Potential help at the wing
The Minnesota Lynx continued searching for answers to their forward depth problems with the signing of Bridget Carleton to a seven-day contract. Carleton was drafted out of Iowa State by Connecticut this past April and played four games for the Sun.
In those four games, Carlelton totaled three rebounds and one assist but did not score. Considering she was playing just 7.3 minutes per game and was a DNP-CD in two other games, it’s not like Carleton was playing a large role.
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Carleton was let go after those six games to make room for fellow rookie Natisha Heideman. The Sun decided that they need more guard help after Layshia Clarendon went down with an ankle injury in early July. It seems that roster balance was a greater reason than Carleton’s individual performance.
There’s a reason the Sun selected Carleton at 21st overall. She was coming off of a decorated career at Iowa State where she averaged an efficient 21.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and swiped 2.2 steals per game as a senior. Her production earned her the Cheryl Miller Award for the best small forward in the country and a place on the Naismith Starting 5.
Carleton also finished her NCAA career with the second-most points scored in Cyclones history, finishing shy of first place.
In addition to Iowa State, Carleton gained some FIBA experience with Team Canada last fall. She played a minor role with the team but there is undoubtedly some value in having that experience early on.
A potential fit
By signing Carleton, the Lynx essentially announced they were not going to sign forward Jillian Alleyne for the rest of the season. Alleyne had been signed to two seven-day contracts and it was time for the team to decide to keep her or not. In her time with the team, Alleyne saw her first WNBA action and showed that she could rebound and make a few defensive plays despite averaging about three minutes per game.
The Carleton signing appears to be in the same vein: find a young player with talent and upside. Carleton showed throughout her Iowa State career that she can do several things on the court. She doesn’t necessarily need to be a scorer but if she can come in grab some boards, help move the ball and make some plays on the defensive end, she will endear herself to Cheryl Reeve.
What’s intriguing about Carleton is how she developed her shot over the course of her college career. After shooting 3’s in the low-to-mid 30s in her first three seasons, she exploded as a 37 percent 3-point shooter as a senior. In doing this, Carleton’s 3-point attempts remained steady around the 200 mark.
Despite having shootings like Lexie Brown, Stephanie Talbot and Damiras Dantas, the Lynx are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league. Minnesota is ninth in 3-point attempts per game and 10th in efficiency. This would be fine in a 30-team league but is concerning in a 12-team league that is evolving into more of a shooter’s league.
That leaves a lot of room for someone like Carleton to come in and knockdown the occasional outside shot. As a whole, better outside shooting could make life easier for Sylvia Fowles down low or leave more room for Odyssey Sims or Danielle Robinson to drive the lane as defenders would have to respect the Lynx’s shooters more. However, the problem may be outside of Carleton’s control as the Lynx don’t seem to run many sets that encourage outside shots.
Nonetheless, finding ways to accentuate Carleton’s shooting is something the Lynx would be wise to do.
The next seven days
While Carleton can potentially fill a need for the Lynx upfront, it won’t be easy. The Lynx play Las Vegas, Chicago and Indiana in the next seven days. If Carleton is signed beyond that, she’ll be with the team for games against Phoenix and Los Angeles. These will be good tests for a young player.
With the Lynx looking to solidify their playoff positioning, it’s unlikely they rest Napheesa Collier or Damiras Dantas down the stretch. But if Carleton can help give those starters a few extra minutes of rest, the team would likely take that.
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