WNBA

Lynx Enter Free Agency with Holes

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Each week over the first three months of the offseason, we will look at what each team has in store for free agency. We will look at pending free agents and then consider who may be a logical target for them to bring in. This series will start in standings order for the teams that missed the postseason and then go in order of elimination when it comes to playoff teams. We have looked at the Seattle Storm, Dallas Wings, New York Liberty, Washington Mystics Los Angeles Sparks, Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever. Today we finish the single-elimination teams, recapping the Minnesta Lynx.

Last season, the Lynx were one of the most proactive teams in free agency. This led to them being a much stronger team in the regular season than the year prior. Kayla McBride was the biggest addition in free agency, after Natalie Achonwa, Aerial Powers and the highly drafted Rennia Davis missed large chunks of time. Adding Layshia Clarendon during the season took the team to another level. Sylvia Fowles was named Defensive Player of the Year and yet the franchise lost their only playoff game, prematurely ending their season. So what comes next?

Pending Free Agents

There are plenty of questions for Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx to address during free agency. Before getting into the two biggest questions, let’s start on the lower end. Rachel Banham is an unrestricted free agent. Even as a knockdown shooter from (47.2 percent and 37.3 percent over the last two seasons), her role on the team was always somewhat minimal. Bridget Carleton is reserved but finds herself in a similar hole.

Anna Cruz is another reserved free agent but has not played in the states since 2016. Maya Moore and Cecilia Zandalasini have suspended contracts; however, like Cruz, do not expect them back any time. However, there are two starters from last season’s third-seeded squad that are unrestricted free agents.

First, bringing Layshia Clarendon into the fold changed the course of the season for the Lynx. They needed a point guard who could commit defensively and run the team. Clarendon brought that in spades. They played 21 games for the Lynx and Minnesota won 16 of them. Without them in the lineup, the team was 6-5. Clarendon was a cultural force of nature who helped shape the team throughout the season.

Even bigger, Sylvia Fowles is an unrestricted free agent as well. She was one of the best players across the league last season, averaging 16.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.8 steals and 1.4 assists per game. She was the deserved Defensive Player of the Year. Given that, she will undoubtedly be one of the top targets on the market if Minnesota were to let her get that far.

The Plan Forward

While some teams have to plan a new direction during the free agency period, Minnesota has a clear plan laid out in front of them. They have eight players under contract and $432k in cap room. Bringing back Fowles will dig into that considerably, but for a team hoping to compete, that is a no-brainer. Clarendon should also be considered, especially if they are only demanding the veteran minimum again.

With the core of Fowles, Clarendon, McBride and Napheesa Collier, Minnesota is a perennial problem. Collier was an absolute monster this season, averaging 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. With the news that she is pregnant, her contributions in the coming season will clearly be limited. That said, Collier’s absence makes things murky. With Davis back on the court, the Lynx will be adding a Rookie of the Year caliber talent to a team that finished fifth in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating.

If they are able to retain both of their major pending free agents (while certainly considering a return for Banham and/or Carleton) the Lynx truly feel like they only need internal development to continue to compete with the best. Fowles has dropped hints of her career winding down to start a family, and seeing a teammate do just that could spur her to move on for one final run at another ring elsewhere.

About Corey Rausch

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