2016 WNBA Team Previews: Minnesota Lynx

 

PG: Lindsay Whalen/Renee Montgomery

SG: Seimone Augustus/Jia Perkins

SF: Maya Moore/Keisha Hampton

PF: Rebekkah Brunson/Natasha Howard/Bashaara Graves

C: Sylvia Fowles/Janel McCarville

Another team kind enough to cut their roster down to size nice and early. They have absolutely no chance to carry more than 11 players. This is a throughly veteran – and therefore thoroughly expensive – roster.


Significant additions
: Perkins was brought in from San Antonio to help deepen the guard group, while Janel McCarville returns in the post. They’ll be hoping that Howard or Graves can provide minutes inside as well.

Significant losses: Anna Cruz might be seen at some point this season, but not until after the Olympics; Devereaux Peters was signed-and-traded to Indiana in the deal that brought Howard back; and they moved on from both Tricia Liston and Asjha Jones, neither of whom will be particularly missed.


Overview

The champs are back again, trying to do one of the few things this group is yet to achieve – repeating as champions. The roster reflects that they feel their time to win is right now (understandably, considering their aging core and all the winning they’ve done in recent years). The roster is even older than last year, with veteran backups behind the veteran starters. One of these days, this team will get too old (or at some point, presumably, they’ll start retiring). But with Maya Moore still in her absolute prime and leading the way, there’s little reason to believe that the decline will start this year.

In fact, there’s every reason to think that the Lynx could be a little better overall than they were last season. Sylvia Fowles is there from the start this time, so should be more integrated into the offense and more comfortable with the system. Cheryl Reeve always managed to build impressive defenses without a dominant presence in the middle, so with Fowles to work with they should be even better on that end. Lindsay Whalen played through injuries for most of last season, and while she might be a little into the downslope of her career arc, an offseason to recover should mean she’s more effective this season. Seimone Augustus was banged up last year too, but that does seem to be true pretty frequently. She’s still an exceptional player, but expecting her to be in one piece all year is probably optimistic.

They’ve tried to shore-up the reserves with veteran pieces that Reeve won’t be afraid to play. Renee Montgomery played her way into a new contract by performing well in the playoffs last year, and is joined on the perimeter by Jia Perkins, a proven scorer who knows how to come off the bench and help a team win. They gave up Devereaux Peters when she decided she’d rather be in Indiana, which leaves them a little bit open to question in the post behind Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson. Local favourite Janel McCarville returns and should be a solid backup, but after sitting out last year they can’t know quite how much she’s ready to contribute. Natasha Howard, acquired in the Peters deal, showed some promise a couple of years ago in Indiana before rather losing her way. She feels like a prime candidate to swiftly end up in Reeve’s doghouse, but we’ll see.


Best Case Scenario

That the Lynx fans end up whining about the same things as most years – a two-game losing ‘streak’ in August while their team’s rolling to another dominant season. Last year’s 22-12 record was their worst since Moore was drafted, and they won a championship anyway. It’s hard to envision them dropping off much. Even if the worst were to happen and Moore got hurt, they’d probably still be pretty damn good. And Maya’s missed a grand total of one game since turning pro.


Worst Case Scenario

Barring a swathe of injuries, the primary issues for Minnesota probably come from things entirely outside their control – other teams getting better. Phoenix have a couple of stars back, Dallas is maturing, LA could sort themselves out, and the new format brings all the Eastern teams into direct competition with the West. Sometimes you don’t get any worse, other people just start to catch up. They Lynx also have four key pieces going to the Olympics in the middle of the season while several stars on rival teams will be resting. That might hurt.


Summary

Lather, rinse, and repeat. They know how good they are, and they’ve been good for so many years that if this group was going to succumb to complacency they probably would’ve done it already. Old Father Time is undefeated, but Maya Moore’s only 26, and with her leading their veteran core this should be an outstanding team again. They’ll be right in the mix come playoff time, fighting for that back-to-back ring that’s so far eluded them.

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