Cored: Taj McWilliams-Franklin
Unrestricted Free Agents: None
Restricted Free Agents: Alexis Hornbuckle, Charde Houston, Candice Wiggins
Reserved: Jessica Adair
After cantering to the championship in 2011, it’s almost unfair how little the Lynx have to worry about in the offseason. They did precisely what some of us suggested New York should’ve done last season, and used their core spot on Taj McWilliams-Franklin to prevent her wanderlust taking her elsewhere. The mild danger was that she’d be offended by her choice being taken away and retire or demand a trade in response, but she’s already confirmed that she’s coming back to the Lynx (she’s not technically allowed to have officially signed yet). That immediately solidifies their post rotation for next season. Everyone else is at least somewhat under Minnesota’s control.
The restricted free agent most important to them last year was Candice Wiggins, who I’m sure they’d like to keep, but with some hesitation. They’ve got the cap room to pay her this year, but with her injury history and other youngsters they’ll need to pay in the future, they may be reluctant to go too high or for too many years. We’re also going to see teams and players start wondering about what might change in the next CBA soon, because the current one runs out after the 2013 season. Would the Lynx risk giving Wiggins a three-year deal when that third year would be part of a future agreement which they can currently only guess at? Of course, they could sign her with the expectation of trading her in a year or two, but that banks on her not getting injured and remaining tradeable. I’ve felt all along that they’d pay her and keep her, despite the fact that she’d be a very expensive backup, but I’m starting to believe that she may receive an offer from elsewhere that the Lynx won’t want to match. Phoenix, LA, Atlanta and others are all likely to be interested, and would probably all risk a three-year max deal.
After Wiggins, amazingly enough, the highest priority is probably Jessica Adair. She played her way into the post rotation last season and looked like she may have a long-term future in this league. The talks could be interesting, because as a reserved player she can’t negotiate or sign anywhere else, but she’s probably worth a little more than the minimum. They’ll get it done eventually. Hornbuckle is likely to leave, with a slightly bigger role awaiting her somewhere else. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve clearly appreciates her defensive ability, but with Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Monica Wright, maybe Wiggins and maybe the #3 overall draft pick ahead of her on the wing, she’s surplus to requirements.
Charde Houston is probably going to depart as well, purely because she’ll want to actually play and the Lynx won’t want to pay her just for her positive attitude and team spirit. Her defense is still atrocious, but she can flat-out score when given the opportunity, and there are teams out there who’ll give her a shot. I’ve been saying she was made to play in Phoenix’s system for years, but there’ll likely be other teams interested as well.
It’s hard to see the Lynx going out and chasing after anyone much outside their roster, because a) they’re so good already, b) their money is largely tied up in the current personnel, and c) they don’t have the roster space to fit anyone else in. If Wiggins goes they’ll need someone who can play the point to backup Lindsay Whalen, but that role could be filled by Angel Robinson (their draft pick from last year who was cut) or someone from the 2012 rookie class. Any roster spots that open up via players mentioned above leaving will likely be filled by inexpensive youngsters. Minnesota have two of the top 12 picks in the draft, and five of the top 24, so training camp could be a war.
Richard, I very much enjoyed reading your game summaries last year and liked your free agent analyses. In my opinion, pretty much everything you do is well thought out and enjoyably written.
I happen to be a fan of the Minnesota Lynx, a team which, despite going into the draft with five top 20 picks after the recent trade with Phoenix, realistically has room for only one additional player, aside from the ten who are currently under contract and are mortal locks to make the team. Since, with the exception of Taj, they are also a very young team, they can’t solve this problem simply by rolling over picks to next year’s draft. For that reason, I fully expect them to draft a number of international players, probably starting with their second 1st round pick (no. 12 overall).
Since you know a infinitely more about international players than I do (the most I’ve seen is a few clips on youtube), I thought I’d pick your brain and ask which soon-to-be 20-year-old players do you see as potentially contributing to a WNBA team three or four years down the road. I’ve heard about Damiris Dantas. Furthermore, there are backcourt players like Nika Baric, who, from what I’ve seen on video, is a really slick, creative ballhandler with a nice outside shot. Would you expect Minnesota to target either of these two players? How about Farhiya Abdi, someone with nice height for a SG/SF, who can grab a rebound and block a shot as well as bomb from outside, or players like Alina Iagupova or Queralt Casas? If you had to pick a half dozen international players who were most likely to be drafted in the top 20, who would they be?
Thanks for the nice comments.
Wow, in all honesty, you’ve come up with more names than I would have. I agree with you that Minnesota will likely be looking at international players who wouldn’t arrive immediately due to their roster logjam, but the only names I’ve really heard mentioned in regards to being drafted this year are Damiris and Baric – neither of whom has had the greatest season this year in Europe (although both are obviously young and still developing). Abdi might get a look as well, purely for rising to the ranks of solid minutes in a EuroLeague team before her 20th birthday, but again her numbers were pretty horrible in that exalted company.
As with last year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Minnesota try to trade away as many of the picks as they can, but with how everyone seems to feel about this draft pool it could be hard to find takers. They may end up taking several American college players, knowing full well that they’re practically dead in the water at training camp. But remember, with the early start to the season due to the Olympics, several stars will miss much of camp due to their commitments overseas. So the rookies will have some time to impress. Not that I’d exppect any of them to beat out the established players in Minnesota, but there’s always the chance that they might make an impression for the future.