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Canis Hoopus Roundtable: 2023 Minnesota Lynx Season Preview

Ahead of the start of the 2023 WNBA season, the Canis Hoopus team makes some predictions for the year and what we could expect from the Minnesota Lynx.

Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s finally time. The 2023 WNBA season is officially here, with play in the league tipping off on tonight, May 19, with four games on the opening night slate. Included in that is the Minnesota Lynx embarking on the start of a new year while hosting the Chicago Sky at Target Center at 7 PM CT on Bally Sports North Extra.

Coming off a season that ended without a postseason birth for the first time in over a decade, Minnesota hopes to bounce back in 2023 with a fresh wave of youth injected into a team that is now led by Napheesa Collier in a new era of Lynx basketball.

With the new season upon us, some of the staff at Canis Hoopus got together to preview the year and predict what we might see from the Lynx this season.

Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Season Outcome

Mitchell Hansen: Although losing Sylvia Fowles will hurt Minnesota this season, the Lynx finished eight games below .500 with her last season and still nearly made the playoffs while missing it by one game. I believe Minnesota finishes a bit better in 2023 and grabs a playoff spot with Napheesa Collier back healthy and ready to fill that void in production left behind by Fowles. With the new 40-game format, I think the Lynx reach the postseason once again eight games under .500 and end up exiting the playoffs in the first round.

Prediction: 16-24, reaching the playoffs but falling in the opening round.

Leo Sun: It was an emotional season for the Lynx and their fans last year. The product on the court wasn’t anything close to their dynastic standard. Though the narrative was all about “Syl’s Final Ride,” some pundits may have been wondering how much longer Cheryl Reeve would still be at the helm. Among the issues were some awkward signings and releases of veterans like Angel McCoughtry and Odyssey Sims that roughed things up from the get-go. But that was 2022. 2023 is the beginning of a youth movement and bringing in/back healthy vets in Tiffany Mitchell and Napheesa Collier should really help the vibes. I’m not expecting the start of a new postseason streak, but I’m expecting to see a lot of more fun with their new fast-paced, five-out offensive scheme.

Prediction: 14-26, coming up just short of the playoffs.

Jack Borman: Minnesota should greatly benefit from an improvement in the vibes department. This team struggled to find chemistry last season because they didn’t get along as well as most Lynx teams, but that is completely different this season. This 2023 Lynx squad is very tight-knit, energetic, and excited to play an up-tempo, spaced out style of basketball that will be fun to watch. With Collier back, an extremely underrated pickup in Mitchell now in the fold, and No. 2 overall pick Diamond Miller ready to showcase her skills, Minnesota will surprise some teams. When a team buys into what Head Coach Cheryl Reeve is preaching, don’t be surprised if they surpass expectations.

Prediction: 20-20, reaching the playoffs and losing in the first round.

Benny Hughes: The Lynx barely missed out on the playoffs last season and while losing a phenomenal player in Fowles I think they did a good job building through the draft and free agency. With these additions, I think they are poised to take a step forward and again be in the mix for playoff conversations. Either way, it will be fun to watch Miller and Dorka Juhász inject the life of youth into this team and mix with all of the other players.

Prediction: 18-22

Finish in the Standings

MH: The last few seasons, we’ve seen a very even and balanced league standings behind the title-contending squads, with teams spanning basically from seeds 5-11 being separated by just a game or two. With how top-heavy the WNBA is expected to be this season, it’s likely we see that even more with teams fighting for either the final few playoff spots or a spot in the lottery. Last year, the Lynx finished one game out of the playoffs as a lottery team, but I think they cross that mark this summer to finish in eighth place while threatening for seventh.

Prediction: 8th place

LS: If you watched any Lynx basketball last season, it was clear to see that they weren’t a championship contending team, let alone a playoff-worthy team. There were a lot of reasons for that including a revolving door at the guard position, poor defensive execution, and missing starters. Now imagine taking that team and removing a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, Sylvia Fowles, who still ranked top 20 in the league in both offensive and defensive win shares last season, from it. Oh, and also inject it full of youth with two or three rookies. This year may still be rough from a wins and losses perspective, but at least it’s the start of something new.

Prediction: 9th place

JB: Injuries have been spreading through the league like a wildfire. The Dallas Wings, Chicago Sky, Phoenix Mercury, and Los Angeles Sparks all are missing prominent members of their rotation for extended time to start this season, and none of those teams were significantly better than the Lynx were on paper to start the season. Don’t be surprised if the Lynx weather a tough-ish May and early June and end up above .500 on July 1. They have a very soft August, as well, which should benefit them once rookies have more time to get acclimated, and Collier can fully work off the rust from missing essentially an entire WNBA season last year.

Prediction: 7th place

BH: As Mitchell mentioned, outside of the top few teams the middle of the pack is quite close when it comes to who will sneak into the playoffs and who will be in the lottery. With Collier back in the mix (and key additions in Mitchell and Miller) I believe that the Lynx have the make up to improve upon last year and start the post Sylvia Fowles era strong. The team has a good mix of young players and veterans and contributors across the board.

