After years of riding a fairly consistent roster to four championships and two Finals appearances in six seasons, the Minnesota Lynx have had to make significant changes this season. The team lost three long-time captains from the 2018 team, and Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve has said the team identity is changing. Fans are hoping that returning veterans can mix with newcomers to continue the streak of championships in odd years. See Do Odds Still Favor Lynx? for an in-depth look at last season and the early off-season moves by the Lynx.
2018 Recap [18–16 Record]
The Lynx had their lowest win total since 2010 — Reeve’s first season at the helm. The 18 wins ended a seven-season streak of 20-plus wins, which was a league-best. Minnesota had injuries late in the season to key players; backup point guard Danielle Robinson (ankle) and rebounder extraordinaire Rebekkah Brunson (concussion) were both injured in early August and did not return. A Lynx team that was already inconsistent could not recover and ended the season with a first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
Projected Starting Five
Sylvia Fowles C
[2018 stats: 17.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.9 FG%]
Cheryl Reeve said at the Lynx media day on May 16th, “Everything is different, except get Syl the ball.”
Last season, Fowles averaged a double-double for the second season in a row. In addition to shooting at a high percentage, Fowles set single-season records last year for most rebounds (404), most defensive rebounds (282) and rebounds per game (11.88).
She is currently fifth in the WNBA in career rebounds and has a chance to become the career leader this season if she gets 326 rebounds. Also within reach is the career lead in double-doubles. Fowles trails only Lisa Leslie and needs just eight more to set the record.
In her first action this season, Sylvia scored 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting and had 11 rebounds in a preseason game against Washington Mystics.
This season, the Lynx will expect much from Fowles. In addition to handling a majority of scoring and rebounding, Fowles was named a team captain.
Seimone Augustus G [2018 Stats: 10.8 PPG, 46.7 FG%, 31.8% 3P%]
Seimone Augustus is one of only two returning starters from last season for the Lynx, along with Fowles. Augustus was drafted by Minnesota in 2006 and has spent her entire career with the Lynx. She ranked third in the league among guards in field goal percentage last season. She finished the season strong, scoring more than 10 points in each of the last seven games and had 45 assists to just 14 turnovers in the last 16 games.
The Lynx re-signed Augustus on February 1 and Seimone stated, “I couldn’t be more excited to be re-signing with the only place I’ve called home in the WNBA . . .Being a member of this franchise means a lot to me and my family and I’m ready to continue what we’ve built here; and that’s a championship group.”
Cheryl Reeve added, “Seimone Augustus epitomizes what it means to be a Minnesota Lynx, . . . She’s the most loyal and committed player in franchise history and has provided many thrills for Lynx and WNBA fans throughout the years. I’m excited Seimone will continue to provide these moments as a member of the Lynx.”
In addition to her steady play, Augustus will be called on to be more of a vocal leader this season as the only returning team captain. Referring to the new players in camp, she said, “They keep my energy high.”
Danielle Robinson G [2018 Stats: 6.5 PPG, 44.5 FG%, 3.3 APG]
Robinson is one of the fastest players in the league and has looked strong in preseason games after ankle surgery last season. She worked extensively in the off-season with assistant coach Walt Hopkins on her footwork around the rim, finishing ability and shooting stance. Reeve said, “Danielle works harder than any player that I’ve seen in the off-season not only to recover from an injury, but also the responsibility she feels after taking over this team as a point guard.” Robinson has also been named a team captain.
Karima Christmas-Kelly F [2018 Stats: Dallas Wings 9.3 PPG, 44.8 FG%, 5.5 RPG] Signed as an unrestricted free agent February 1.
Entering her ninth season, Karima only played six games for the Dallas Wings last season before a season-ending knee surgery. She previously won a WNBA championship in 2012 with the Indiana Fever and has appeared in the playoffs five times. Coach Reeve said in the press release announcing the trade, “Karima is known to be a fierce competitor who is also a tremendous teammate. These qualities along with her versatility on the court offensively and defensively make her a valuable addition to the Lynx roster.”
