WNBA midseason check-in: Minnesota Lynx

The strong are still getting stronger. Currently, at 15-2, the Minnesota Lynx started the regular season just about as well as anybody can. Head Coach Cheryl Reeve came through in a big way by creating and emphasizing more easy touches for Sylvia Fowles inside.

Watch a Lynx game and you’ll be amazed at some of her looks. Fowles’ teammates deserve a ton of love for the precision and timing of many of those entry passes. Entry passing is a skill. The Lynx teach it well up in Minnesota.

Maya Moore had a few tough shooting nights to open the season but earned a nod for a starting spot at the All-Star game. Moore is shooting 40% from deep on about five attempts per game. What can you do better to stop shots like these?

And here’s my spirited rant: Can we get beyond this middle ground in defining positions? Why is Moore a guard/forward in some places and just a forward in others? Isn’t that a bit of a problem for voters that want (just an example) Moore, Fowles, Brittney Griner and Candace Parker all to start in Seattle? Just some consistency or clarity will get the job done.  

Expect to see a deeper dive into Moore’s defense, perhaps an underappreciated strength of hers in the near future. Not to spoil anything, here’s an example of her value on that end:

Alyssa Thomas really creates some mouse in the house scenarios when teams switch a pick and roll. Not with Moore. There, she slides her feet and anticipates the counter from Thomas. Moore makes her move at just the right time to poke the ball loose. Playoff duels between these two players would be fascinating.

Players as accomplished as Moore flat-out don’t always bring that kind of effort on a nightly basis. The will and resolve to make plays like those in a regular season game deserves a spotlight. We love the extremes with star players: Either they are one of the best or they deserve to be shamed with a James Harden-esque YouTube reel of defensive lapses.

I mentioned Moore’s three point shooting. Without a doubt, she is the best shooter on her team, but as many know, the Lynx are embracing the long ball more in 2017. After attempting more threes than just one team in 2016, the Lynx are up to 17 per game and shooting the second best mark in the league: 37.2%.

Minnesota is number one in both offensive and defensive rating to date. Their net rating is 11.7; the next closest is 7.1. The Sky and Sun were able to trip up the Lynx, but the body of work speaks for itself.

The Lynx do have a meeting remaining with the Mercury in late August. That one figures to be appointment viewing, just as the first was. Minnesota also has two dates remaining with the Sparks.

Yes, the Lynx are shooting more threes. Back to that. How are they getting them? Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus are just shooting more of them. Period. Renee Montgomery also shoots it pretty well and pushes the pace. Here are a few looks from that trio:

Whalen also is great with her timing in the midrange. She’s able to sense exactly when a big is about to drop off and retreat to reattach to the roller:

At the halfway point of the season, some props are in order to Minnesota’s backup bigs. Plenette Pierson is yet another poised, experienced player for the Lynx. Natasha Howard credibly guards the 1-5 positions and works really hard on the glass on both ends.

Let’s talk Howard for a minute. I mentioned her ability to guard just about anybody. When out on the perimeter, she really can get up into whoever has the ball and disrupt with her length, especially if that person is just going to stand there:

In addition to great length, Howard gets up off the floor pretty well. She can go from setting an innocent floppy screen to ducking in for a put back before you blink:

Jia Perkins gets run off the bench often alongside Montgomery. Perkins is another player off the bench with a wealth of WNBA experience under her belt. (2016 was her first in Minnesota.)

Alexis Jones and Temi Fagbenle, both rookies, round out the Lynx roster. Both have played sparingly, but if Minnesota continues to roll like this, we may see those two young players get more run to learn and show what they can do at this level in some low-pressure minutes.

We know the Lynx are contenders. With what we’ve seen so far, has anything changed for you in how you see them? Which factors interest you most with a team that is already playing so well?

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