Rebuilding? Don’t tell the Lynx players that!
After Minnesota’s 75-62 win over the Phoenix Mercury on July 14, the team has hit the halfway point of the season and currently hold a 10-7 record in one of the crazier seasons of the WNBA to date. The league as a whole has struggled with injuries and the Lynx are no exception, losing Jessica Shepard and Karima Christmas-Kelly to season-ending injuries. On top of that, Seimone Augustus and Damiris Dantas continue to battle injuries which have kept them sidelined. All of this comes one season after Lindsay Whalen retired, Maya Moore took a season off from playing basketball and Rebekkah Brunson was unable to return from last season’s concussion.
As the Lynx continue with the “next player up” mentality this season, many Lynx fans have asked High Post Hoops writers different questions about the team. Together, Derek James, Caissa Casarez, and Jared Hines compiled five questions that were asked recently and gave our thoughts. Enjoy!
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- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 10: Dream are (mathematically) stayin’ alive
The Lynx finished last season two games over .500 and have hovered around that mark this season. What have your overall impressions of the first half of their season been? Do you feel better or worse about the team than a year ago?
Caissa: The first half of the season has been eventful in both good and bad ways. We’ve seen what the Lynx can do when they’re clicking on all cylinders and what happens when they’re not. Despite the injuries and other things, I feel better about the team than a year ago. There’s a lot of potential and I’m excited to see what happens.
Derek: I don’t think you can judge this team off of record alone. This Lynx squad has a good mix of veterans to go with the younger additions. Lexie Brown, Odyssey Sims and Napheesa Collier could be the next generation core for this team.
Jared: I believe that this team really does have the chance to compete with the best teams in the league on a nightly basis. We have seen the Lynx struggle in games as they look to click with new teammates but we have also seen how good that can look when they do. Multiple players have opportunities to “take over” a game and a handful have done so already this season. Whether it’s Fowles on the block or Stephanie Talbot from beyond the arc, the team as a whole has done a good job at lifting each other on. It’s a positive sign both for this year and for the future of the squad as well.
Cheryl Reeve brought in a lot of new faces in the draft, free agency and through the trade market. Who has been your most valuable offseason acquisition?
Caissa: Lexie Brown. While many new faces have made an impact in the starting lineup, Lexie has provided an important spark off the bench in what teammates call her second rookie year. Plus you can tell she’s really grateful to be in Minnesota this year. Many of the new faces feel the same, which says a lot about Cheryl Reeve’s moves and the atmosphere she’s created here.
Derek: Coach Reeve mentioned on opening night how hungry the new additions were to prove themselves. One of those players Reeve named was Odyssey Sims, who immediately made her mark positively on this locker room with her personality. Sims has also been vital to the Lynx over the first half of the season as a go-to scorer who isn’t afraid to assert herself into the game when the team needs a bucket. With her fearless offensive game, she pairs well in the backcourt with Danielle Robinson who is more selective with her shots. She has also rebounded well for her position.
Jared: Stephanie Talbot’s outside presence has really opened up the inside game for Sylvia Fowles and I think that goes unnoticed at times. Brown and Dantas can both shoot from the outside as well but in times of need, Talbot has stepped in and put in big minutes for Reeve in key moments. Her game on July 2 against Atlanta was extremely fun to watch. The crowd had so much confidence every time she lined up for a shot. It was awesome.
Can Napheesa Collier win Rookie of the Year and what needs to happen for her to win it?
Caissa: Yes, though it may be tough. After a stellar debut, Napheesa Collier has settled in nicely. She averages a team-high 2.1 steals per game and a second-best 6.1 rebounds to go with 11.4 points per game. Meanwhile, June’s Rookie of the Month Arike Ogunbowale is putting up a team-best 15.1 points per game in Dallas. I think the ROY award will be between those two, but if Napheesa can continue making an impact on all sides of the ball (with a bit more scoring), it’s hers.
Derek: Collier is definitely in the picture. At the halfway point, Collier ranks second in rookie rebounding and scoring and fifth in rookie assists. In addition, Collier leads all rookies in steals and is second in blocks. What may also help her case is the Lynx locking up a playoff spot while the Wings continue to sputter. Wins should never weigh too much into Rookie of the Year because the best rookies go to the worst teams, but Collier has helped the Lynx achieve what they have so far this season.
Jared: Don’t get me wrong, I think Collier is awesome. That said, I think there would have to be a big dropoff from Ogunbowale in order for Collier to take home Rookie of the Year. Like Derek said, if the Lynx can continue to trend upwards, that might help her chances. She should have her chance at many awards throughout her career if she keeps playing at this pace, that’s for sure!
Which injured player do the Lynx miss most out of Jessica Shepard, Seimone Augustus, Damiras Dantas and Karima Christmas-Kelly and why?
Caissa: Oh man! I would say Jessica Shepard. She got injured as she was starting to find her place as a key reserve off the bench, and I think the Lynx need as many reserves as they can get with a (somewhat) new-look starting five. But It’s been nice to see all four injured players at games, and Seimone Augustus has certainly made her presence known in a new way on the sidelines.
Derek: Since Caissa said Jessica Shepard, Damiras Dantas was shooting over 40 percent before her injury. The Lynx are a team in dire need of consistent outside shooting and Dantas, a career sub-30 percent 3-pointer shooter entering this season, has remade herself into one of the most efficient players of the first half of the season. Not having Dantas in the frontcourt hurts because in addition to shooting, she does so many things well from setting screens to grabbing boards.
Jared: Even though her points per game has decreased each season from 2014, I do think that not having Seimone Augustus is a huge loss for this team. Luckily, Augustus and her veteran presence are still seen throughout Target Center and you can see her talking to younger players when they are on the bench. That said, her presence on the court is still missed, especially with the other injuries and departures from last season.
What do the Lynx need to do in the second half of the season to put themselves in the best position for the postseason?
Caissa: The Lynx need to start strong and stay strong through all four quarters of every game. They cannot get comfortable with big leads or give up when they’re trailing. It’s easier said than done but we’ve seen them do it, including in Sunday’s big win over Phoenix. If the Lynx can bring their best every game and put together a nice string of wins, I think they can make a run in the postseason no matter who is dressed for them.
Derek: Consistency would certainly help the Lynx make a push in the second half of the season and to do that they need to get healthy and stay healthy. Maybe Seimone Augustus can contribute if/when she makes her season debut. Getting Ceci Zandalasini will also help the team survive the recovery periods for players like Dantas and anyone else who gets nicked up along the way.
Jared: The backcourt of Sims and Robinson are the motor that makes the engine in Minnesota go. If they can continue to work together and open up shots for Brown, Dantas, and Talbot, this team will continue to succeed. Fowles is starting to really play well on a nightly basis and as I mentioned earlier, many players on the team have a chance to step up in any individual game. That makes for a dangerous team on the offensive end.
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