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Lynx Mailbag: Powers, Beal, Point Guard and Coaching Style

Welcome to the first Lynx Mailbag of the year, where our Mitchell Hansen will answer your questions on the Minnesota Lynx and the WNBA periodically throughout the 2023 season.

Phoenix Mercury v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the first Lynx Mailbag of the 2023 season!

With the start of the season for the Lynx through the first week or so of games, it’s an appropriate time to take a look at some of the questions and concerns you all have on the Lynx and the WNBA as we will do periodically throughout the year.

As the writing of this mailbag, the Lynx are one week into the regular season, wrapping up a battle against the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday night in Phoenix. And one thing is clear: You all have thoughts, questions and concerns with Minnesota as it sits at 0-3 through three games.

Let’s not waste any time and dive right into some of the questions you submitted.

Nathan: How have the Lynx compared to your preseason expectations?

It’s still very early in the regular season, so it’s hard to fully examine the Lynx and how it compares to preseason expectations. With that said, I think the expectations this offseason and throughout the preseason were that Minnesota would use this year as more of a development year and not be focusing on making a push in the postseason like we’ve become accustomed to seeing in seasons past.

So if we’re basing it on that, I think the Lynx are probably right on track, regardless of their win-loss record. Lynx head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve said multiple times during the preseason that Minnesota’s focus is on the long game and the future rather than in the present and in win-now mode.

The Lynx want to develop their talent, having them grow together and start to build a foundation for the future. That is more important right now than wins and losses, and that’s well underway this season even through there have been only losses as outcomes thus far.

Tim: What’s the path forward for Powers after yesterday? Is there one?

This question followed the season opener on May 19, but it is still relevant a week into the regular season. The Aerial Powers situation in Minnesota has been an interesting one, with her playing five minutes in the season opener and nine minutes in the second game of the year, not stepping foot on the court during the second half in either of those contests.

Following that second game, Reeve noted that Powers did some good things off the bench, but she will continue to earn her minutes during practice, something she tells all of her players when it comes to playing time. Powers has seen more playing time due to putting good practices together, but will likely continue to come off the bench for Minnesota.

Powers did break out for 20 points and four boards over 24 minutes in Thursday’s loss to Phoenix, but that expansion of playing time could be due to Kayla McBride being a late scratch due to personal reasons. Regardless, Powers showed some dominant stretches for the Lynx on the second unit.

When it comes to the plan for Powers moving forward, it will be interesting to keep an eye on that situation and how her playing time increases or remains the same as what we saw over the first two games. It’s clear that players are going to have to earn playing time this season, and Powers is learning that lesson right now as she tries to make the most of her opportunities on the floor to create more playing time.

Mary: Why don’t we have a true starting caliber PG on the roster?

I can tell you that if there was a true starting caliber point guard out there, Minnesota would at least be interested in looking into that player as the floor general of this team. The problem is, there wasn’t really a realistic target available this offseason for the Lynx to sign to take over that role, meaning it will be point guard by committee in 2023.

When it comes to a true point guard, Lindsay Allen is probably the only player on the roster who you could consider as that. With that said, we will see a fair amount of Tiffany Mitchell initiating the offense once she gets more comfortable doing so, and we could also see Rachel Banham and others stepping into that role as well.

Ever since Lindsay Whalen retired, Minnesota has been searching for that reliable starting point guard to lead the team. The Lynx haven’t found that yet, but the search will continue as they piece things together at that spot this summer.

Melissa: What reasons did they give as to why they waived @QueenBrea_1

Long story short, I believe Brea Beal was waived due to the lack spots available for her on this Lynx roster. The same goes for fellow rookie Taylor Soule. Reeve and the Lynx front office like both players, which is why they drafted both of them, but there just aren’t enough spots available on the roster to keep them.

This is yet another example of why the WNBA needs more teams and/or expanded rosters.

When it comes specifically to Beal, Reeve said after the news came out of her being waived that it was a difficult decision to make “because I appreciate Brea Beal in who she is and how she competes.” Reeve noted that Beal came in and did as much as she could during training camp, adding that two weeks “is not a lot of time.”

