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Minnesota Lynx Sign Odyssey Sims, Waive Six Players

Minnesota waived six players, including incumbent (but injured) starting PG Layshia Clarendon and 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield, in corresponding moves.

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The Minnesota Lynx announced Tuesday afternoon the signing of free agent point guard Odyssey Sims to a training camp contract.

The team waived waived six players in order to make space for Sims and get the roster down to the necessary 11 players before Thursday’s deadline. Among those included in the cuts were incumbent starting point Layshia Clarendon, 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield and 2021 first-round pick Rennia Davis, as well as 2022 draft picks Kayla Jones and Hannah Sjerven, and veteran guard Yvonne Turner.

The Clarendon and Dangerfield moves sent shock waves across the league.

Minnesota Lynx v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Clarendon — who averaged 10.4 points, 5.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game across 21 games (20 starts) for Minnesota last season — is still recovering from a stress reaction in their right foot/leg that caused her to miss time and play injured near the end of last season.

“It wasn’t that Lay became a bad basketball player. It has nothing to do with Lay’s ability to not lead or play,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said Tuesday. “It just didn’t feel like to start the season that we were in a good enough place physically.”

Reeve noted that she did not believe Clarendon suffered any type of setback as a result of ramping up activity during the grind of training camp, and that the situation was very difficult.

“I told Lay, we had a plan. We signed her knowing that they were still recovering from an injury. Same thing with Angel. And it just kind of got to this place where we go, ‘Okay, but we thought we’d be further along,’” Reeve added. “And at [point guard], it’s very challenging to have choppiness. Very challenging.”

Despite waiving Clarendon, Reeve will remember her time with them fondly.

“it’s not fair because it was a magical time, what they did for us in 2021. It’s a story I’ll always tell, never forget,” Reeve said. “But this is 2022. And, they weren’t in the same place.”

Reeve noted that she would love to have Clarendon back with the Lynx at some point this season if it worked out for both sides.

“Would I love to have Lay back at some point? Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Dangerfield in 2021 never fully regained the Rookie of the Year form she displayed in the 2020 Wubble season. After she in 2020 scored a team-best 16.2 points and dished out a team-high 3.6 assists, those marks in 2021 fell to 7.7 and 2.8 per game, respectively.

“In Crystal’s case, she’s young, she’s still building her resume, so to speak. I thought she did everything right and that’s what I told her. She didn’t do anything wrong. She went overseas and played, just like we asked her to do. Brought them to a championship. She missed some training camp as a result, but at the end of the day, that’s not a factor,” Reeve explained. “At the end of the day, the numbers were what the numbers were, and the decisions were going to have to be made.”

Dangerfield is known best for her dynamic ability with the ball in her hands as a lead scoring guard, but the team’s offensive numbers in 2021 dipped when Dangerfield was on the floor relative to 2020. Minnesota in 2020 held an offensive rating of 110.5 with Dangerfield in the game (77th percentile, according to Her Hoop Stats), but that number in 2021 dipped to 97.1 (32nd percentile).

“Again, not an easy one. Another one, really special season in 2020. Was a part of our big three,” Reeve said. “I guess this is how fast things change.”

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Minnesota will likely be eligible to sign two replacement players on Thursday, as forward Damiris Dantas is still recovering from a Lisfranc injury suffered last fall and guard Kayla McBride is completing her contractual obligations overseas.

If none of the six players the Lynx waived Tuesday are claimed by another team, Reeve could sign any of them as a replacement player. Free agent players that were not present in Lynx training camp are also eligible to be signed as a replacement player, if Minnesota chooses to go that route.

The opportunity cost may appear large at the surface, but no one knows the Minnesota Lynx better than Reeve. She has a proven track record of success obviously as an all-time great coach, but also as a shrewd executive.

It is extremely difficult to earn Reeve’s trust. That likely factored into her decision to not only sign a known player in Sims, but also bring back players with multiple years of Lynx experience, including guard Rachel Banham, and forwards Bridget Carleton and Jessica Shepard.

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Banham possesses an elite shooting ability both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations, which is badly needed on a Lynx team that shot 34.0% from deep last season (eighth in the league). She trained all offseason to become a full-time point guard this season and that will be key to her 2022 success. Keep in mind that she is beloved by her teammates for her leadership and energy, both during practice and games, which are important intangibles.

Carleton is a do-it-all wing that excelled in an increased offensive role for Team Canada Basketball both in the Tokyo Olympics and FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament. Reeve hopes that will translate to a more aggressive 2022 season from Carleton, especially from beyond the arc — from where she has shot 45.7% and 36.5% in his first two full seasons with Minnesota.

Shepard is the team’s best entry passer into superstar center Sylvia Fowles, a skill Reeve holds in high regard. The former Notre Dame standout also offers a strong offensive rebounding ability and is a strong interior defender when guarding 5s.

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As for Sims, Reeve values her knowledge of the team’s system and what Reeve is looking for at the point guard spot.

“Obviously, getting us a healthy player that we know, that was available, and we think we’ll be hungry because they were sitting at home,” Reeve said of the decision to sign Sims. “And we think there’ll be a level of hunger for Odyssey and she knows us knows how we roll and she’ll be ready to help.”

Sims’ most successful season came in 2019 when she was named a WNBA All-Star and to the All-WNBA Second Team while a member of the Lynx. She averaged 5.4 assists per game that year, which ranked fourth in the league, to go along with 14.5 points per game.

The Lynx expect Sims to practice Wednesday and be available for Friday night’s season opener in Seattle against the Storm. The 9 PM CT game will be televised on The CW.