Damiris Dantas F [2018 Stats: Atlanta Dream 5.4 PPG, 43.3 FG%]
Signed as restricted free agent Feb. 8.
The Lynx welcome 6-foot-3 Damiris Dantas back for a second stint. She played with the team as a rookie out of Brazil in 2014 and was traded to Atlanta in 2015 as part of the deal that brought Sylvia Fowles to Minnesota from Chicago. Although this is her fifth season, she is still only 26 years old.
Dantas played only 19 games last season for Atlanta last season due to an ankle injury that required surgery. The Lynx believe she can play on the front line with Fowles. When Dantas was signed, Reeve said “I am excited to welcome Damiris back to the Lynx family. In her time with the Lynx previously, Damiris showed how valuable she is with her versatility to play both post positions and ability to both score on the block and stretch the defense with her shooting.”
Key Additions and Bench
Odyssey Sims G [2018 Stats: Los Angeles Sparks 8.2 PPG, 38.8 FG%, 2.8 APG]
Acquired from Los Angeles Sparks in an April 22 trade for Alexis Jones.
Cheryl Reeve said at Lynx media day that “Sims is physically tough, plays hard and will do whatever it takes to help the Lynx win.”
Sims is entering her sixth season, and Reeve says the Lynx are getting Odyssey in the prime of her career. She should be more of a scorer this season with the Lynx than she was with the Sparks; Reeve stated on media day that Odyssey has the green light to shoot. The Lynx are looking for more outside shooting this season to avoid triple-teams on Fowles, and Sims should be a big part of that.
Sims was previously best known to Lynx fans for being on the receiving end of a flagrant foul from Lindsay Whalen in the 2017 WNBA Finals that carried over into a small skirmish last season. All that is forgotten now, as Lynx players and fans are excited to have her on the team and she is happy to be in Minnesota. After the first preseason game, Reeve said, “I had some awfully bad dreams trying to figure out how to guard her in a high ball screen [when Sims was with Los Angeles], so it was really fun to watch her doing it for us and against someone else. Now I understand why we couldn’t [guard her]; she’s just so explosive.”
Sims had a great stat line in the preseason game against the Mystics, scoring 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with seven assists and five rebounds. In the second preseason game against the Las Vegas Aces, she did even better: 25 points including 5-of-7 3-point shooting.
Napheesa Collier F [2018 Stats: UConn 20.8 PPG, 61.2 FG%, 10.8 RPG, 3.5 APG]
No. 6 pick in the WNBA draft.
Collier is being asked to play more outside for the Lynx rather than in the post and is working on correcting a hitch in her shot.
Her big-game experience in college (four Final Fours) should prepare her for WNBA games, although she will likely come off the bench and not be expected to be the top scorer or rebounder for the Lynx, although she is one of only four UConn players to have both 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career. You may have heard of the other four: Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Rebecca Lobo.
The Lynx were surprised Collier was available at the No. 6 pick and Cheryl Reeve likes what she has seen so far, saying on media day, “Every time you see her play, it’s the same thing. Her activity when she plays ... she really moves.”
Jessica Shepard F [2018 Stats: Notre Dame 16.7 PPG, 59.4 FG%, 10.3 RPG]
No. 16 pick in the WNBA draft.
Reeve said of Shepard after the first preseason game:
“She’s confident in what she does; she’s been a bit of a leader. She’s intelligent, obviously has great instincts for the game. It’s going to be nice to have someone like her off the bench.”
Shepard has looked comfortable on the court and logged 10 points and eight rebounds in the first preseason game against the Washington Mystics.
Lexie Brown G [2018 Stats: Connecticut Sun 1.7 PPG, 27.3 FG%]
Acquired in a draft-night trade with Connecticut Sun for the rights to Natisha Hiedeman.