Prediction: 7th place

2023 WNBA Draft Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Best Offseason Addition

MH: Many thought the Lynx would have more additions than they ended up with, but that wasn’t necessarily the case even though Minnesota tried to make that happen in free agency. Minnesota does still have a few newcomers, notably Tiffany Mitchell via free agency and the players selected in the draft. As for the player who will be viewed as the best addition, I think rookie Dorka Juhász will play a big role by the time the season ends. Diamond Miller and Tiffany Mitchell will be key pieces, but Juhász could be an under-the-radar addition.

Prediction: Dorka Juhász

LS: How many times will you hear me rave about 28-year-old veteran this season? Tiffany Mitchell has yet to suit up for a regular Lynx game, but I’ve already been convinced that she has been the missing lead guard that Reeve has been looking for since Layshia Clarendon. Mitchell has already been deemed the best perimeter defender on the team by Coach Reeve, and her offensive contributions have been on full display in the two lone preseason games. After being trapped on an inept Indiana Fever team for her first seven seasons, “Takeover Tiff” just concluded a fantastic overseas campaign in the WNBL, finishing as the league leader in scoring (21.0), All-WNBL Second Team, and a MVP candidate.

Prediction: Tiffany Mitchell

JB: Reeve and General Manager Clare Duwelius signing Mitchell will go down as the best non-star signing of the offseason. The seven-year vet fits exactly the up-tempo style the Lynx want to play, and provides rim pressure the offense desperately needs. She’s also been the team’s best point guard this preseason, even though it isn’t her natural position, and has proven to fit very well alongside the team’s core trio of Collier/Miller/Kayla McBride. Don’t be surprised if she leads the team in scoring, either.

Prediction: Tiffany Mitchell

BH: The Lynx were in the running for many big name players but still ended with a good free agency and draft class to inject even more talent on to the roster. The one that intrigues me the most and I think will have a solid impact is with Dorka Juhász, the rookie from UConn. In the two preseason games, she showed the ability to guard multiple positions and stretch the floor with some outside shooting. With that, I think she will be a valuable asset to this Minnesota Lynx roster.

Prediction: Dorka Juhász

Biggest Surprise Player

MH: Minnesota has received some criticism for the quiet offseason and missing out on big-name free agents available while “settling” on Tiffany Mitchell as the lone free agent addition. I believe she will have a strong year with the Lynx while playing primarily at the point guard spot, a position she hasn’t spent much time at. By the end of the year, I think people will find Mitchell as a pleasant surprise and a key to the Lynx rotation. And I can’t go against someone who has the name of Mitchell ... I mean come on.

Prediction: Tiffany Mitchell

2023 Minnesota Lynx Media Day Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

LS: Can you guess who was second on the team in Win Shares behind Fowles last season? I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t any of their three double-digit scorers. Lost in a year of mostly disappointment was the breakout campaign of Jessica Shepard. In her junior season, she finally had a clean bill of health. The result was being one of two players to play all 36 games (Bridget Carleton being the other) and career-highs across the board. Nearly every simple box score number doubled, or even tripled. Shepard’s efficiency spiked, increasing her eFG% from .375 to .514. Now with a major hole in the frontcourt after Syl’s retirement, I’m expecting the 26-year-old to improve in her fourth season with her confidence at an all-time high.

Prediction: Jessica Shepard

JB: The Lynx did the equivalent of hitting on 17 in blackjack by drafting Maïa Hirsch No. 12 overall with Juhász still on the board, but they landed on 21 when Juhász was still around four picks later at No. 16. She is more athletic than she gets credit for, and was impactful defensively switching onto the perimeter and holding her own on the glass by winning contested rebounds. At 6-foot-5, she can improve her touch around the rim, but is a relentless worker who is extremely eager to get better in all facets of her game. She may not play over Nina Milić early on, but expect Juhász’s role to grow as the season progresses.

Prediction: Dorka Juhász

BH: While Minnesota did miss out on some of the bigger name free agents, they did manage to work out a one-year deal with Minnesota native Rachel Banham. After last year's campaign where she averaged career highs in both minutes (17.5) and points (7.9) I believe she is poised to be a key scorer off the Lynx’s bench. She is a microwave scorer and always plays with energy, which is key to have off your bench. I also know from personal experience (as a Lynx practice player) that she has spent all offseason playing pick-up games at 6 a.m. against the practice players and has been absolutely lighting it up.

Prediction: Rachel Banham

Leading Scorer

MH: Minnesota’s offense is going to be an interesting one this season, an up-tempo and aggressive style of play that we haven’t seen much in the past. Offense can and will come from various contributors, which could be hard for teams to defend throughout the year. With that said, I think Napheesa Collier has a breakout year and goes on a tear at full strength for the first time in nearly two years. I believe Kayla McBride, Tiffany Mitchell and Diamond Miller will also be at the top of the team in scoring, but Collier takes the top spot for me.

