level contract in the WNBA is worth $196,267, while a supermax deal is worth $228,094.)
If Fowles wants to return to Minnesota for at least one more season, she can and with ease.
OPTION NO. 2: FOWLES RETIRES
When asked if she would be returning to play basketball next season following the Lynx’s playoff loss to the Sky in late September, Fowles provided a fairly illuminating answer.
Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles says the biggest things for her to consider this offseason is parenthood — does she want to have kids now or wait a few more years?— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) September 28, 2021
"A lot for me is just parenthood at this point. That's basically the main thing for me right now."
Fowles has checked off all of the metaphorical boxes concerning one’s basketball career. MVP. League Champion. Gold Medalist. And soon, Hall of Famer. She has nothing left to prove on the basketball court. She is one of the greatest and most successful athletes to ever don a WNBA jersey.
It’s clear that starting a family is important to Fowles and she should be championed for doing so, regardless of whether she decides to begin that process sooner rather than later. But, at this point, it remains unclear how seriously she is considering retirement or, at the very least, a one-season hiatus.
OPTION NO. 3: FOWLES SIGNS ELSEWHERE
In a vacuum, all 12 of the WNBA’s teams would love to have Fowles on their roster. Luckily for the Lynx, the world does not exist in a vacuum. (Well, technically speaking, the world exists in the void of space, which is functionally a vacuum, but we’re talking about the practical world not the actual world, you nerds.)
Truthfully, the Phoenix Mercury are likely the only team that wouldn’t have any interest in pursuing Fowles as their center spot is already occupied by the fantastic Brittney Griner. Connecticut, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Washington all have holes in their frontcourt, but will likely be more interested in re-signing their own free agents — Jonquel Jones, Liz Cambage, Breanna Stewart, and Tina Charles, respectively — than trying to lure Folwes away from Minnesota.
Atlanta, Indiana, and New York don’t seem like a good fit for myriad reasons, and especially not for a veteran player whose greatest interest is in winning another championship soon. Chicago is a poor fit as well considering how the two sides split in 2015.
That leaves Dallas and Las Angeles as two potential landing spots for Fowles outside of Minnesota.
In many ways, her fit with the Wings makes the most sense. Dallas finished last season at the bottom of the league in post-up (0.711) and offensive rebound (0.884) scoring efficiency, two areas in which there is virtually no one better than Fowles. Additionally, the presence of guards Arike Ogunbowale (18.7 ppg, 37.6% 3FG%), Marina Mabrey (13.3, 34.2%), and Allisha Gray (11.9, 36.6%) would force teams to pick their poison: A death by Fowles in the post or by the Wings’ top-five perimeter offense?
However, Fowles’ fit with the Sparks is a little more tenuous. Unlike Dallas, who is a team on the rise, Los Angeles is a team on its way down.
Nneka Ogwumike would be a fantastic frontcourt partner for Fowles, but the rest of the roster isn’t of the caliber to expect them to contend for a title any time soon. Chiney Ogwumike is good but hasn’t provided All-WNBA caliber play for two seasons and the Sparks’ perimeter players don’t shoot well enough to space the floor sufficiently.
At the end of the day, the ball is in Fowles’ court. She holds all of the power in negotiations and the future of her career. All Lynx fans, and the rest of the WNBA, can do is wait and watch.
Editor’s note: This article was edited to reflect that the Los Angeles Sparks did not make the playoffs during the 2021 season. The article erroneously stated that they had.