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Angel McCoughtry Is Ready to Help Lead Lynx to Title

The Minnesota Lynx introduced their newest player on Thursday morning.

Las Vegas Aces v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Angel McCoughtry was in denial. She had fully recovered from a left knee procedure that sidelined her for the entire 2019 season and was coming off, statistically, perhaps her best offensive season to date. She was in the midst of the 2021 preseason, her engine running at 110% percent as it is wont to do when that wretched lightning struck for the second time.

“The first injury was contact, right? I had never really been injured before, so I always thought, ‘Okay, it was contact. The girl bumped into my knee. So I didn’t really get injured,’” McCoughtry said during her introductory press conference Thursday morning announcing her signing with the Minnesota Lynx. “So, coming in after the first injury, I didn’t do things to maintain, I would say. It was, ‘I’m just back because it was contact. I didn’t get injured.’ Boom, and then you get injured on your own.”

McCoughtry’s second significant knee injury in three years, this time a torn right ACL that she is currently 8.5 months into rehabbing, altered the six-time All-WNBA honoree’s perspective.

“You get humbled and it’s like, okay, I have to actually do things to maintain after injury. You’re not invincible, you know? You’re getting older. Maintain yourself. So, I think that’s the difference now. I’m doing things. I stretch or do yoga. I have different things to keep my body going.”

McCoughtry, whose deal is worth $130,000 over one year, according to Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats, has appeared in only 50 games over the past four seasons due to her traitorous knees as well as her decision to sit out the 2017 campaign to rest. She also hasn’t played in front of fans since 2018, which has left her with a voracious itch that requires quelling. The former Louisville Cardinal will have the opportunity to relieve her itching beginning this spring as she looks to return to her former glory.

McCoughtry has twice led the WNBA in scoring despite possessing a jumper that has always been shaky; its inconsistency exacerbated by a love for the mid-range and a career 29.4% 3-point field goal percentage. And even with her good size and skills in the post, she’s only ever been an average finisher at the rim. (Her strong performance at the free-throw line — 80.1% for her career on 10.8 attempts per 100 possessions — has kept her overall efficiency afloat; she’s third all-time in free throws attempted with 1,506.)

But despite playing a career-low 20 minutes per game, the 2020 season was arguably one of her best offensively. Her 47.1% 3-point field goal percentage on 1.5 attempts per game ranked sixth overall — previously, she had shot better than 30% only three times in her career — which propelled her to a top 10 finish in win shares (3.2); she averaged 1.06 points per possession overall, ranking in the 92nd percentile.

However, offense has never, and will never, be her calling card.

She has been one of the league’s strongest defenders since being selected with the first overall pick by the Atlanta Dream in 2009. McCoughtry, who is still fleet of foot and possesses an elite nose for the ball, has been named to the All-Defensive team seven times and has accumulated 626 steals, which ranks fourth among active players and eighth overall for a career.

Her bulldog-like tenacity has earned her a reputation throughout the WNBA as an athlete that players hate to play against, a fact that she takes pride in and that Lynx general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve believes will be a boon for her squad.

McCoughtry’s specific role with the team remains up in the air as the Lynx continue to round out their roster, but one might suppose that the odds of her beginning the season in the starting lineup are slim. Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, Damiris Dantas, and Sylvia Fowles are likely locks, while the technically still unsigned Layshia Clarendon will slot in as the starting point guard. However, McCoughtry is no stranger to coming off the bench, having done so exceptionally during Team USA’s Olympic gold medal runs in 2012 and 2016.

Her deal leaves the Lynx with a hair over $30,000 in cap space remaining and 11 members on the roster, including Napheesa Collier, who is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season due to pregnancy. However, further moves will be required as Clarendon could draw a deal valued at at least $100,000.

Releasing Jessica Shepard and Bridget Carleton, both of whose contracts are non-guaranteed, would open an extra $132,500 in space, which would leave enough room to sign Clarendon and potentially either the No. 8 or 13 pick. A release of Carleton would seem rather unlikely, though, as she provides key depth and versatility. She is also highly regarded by her teammates and coaching staff and the Lynx figure to be open to moves involving their draft capital as they go all in an attempt to win another title.

(Canis Hoopus asked Reeve during McCoughtry’s introductory press conference about the Lynx’s current activity in the trade market. “It’s probably not wise for me to share at this point what we’re doing. I appreciate you asking, but this, it’s a highly strategic time. Certainly not gonna put anything out there.”)

McCoughtry’s desire to win a WNBA championship, specifically one for Sylvia Fowles who is entering the final season of her career, was a major factor in her decision to sign with the Lynx. With a roster now jam-packed with veteran talent and being led by arguably the best coaching staff in the league, the Lynx may just be in the best position to do so since 2017.