2015 WNBA Season Previews: Minnesota Lynx

 

PG: Lindsay Whalen/(Anna Cruz)/Jennifer O’Neill

SG: Seimone Augustus/Monica Wright

SF: Maya Moore/Tricia Liston

PF: Rebekkah Brunson/Devereaux Peters/Reshanda Gray

C: Asjha Jones/Damiris Dantas

 

Significant additions: Hopefully Jones and Cruz, maybe eventually Gray.

Significant losses: Janel McCarville, Tan White.

 

—–

 

Until late in the offseason, Minnesota were quietly going about their business, becoming most people’s favourites for the 2015 championship by virtue of not losing any key pieces, unlike their usual rivals. Then they joined in with some of the league-wide melodrama. Janel McCarville informed them that she wouldn’t be playing in 2015, which left a hole in the post that was swiftly papered over with the acquisition of Asjha Jones from Connecticut (although exactly how much they’ll get from Jones remains to be seen). Meanwhile the Sylvia Fowles mess in Chicago tangentially touched on the Lynx when it emerged that Minnesota was her preferred destination, which could’ve led to a shake-up on the roster. But no Fowles trade materialised, so the core of this team remains the same, and as threatening as ever. They have a few things to work out down low, but with a perimeter like theirs they’ll still win plenty of games while figuring out the answers.

 

While some are starting to whisper about the age of the Lynx core, there’s no reason to expect their performance to fall off a cliff any time soon. And with 2014 MVP Maya Moore in her prime – or arguably still improving – the vets have a pretty useful youngster to help carry them along. The shooting and all-around scoring ability of Moore and Seimone Augustus, combined with the drive and leadership of Lindsay Whalen at the point, continues to be the heart of this Lynx team. They could never quite seem to get fully healthy last year, which eventually cost them against a squad as strong as Phoenix, but if they’re in one piece come playoff time they’ll score on anyone. Cheryl Reeve does a nice job organising her team and placing them in a position to succeed, but she’d be the first to admit that a lot of it comes down to pure talent. The Whalen/Augustus/Moore group is likely the best perimeter trio the WNBA has ever seen.

 

Inside is where things get a little dicier for the Lynx. McCarville was undersized for the center spot, but she knew how to use her body as a defender and her passing skills had become an integral part of the offense. Jones has always been a more rounded offensive player, but she’s already had health issues in training camp, and hasn’t been seen in the WNBA since 2012 due to a variety of injuries. She’s also small for the center spot, where Minnesota would like to use her. They’ll be hoping that Rebekkah Brunson can stay healthy all year, after struggling with fitness last season, because they’ll need her tenacious rebounding and work-rate in the paint. Damiris Dantas is also back after a rookie season where she impressed initially and then faded away, and will likely be given the chance to start at center to open the season. Devereaux Peters is in the final year of her rookie contract and will need to impress more than she has in the last couple of years to earn a top-end salary in her next deal. And rookie Reshanda Gray rounds out the post options, after falling to the Lynx near the top of the second-round. Knowing Reeve, Gray’s opportunities are likely to be rare, but she could be one for the future.

 

The Lynx don’t need a lot of offense from their posts, with plenty of scoring likely to come from their star-studded perimeter. They need cohesion and smart defense within Reeve’s scheme, and players who don’t give anything away. There might be some bumps along the way, but they should have enough pieces to put things together, even if they look a little different in the end. They should eventually be a little deeper on the perimeter, with Monica Wright back, combo-guard Anna Cruz arriving after she’s finished with EuroBasket Women 2015 to provide a backup for Whalen that Reeve will hopefully trust, and Tricia Liston a year more experienced. As always, the starters will be heavily featured, but there might be a bit more depth for Reeve to dip into if she can bring herself to try it.

 

Chances are, not a lot will change for the Lynx. They may have lost McCarville, but the rest of the familiar faces are still there. They’ll light up the scoreboard on a lot of nights, run past various teams, scratch out other victories even when they don’t play that well, and generally win an awful lot of games. This franchise used to be reliable for their inevitable disastrous losing; now they’ve become almost dull due to their monotonous winning. The playoffs are where they’ll be interesting, and we’ll see whether they have the interior defense and size to cope with a Griner or the collective height of LA. Until September it’ll just be boring old excellent basketball, from the talented and consistently impressive Lynx.

 

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