In the end, I believe there just wasn’t enough space for Beal and there were other players on the roster of greater need at this moment in time. Could Beal get a shot on another team? Absolutely. She was just a victim of the limited roster spots throughout the league this year.

Neít: With some of the vets getting so few minute, why keep them over some of the rookies? This team can't compete with the best so why cut youth that could have developed rather than keeping vets when we know their ceiling?

When it comes to contracts, it’s not that simple. If it were as simple and getting rid of veteran players in favor of cheaper, younger players, every team would be doing so with its veterans under contract. But that’s why you have contracts, so both the team and the player are accountable for living out that contract.

In the case of the WNBA, there are contracts called Protected Veteran contracts, which are salaries that are guaranteed to the player if they are cut for whatever reason. Teams can have up to six such contracts, and Minnesota has four in 2023 (Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, Tiffany Mitchell and Bridget Carleton).

So simply put, if the Lynx wanted to move on from one of those players, they would have to trade them or agree to some sort of contract buyout — also commonly called a “divorce” in the WNBA. There are a few contracts on the roster that Minnesota I’m sure wouldn’t mind moving on from, but it’s just not as simple as doing that. There’s more to it when it comes to contracts and playing out those deals signed.

CCNorseman: Is the 5 high offense the best way to go with this team? Do they have a true center that can play under the basket? What are your thoughts on the two rookies Diamond and Dorka?

CCNorseman working the system and asking three questions for the price of one! Just kidding, I appreciate the questions and they are all great questions.

When it comes to the five-out style of offense, I do think that it is the best way to go with this team because that’s one of the styles that Napheesa Collier has thrived in. She played that a fair amount in college at UConn, and with her now being the centerpiece of this team, it’s about surrounding her with what will make her thrive. The Lynx would like to play a faster tempo and aggressive style of offense, and without a traditional center like in year’s past with Sylvia Fowles, a five-out style is probably the best for that. It’s also a style of play that Diamond Miller could excel in with her aggressive characteristics.

As for a true center, Minnesota doesn’t really have that right now. Which is weird because that’s something the Lynx have basically always had. But this year, they will play more of a spread-out rotation while Jessica Shepard, Nina Milic and maybe even Dorka Juhasz step into that center spot. And that’s not a bad thing, it fits the style of play the Lynx are trying to build this season and perhaps in the future.

My thoughts on Minnesota’s pair of rookies thus far is that they are going to take some time to learn, as most rookies do. I mean, they’ve only played three regular-season games as I write this mailbag. It’s going to take some time, and there will be plenty ups and downs throughout the year. I do like the potential of both Miller and Juhasz though. I think Miller will be a great pairing alongside Collier, and Juhasz will be a player that Reeve and her coaching staff can throw in wherever and she can still make an impact, whether that’s in the passing game, shooting from anywhere on the floor or going to grab rebounds. But give those two players a bit of time, it’s a learning process.

Jay F: Do you think Cheryl’s coaching style and approach to building a strong roster matches the current climate in the W? Or current era/ ways of playing basketball? I sometimes wonder how much she’s adapting to where we are now in the W.

When teams do well, the players get the credit. When teams do bad, the coach gets the blame. That’s what has been happening the last year-plus in Minnesota with the Lynx not performing up to the standard that fans are used to seeing.

To answer your questions, I do believe Reeve’s coaching style and approach to building a strong roster matches the current climate of the WNBA. Look, you can’t rebuild a team overnight or in one season. It takes time, and that’s what Minnesota is experiencing right now.

I do know one thing, Reeve studies the game of basketball as much as anyone and she is incredibly knowledgable about X’s and O’s, how to get the most out of players, what pieces are missing on a team, and everything in between. Not many people hate losing more than Reeve does. She doesn’t take this time lightly and I know she’s right there with fans when it comes to wanting to see this team back on top of the WNBA. But that takes time to build.

Reeve has already adapted her style to meet the current climate of the WNBA and I have no doubt she will continue to do so. She knows what she is doing, I can tell you that.

That will do it for this edition of the Lynx Mailbag. As always, thanks for submitting your questions and for reading. Hang in there fans, it’s a long season and things will continue to look up as the year progresses.