WNBA Offseason Primer: Minnesota Lynx

January 15 marked the official start of WNBA free agency. The WNBA released an official list of core players, reserved players, unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents.

With the help of The Summitt’s WNBA salaries database compiled by our own Howard Megdal, we’ll take a look at each WNBA team going into free agency, aiming to answer the following questions:

  • Which players are free agents?
  • Which players are still under contract?
  • Who are some potential prospects worth targeting in the upcoming WNBA Draft?
  • Which players on the free agent markets would be good fits to add for 2018?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 4: Rebekkah Brunson

The Minnesota Lynx posted a 27-7 record in 2017 to lock up the number one seed for the WNBA playoffs. The Lynx swept the Washington Mystics in a best-of-five semifinal series. The Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks squared off again in the Finals with the Sparks looking to secure back-to-back titles.

Down 2-1 in the series, the Lynx traveled to Los Angeles for the second year in a row with their season on the line. What Rebekkah Brunson WNBA regular season MVP Sylvia Fowles managed to do on the offensive glass from that point could only be described as mean. It would be a stretch to say the Sparks had a weakness. Maybe now you can call defensive rebounding a crack in the armor. Brunson and Fowles wedged themselves right in and secured 22 offensive rebounds in the final two games of the Finals.

Seimone Augustus shot the lights out in the 2017 playoffs, and Lindsay Whalen turned in her best performance of the season in Game 5. Maya Moore had Defensive Player of the Year Alana Beard on her hip for most of the series. Moore still managed to shoot 54% from the floor and took on whoever she needed to defensively. Moore mukked up the paint as a free safety when she was on Beard and went blow for blow with Candace Parker down on the block when Minnesota went small.

Brunson has now won more WNBA championships than any player in league history. Once the night of the ring ceremony arrives, she will officially have a ring for each finger. Fowles was named Finals MVP, capping off a dominant season for the star center from start to finish.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 4: Plenette Pierson

Now let’s break down Minnesota’s situation — current free agents, players still under contract and the status of their 2018 draft picks.

Unrestricted free agents (UFAs): F Rebekkah Brunson, G Renee Montgomery, G Jia Perkins, F Plenette Pierson (officially announced in August that 2017 would be her final season)

Restricted free agents (RFAs): F Natasha Howard

Reserved players: G/F Cecilia Zandalasini, G Anna Cruz

Core player: N/A

Players under contract:

  • C Sylvia Fowles through 2019
  • G/F Maya Moore through 2018
  • G Seimone Augustus through 2018
  • G Lindsay Whalen through 2018
  • G Alexis Jones through 2020 (team option)
  • F/C Temi Fagbenle through 2020 (team option)

2018 draft picks: No. 12, No. 24, No. 36

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 04: (L-R) Seimone Augustus

The Lynx have to take a hard look at their bench. Like the Sparks, this team has become very expensive considering the ridiculous limitations of such a low salary cap figure. We’ve yet to hear officially whether or not Perkins will retire. She was an indispensable piece in the 2017 Finals. It’d be unfair to Augustus to say that Perkins was their best option in defending Chelsea Gray, but Perkins did a fantastic job of getting into Gray’s body to bother her well beyond the three-point line.

There may not be much movement on the restricted free agent market. If somebody really wants Natasha Howard, though, and is willing to offer her close to her max, Minnesota might have to blink. Losing Pierson and Howard would be a huge hit up front. Cheryl Reeve may be eager to play Fagbenle more either way, though, which would mitigate that potential loss.

Fowles and Moore were the only players to log more than 28 minutes per game in the regular season for this team. Let that fact sink in before evaluating their near-term future. The sky won’t fall anytime soon in Minnesota. They’ve been keeping a careful eye on minutes already. The Lynx would have surpassed that 27 win mark easily had Whalen and Brunson not sustained fluky injuries in the regular season.

Minnesota will feel great about their backcourt if Montgomery and Perkins both return to join Jones off the bench. Zandalasini, who came over just before the start of the playoffs, remains a WNBA mystery. Factor her in on the wing along with their first round pick and the Lynx are almost set up with a full unit of first and second year players.

Players to possibly target in free agency:

  • For the same reasons mentioned in the Sparks offseason primer, Damiris Dantas and Kayla Thornton would be intriguing targets should their prior teams choose to move on from them. Emma Cannon, another reserved player, could be a bruiser-type unleashed to set monster screens and attack the offensive glass.
  • This section has largely been cluttered with the same names. To go out with a bang, here’s a name that I actually haven’t brought up yet: Sancho Lyttle. She can pass and is a solid defender at her position. The Lynx may choose to really skew young with their bench, but Lyttle could be a nice veteran presence in that group willing to make a little less in a great basketball situation.

What are your expectations for the Lynx in 2018? Could they come away with a steal at the end of the first round of the draft, and are we going to see a Sparks-Lynx trilogy?

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