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Lynx Mailbag: Injured Players, Toeing the Line of Playoffs and Lottery, and Basketball Cards

Welcome to another edition of the Lynx Mailbag, where our Mitchell Hansen answers your submitted questions on the Minnesota Lynx and the WNBA.

Minnesota Lynx v Washington Mystics Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Guess who’s back, back again?

Lynx Mailbag is back, tell a friend

Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back?

First off, I’m sorry. That was my attempt at being funny. That landed better in my head ... so let’s just move on from that.

Jokes (or the attempt) aside, welcome to another edition of the Lynx Mailbag where I answer any questions you have on the Minnesota Lynx and the WNBA!

With the first 20 games of the regular season in the books and the WNBA All-Star break now behind us, the Lynx and the rest of the teams in the league have resumed play in the season with the latter half of the schedule that will run through Sept. 10.

As of the writing of this mailbag, the Lynx sit with a record of ___ overall following _____ Tuesday against the Atlanta Dream. Despite the rocky start to the year, Minnesota has battled back to get back into the playoff picture which at one point seemed like a dream for a team that was 0-6 to start the season. But here we are, talking about the Lynx potentially making a return to the postseason during a rebuilding year. You can never count out Cheryl Reeve and Company.

With the second half of the season underway, let’s dive into some of the questions you submitted.

Minnesota Lynx v Washington Mystics Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

AtlantaDreamGhostGM: Is Shep coming back this season?

First of all, great name, AtlantaDreamGhostGM.

Secondly, when it comes to Jessica Shepard, she should be back this season and there is no reason to believe she will be out for the rest of the season while battling back from a non-COVID illness that has held her out since June 11.

Our guy Jack Borman reported before the All-Star break that Shepard could be one of the Lynx who could return to the rotation right after the break, but Shepard was still absent on Thursday against Los Angeles so it will be interesting to watch if she ends up gradually being upgraded from out to questionable or probable, or perhaps even activated immediately like Tiffany Mitchell was before Tuesday’s contest.

He provided an update on Thursday evening:

In nine games this season, Shepard has done it all for Minnesota while averaging 9.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists over 33 minutes per game. At one point in the year, she had even averaged the most assists on the team.

Shepard’s inside presence has been missed by the Lynx in her absence, especially when Minnesota goes up against opponents who can attack the paint and hit the boards. Her return, whenever that may be, will be a welcome one for the Lynx.

Connecticut Sun v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Tim: When Tiffany Mitchell gets healthy is she going to assume starting point guard duties again? Or has Lindsay Allen done enough to keep the job?

Tiffany Mitchell and her role with the Lynx has been interesting to follow this season, mostly because she has been thrown at a few different spots since joining the team as a free agent this offseason.

To start the year, Mitchell switched between the starting lineup and a bench role, playing both the off-ball guard spot and the point guard role, the latter being something she has never done in her WNBA career. The point guard spot has been an adjustment for Mitchell, as she told me when I sat down with her in June. She knew it would be something the Lynx were going to try and test this year, which she was open to, but it has been an adjustment.

At the start of the year, I believe Minnesota hoped Lindsay Allen would take on the starting point guard spot and would hold that for the season, maybe mixing in Mitchell in that role off the bench. But Mitchell ended up starting at that position a few weeks into the year, only to hold that responsibility for a week or two before the Lynx went back to Allen in the starting five.

Allen’s play leading up to the All-Star break makes it very hard to take her out of the starting lineup, even with Mitchell now returning to the team after missing time with a wrist injury. With Mitchell back and coming off the bench since her return July 18, I think that’s a role we see from her barring any injuries from other players moving forward. Allen looks to be the starting point guard moving forward, but we might see Mitchell mixed into that role here and there depending on the matchup of the opposing team.

But for now, it’s safe to assume Allen will remain as the starting point guard and Mitchell will be utilized coming off the bench to provide a spark on the second unit.

The Sky Show CHI: I’m curious how this Lynx franchise might tip-toe the line between a 2023 playoff spot vs. 2024 pick chances in the ROS. Does the head coach try to win games and GM just take in however the odds might fall?

This has been something fans have been talking about all season, especially after the 0-6 start for the Lynx. The main reason some are rooting for the Lynx to lose it to try and land one of the top prospects in the upcoming WNBA Draft, maybe even the likes of Paige Bueckers or Caitlin Clark, who aren’t for sure inclusions in this upcoming draft and could still return to school beyond this college season.

One thing to keep in mind with the lottery is that it is a two-year total of team records. So if had a good record in 2022 and finish with the worst record in 2023, that doesn’t automatically mean you have the best odds for the upcoming draft lottery. It’s a composite total of two-year record totals.

For Minnesota, it finished with a record of 14-22, which landed it in ninth place and a spot in the draft lottery along with Atlanta, Los Angeles and Indiana. If the Lynx finish with a poor record this year and are a lottery team again, that could actually play in their favor when it comes to the lottery odds and being able to grab one of the top picks in the 2024 Draft.

With that said, I can tell you that Cheryl Reeve and company want no part in tanking this season or ever. Reeve has made that clear before and during the season that Minnesota is not and will not tank for better positioning in the draft.

It is a tricky line to toe, however, to the question asked here. Coaches want to coach and they want to win, which is what Reeve is doing. That won’t change and Reeve will do all she can to help her team win on a nightly basis. When it comes to the front office or a general manager role — not specifically talking about the Lynx here — that line of making the playoffs in a non-contending season or trying to get better odds in the draft has to cross your mind, especially during a rebuilding season.

In the case of Minnesota, it is going to try and develop the players on the roster right now and whatever happens, happens. But the Lynx aren’t going to tank, regardless of the talent in the draft that might be coming up this offseason. Because if the likes of Bueckers and Clark don’t end up declaring for the draft this year, then what? Minnesota can’t waste a season and wait around for the potential of them even being there in the draft if the Lynx did get that top pick.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeremy Hernandez: Is there any particular reason why Coach Reeve has never had an official basketball card issued from one of the big sports card companies? Several WNBA coaches have had cards of them issued over the years and Panini (who makes WNBA cards now) was quick to issue a coach card for Becky Hammon in 2022.

I know when it comes to cards, in the WNBA or any sport, coaches have a say in whether or not they would like their name and image used in things such as cards or other things. An example in another sport is head coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots Bill Belichick, who has refused to have his name and image used for things such as cards, video games and more.

As for Reeve, I don’t know if she has necessarily said no to having an official basketball card, but I just personally don’t think she cares. That’s not a bad thing or a knock on Reeve, I just think she is focused on more important things like helping her team turn things around than worrying about whether or not she has a basketball card. And I think she would be quick to tell you just that.

I’m not sure the exact process that goes into a coach getting a basketball card, but I know they need to provide approval to the companies that produce them beforehand. Maybe Reeve has given approval and card companies haven’t made one yet, or maybe she just doesn’t want one. Either way, I don’t know if I would read into that too much.

That will do it for this edition of the Lynx Mailbag. As always, thanks for submitting your questions and for reading. I hope you enjoy the start of the final half of the regular season as the playoff picture begins to take shape.