Prediction: Napheesa Collier

LS: Averaging just 13.3 points per game last season, Kayla McBride shot her career-worst from the field (40.5%) since her days in a San Antonio Stars jersey. The soon-to-be 31-year-old guard was the target of many defenses on a Lynx team that was less than spectacular last season. I’m expecting a huge bounce back season from McBride. Not only is she finally getting her first training camp in Minnesota, I believe that their new offensive scheme, focused on spacing, will benefit her the most.

Prediction: Kayla McBride

JB: Mitchell has never averaged more than 12.7 points per game in a season, but I think she’ll breeze past that this year with most of the defensive attention on Collier, McBride and Miller. 17 PPG could very well be the number to “win” the scoring title on the Lynx given their balanced rotation, so don’t be surprised if Mitchell ends up living in the paint and at the free throw line, and mixes in enough 3-pointers to get there.

Prediction: Tiffany Mitchell

BH: With the Lynx transitioning into a 5-out look on offense I think there will be a lot of room for some to take a step forward in terms of scoring. With this being the case, the leading scorer becomes ever more difficult to predict as a result. Because of this, I am betting on talent. I think there will be many contributors but the Lynx will want to get Napheesa Collier as involved as possible on the offensive end and will look to her to put up a lot of shots.

Prediction: Napheesa Collier

Washington Mystics v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Most Valuable Player

MH: The MVP isn’t always the best player on the team, but the most valuable (duh) and someone who makes an impact and whose absence is felt while off the floor. For the Lynx, their most valuable player in 2023 also happens to be the best player and leader on the squad. Napheesa Collier is back to “2021 Phee” as she said in training camp and I believe will bounce back to have an All-Star season while being the team MVP along the way. Minnesota will go as Collier goes.

Prediction: Napheesa Collier

LS: If anyone else other than Phee is the answer here, then something surprisingly right or horribly wrong has happened. Not only is the expectation for Collier to be the leader on the court, but even more so off the court. She’s now the face of the franchise and I’m expecting her leadership skills to present themselves. I have no doubt Phee will be able to put her arms around the rookies while communicating and performing with the vets. She will be the connective piece this team will need as they transition into a new era.

Prediction: Napheesa Collier

JB: I don’t have much to add here other than that a healthy Napheesa Collier is one of the best basketball players on the planet, and we should all be grateful she’s a Lynx.

Prediction: Napheesa Collier

BH: With the big switch this offseason, I think that there are many candidates that could take a step forward and fill the gap left by Sylvia Fowles. With this, and after her being absent last season, I think she is poised for a resurgence in the league this year. As she returns and after having a few seasons under her belt I think she is poised to be the MVP of the team for this summer.

Prediction: Napheesa Collier

Minnesota Lynx v Dallas Wings Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

Bold Prediction

MH: You may be sensing a theme here, but I believe Napheesa Collier will have a strong season in 2023. Not only is she back to full strength, but she is the best player and the focal point on the team for the first time in her career. With that responsibility, I think Collier will rise to the occasion and will catch the eyes of people around the league for leading the Lynx throughout the summer. At some point this season, I believe Collier will be not only in the team MVP conversation but the league MVP conversation.

Bold Prediction: Napheesa Collier will be in the MVP conversation

Minnesota Lynx 2022 Media Day Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

LS: The final cuts were not easy to stomach. Like all teams in the W, Cheryl Reeve was forced to waive players that are clearly rotation-level players. Second-year forward, Nikolina Milić, was likely one of final players to slide into the opening day roster. She earned the final spot over the fan favorite rookie, Taylor Soule, and trusted veteran, Damiris Dantas. That leaves Milić as one of four frontcourt players left on the roster next to Collier, Shepard, and rookie Juhász. Reeve often boasted about the flexibility of the team being a strength during training camp, even citing the opportunity for players like Phee to slide to the three. After a solid rookie campaign where she finished third on the team in scoring and fourth in rebounding per 100 possessions, I could see the more traditional backdown center continue to get more playing time until it eventually blossoms into starts next to Collier and Shepard.

Bold Prediction: Nina Milić will become the full-time starting center.

JB: While the Lynx kept Lindsay Allen on the roster to start the regular season, I wouldn’t be surprised if they pivot to a non-traditional point guard rotation of Banham and Mitchell after a handful of games. If that’s the case, expect a good amount of the team’s offense to flow through the high posts, where Jess Shepard can pick defenses apart playing alongside excellent cutters in Collier, Miller, and Mitchell, and solid spot-up threats in Banham, Collier and Mitchell. Shepard finished third on the team behind Moriah Jefferson and Allen last season, but I expect her to lead the team in dimes.

Bold Prediction: Jess Shepard leads the team in assists and averages around five per game.

BH: With the new offense that is focused on spreading the floor, I think that the Lynx will look to focus at least slightly more on the three pointer than in years prior. With the shooting ability of Kayla McBride and Rachel Banham, I anticipate using their shooting ability to take and make more three pointers throughout the season. This could be a huge asset for the Lynx as they transition out of the Sylvia Fowles era.

Bold Prediction: Both Kayla McBride and Rachel Banham will shoot and make more threes this season than last season.