Brown has seen regular playing time in the preseason. The Lynx were hoping to get her in the 2018 draft and see great potential in her shooting, playmaking and defense. Brown is looking for a fresh start after only averaging 5.6 minutes per game with the Sun.
In the team’s second preseason game against the Las Vegas Aces, Brown had 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Temi Fagbenle C [2018 Stats: 50.6 FG%, 9.4 MPG]
Temi will start the season with the British national team and is expected to miss at least a month. Fagbenle had a great off-season overseas in the Poland league, winning both the regular season and finals MVP awards.
Cecilia Zandalasini F [2018 Stats: 38.3 FG% 16.5 MPG]
Zandalasini is starting her third season for the Lynx and is still only 23 years old. She too is going to miss the beginning of the season as one of the top players for the Italian national team in the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket tournament.
Alaina Coates C [2018 Stats: Chicago Sky 56.8 FG% 3.4 PPG]
Acquired from Chicago Sky on May 21 for a third-round 2020 draft pick.
Coates was the second overall draft pick in 2017 out of South Carolina, but sat that year out after ankle surgery. Coates had some good games in the second half of last year having two games with a season-high 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in two other games. Coates was an offensive and defensive threat for the Gamecocks and left as the leader in field goal percentage and second in rebounds, double-doubles and blocks.
Stephanie Talbot F [2018 Stats: Phoenix Mercury 46.4 FG% 38.6 3P%]
Acquired from Phoenix Mercury on May 21 for a second-round 2020 draft pick.
Talbot came on strong in the second half of the season and in the playoffs for Phoenix last year. The Australian native did not score in double digits in any of the first 21 games and then had four such performances in the last ten games with a high of 18 in the last regular season game.
The Lynx arguably lost the most key players of any team including three longtime leaders from last season. These three players have a combined 38 years of experience and provided 36% of the Lynx’s scoring last season.
Maya Moore F [2018 Stats:18.0 PPG, 38.4% 3P%, 31.2 MPG] Taking the year off.
Moore was the leading scorer on the Lynx last year and her durability and consistency will certainly be missed.
On February 5, Moore announced that she would not be playing professional basketball in 2019, stating, “My focus in 2019 will not be on professional basketball, but will instead be on the people in my family, as well as on investing my time in some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”
Lindsay Whalen G [2018 Stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.1 APG] Retired.
Whalen, the heart and soul of the Lynx, retired after last season and is now the head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, her alma mater. Whalen ranks third all-time in the WNBA for assists.
Rebekkah Brunson F [2018 Stats: 7.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.4 APG]
Brunson has not been officially ruled out, but has not been cleared for workouts and her status for the season is unclear at this point. She is a free agent and not on the roster. Brunson is the all-time career leader in rebounds and often guarded the best offensive player on the opposing team.
Whalen and Brunson, were both part of the historic 2004 WNBA Draft.
Can the Lynx successfully handle all the personnel changes?
There are a lot of moving parts and change for Minnesota, but Reeve states that the team identity will still be based on defense and rebounding. The coaching staff has added at least 20 new plays in response to new personnel and different skills and ability. This will no doubt add complexity at first, but since the plays are designed to fit player strengths, should ultimately pay off.
Can the Lynx develop outside shooting to create space for Sylvia Fowles inside?
Cheryl Reeve has mentioned the team’s outside shooting often in the preseason. She has given both starting guards (Robinson and Sims) the green light to shoot and has stated they will be pulled if they pass up an open three-pointer. Opposing defenses will be stretched thin by a balanced shooting attack rather than of collapsing in the middle as was the case last season.
While the Lynx will certainly look different this season, they should still be competitive. The team’s success largely depends on how quickly Sims and Robinson learn to efficiently lead the offense. Reeve will need to define roles for the bench players. A bumpy start would not be surprising, but could be quickly reversed if the team learns to play together and excels at defense and rebounding.