Three reasons for optimism for Minnesota Lynx

Look beyond results with the Lynx so far

Although losing to the Las Vegas Aces on June 16 brought the team’s record below .500 for the first time all season, Minnesota has shown signs of promise through the first nine games of the season.

While losing four straight games isn’t ideal, the losses came by a combined 19 points, showing that Cheryl Reeve’s team has the ability to stay with any team in the league. In a WNBA season with about as much consistency as a side of the road lemonade stand, the Lynx have what it takes to be back on top by the end of the 2019 season. Here are three reasons why.

Napheesa Collier’s instant impact

It’s no surprise that the 6’1 forward from the University of Connecticut is succeeding in the league. But even her biggest supporters would be lying if they said they expected what we have seen from Collier so far this season.

Averaging 11.1 points per game, Collier is playing huge minutes for Reeve through the first nine games of the season. With a season-high of 36 minutes in the June 8 loss vs. the Sparks, Collier has played over 30 minutes in every game except for one. She has registered two or more assists in five games and on the defensive end, Collier has registered two steals in six games as well as at least one block in seven of the first nine contests.

Collier’s one flaw right now is her ability to get into foul trouble for Minnesota, forcing Reeve to sit her during crucial stretches of the game. Collier is averaging over three personal fouls a game, including five in the 80-75 home loss to the Aces on June 16. As she becomes more confident in her game at the professional level, Collier is a force to be reckoned with and will be for years to come.

Dantas and Brown…from downtown!

Coming off a season where the Lynx made just 5.4 shots from beyond the arc per game-second last in the league–and attempted just 15.6–also second last in the league–Damiris Dantas and Lexie Brown have revitalized the outside shooting for the Lynx, forcing defenders to change their style of defense when they play Minnesota. In 2019, The Lynx are now attempting 20.9 3-point shots per game, making 6.9 per contest which ranks fifth in the league.

Of the 6.9 shots made from outside per game for Minnesota, former Duke guard Lexie Brown contributes about two of them, attempting on average 4.7 3-point shots a game. Brown–also known for her shoe game, which could be a post of its own–has made at least one shot from the outside in every game this season, including five of eight in Minnesota’s June 8 loss to Los Angeles. Brown has scored in double figures in four games this season, playing just over twenty minutes a game this season for Minnesota.

A majority of the rest of the 3-point production this season has come from Dantas, who has seen an increasing role since the beginning of the season. After making her first two 3-point shots in the second game of the season, Dantas has had three games where she has made three 3-point shots in addition to five from downtown in the June 16 loss to the Aces. In that game, Dantas became just the sixth Lynx player to have five 3-point makes and five assists in the same game. Maya Moore has done it five times while Candice Wiggins, Roneeka Hodges, Svetlana Abrosimova (twice), and Tonya Edwards complete the list. Like Brown, Dantas also has four games this season in double figures.

The duo has allowed Sylvia Fowles to play against fewer double teams, scoring 15 or more points in six of nine games this season while adding 9.8 rebounds per game as well with no drop in efficiency. Continued production from the outside will allow Lynx forwards and centers to control the paint, something that the team has a history of wanting to establish in their decade of dominance.

Defense, Defense

Defense wins championships.

You’ve heard it since youth and while a high-powered offense can look more flashy in the stands or on TV, the play on the defensive side of the ball is what is most likely going to take teams to the playoffs and beyond.

The 2019 Lynx team has overall been great on defense, despite their record. Nine games in, Minnesota is holding teams to just 74.2 points per game. That number is second lowest in the league behind the Connecticut Sun (72.9). The Lynx are forcing 16.3 turnovers per game which also ranks second in the league (behind Seattle’s 17.0), and are also tied for third in the league with the Mystics and Sun with 8.7 steals per game.

While forcing 16.3 turnovers a game is better than average, the Lynx also rank worst in the league in offensive turnovers, giving the ball away 17.8 times per game. This number correlates to averaging just 75.1 points per game, fourth-worst in the league.

The Lynx are poised to make another run in 2019, trying to continue their 2010’s streak of winning titles every other year. While the roster doesn’t look anything close to what it was in 2018, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a chance to shine.

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