New Look Lynx
Yeah... this isn’t your average Minnesota Lynx squad.
I did a deeper dive after the Lynx free agency reload a few months ago, but there have been a few more changes since then. General Manager Cheryl Reeve drafted the heralded prospect Rennia Davis and then mutually cut ties with the versatile Lexie Brown to open up more minutes for the new additions. Reeve has spoken ad nauseam about the importance of positional flexibility and perhaps for the first time in years, it looks like the personnel is finally going to fit the philosophy.
- Sylvia Fowles appears to be fully recovered from her nagging calf injury last season and is still a dominant force in the paint on both ends of the court.
- Napheesa Collier, 5th in MVP voting last season, has yet to even enter her prime.
- Rookie of the Year, Crystal Dangerfield, is poised to be a bigger leader on the court and locker room voice this year.
- Damiris Dantas will continue prove that she’s one of the most lethal frontcourt perimeter threats in the W.
- Bridget Carleton and Rachel Banham, who were both top 15 in 3P% last season, are being given bigger roles in the backcourt this season.
- Veteran Natalie Achonwa and freshly healthy Jessica Shepard are above-average playmaking bigs who can open things up for everyone while doing all the dirty work.
- Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers are 2 of the league’s most dynamic scoring threats who will also bring an injection of energy.
- Rookie Rennia Davis has already been earning high praise from the traditionally reserved Coach Reeve in training camp.
The 2021 Minnesota Lynx depth chart will look close to this:
PG: Crystal Dangerfield / Rachel Banham
SG: Aerial Powers / Bridget Carleton
SF: Kayla McBride / Rennia Davis
PF: Napheesa Collier / Damiris Dantas
C: Sylvia Fowles / Natalie Achonwa / Jessica Shepard
Patience, Young Canis Hopper
Things were looking great... until they weren’t. The unpredictability and volatility of a professional Minnesota basketball team seems to be highly contagious. Even before the first preseason game tipped off a few weeks ago, we got these pieces of news:
In the spirit of good stuff flowing on our timelines:— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) April 27, 2021
Here's some @minnesotalynx training camp video today while @LynxCoachReeve shares her thoughts on Collier & McBride likely to miss the start of the season. Also @crystald2_ on what she's bringing this year. Enjoy! pic.twitter.com/mVvXnxXheg
Rennia Davis will be out indefinitely with a stress fracture in her foot. Tough break for the rookie. Difficult to stamp down a timeline for that kind of injury. https://t.co/bCDsyP1iNs— Lucas Seehafer (@seehafer_) May 1, 2021
As the season is about to tip-off, it’s become very clear that the Lynx will likely miss both McBride and Collier for multiple games to start the season (the latter more than the former). To complicate matters even more, AP hasn’t participated in either of the two preseason games/scrimmages due to “rep management.” She sat out the majority of last season with a hamstring injury and although she appears to be at full health now, Coach Reeve [smartly] didn’t want to risk anything until she was absolutely certain AP was in game shape (Prayers up for Angel McCoughtry).
Coach Cheryl Reeve doesn't expect to play Aerial Powers for the dress rehearsal vs the Mystics. She wants to preserve AP for the season opener.— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) May 8, 2021
AP hasn't played in a WNBA game since 8/7/20 when she suffered a season-ending hamstring injury, but has stated she feels healthy. pic.twitter.com/7007TBezo9
With all that said, let’s revisit that depth chart:
PG: Crystal Dangerfield / Rachel Banham
SG: *Aerial Powers / Bridget Carleton
Kayla McBride / Rennia Davis
Napheesa Collier / Damiris Dantas
C: *Sylvia Fowles / Natalie Achonwa / Jessica Shepard
* = Limited/no preseason action
Although this isn’t what you’d like to see to start a season, it can certainly be worse. By all accounts, both AP and Syl are healthy and I would consider them as likely starters/active in game 1. Coach Reeve has repeatedly noted the difficulty in managing line-ups and building chemistry with this new roster, given KMac and Phee being unavailable to join the team yet. However both players have been killin’ it overseas and *fingers crossed* show up by month’s end with a clean bill of health. The depth of this year’s team, and of course the continued excellence from the coaching staff, should be able to stem the tide until both starters return to the court. There could also be a few more temporarily additions along the edges in the meantime.
Cheryl Reeve has also made it a point to communicate that although on paper it’s easy to look at this loaded roster and think: “Championship!” However she has urged many of us to temper our expectations for immediate success. Reeve is playing the long game here and is looking to continue
rebuilding a strong foundation and a winning dynasty.
Coach Reeve more on goals: "You can call it a 3-yr plan, but I don't think we're exactly where we're going to be after this year. I don't know that we're there yet (a favorite), but the identity's going to be born just like the 2011 team's identity was born through the trenches."— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) May 10, 2021
We all just have to remain patient. Coach Reeve is.
The Road Ahead
The Lynx aren’t the only team who reloaded this year. I won’t get into Candace Parker’s Chicago Sky, or Chelsea Gray’s Los Vegas Aces, or Elena Delle Donne’s Mystics, but I will say the Lynx should be contenders this year. Favorites? Maybe not. A lot of it, as it often does in professional sports, can come down to uncontrollable variables. There’s still the on-going COVID-19 threat which could quickly devastate any team, now that there’s no more Wubble environment. There’s going to be the summer Olympics “break,” in which various players/coaches will have to put in triple-duty on the year (WNBA, overseas, and national team obligations with no true break - Another reminder of the obstacles that female athletes have to face which men don’t). For the Lynx, you’ll likely see Syl, Phee, KMac, and of course Cheryl Reeve on the international stage. All of this with the typical injury bug which looms and can strike at a moment’s notice *knocks on wood*. All that said, I think the Lynx top out in the WNBA finals, or bottom out as a tough 1st round opponent.
Minnesota will be playing 19 regular season games between 5/14 - 7/11, followed by a month of Olympic activity, then wrap up their regular season with 13 games between 8/15 - 9/19.