The Minnesota Lynx weren’t purported to be within the place they’re in.
With the Sylvia Fowles period formally ending after the 2022 season—and with it, the final remnants of a Minnesota dynasty that gained 4 WNBA championships in seven seasons—the Lynx had been confronted with the choice confronted by most groups on the finish of their glory days: to rebuild or retool?
On the floor, that call appeared to be a straightforward one. The Lynx already had lucked into the No. 2 total decide within the 2023 WNBA Draft, which they used to pick a uniquely athletic wing participant in Diamond Miller, and with the quantity of franchise-changing expertise projected to enter the league through the 2024 and 2025 draft courses—Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, Stanford’s Cameron Brink and UConn’s Paige Bueckers are only a few examples—the Lynx may have chosen to take it simple in 2023 and emphasize long-term participant growth over short-term win-now techniques whereas hoping for an additional large payoff within the draft lottery.
And for a short while, it seemed like that’s what would occur. Minnesota started the common season 0-6 and didn’t win its first sport till June. Our employees at Swish Attraction voted the Lynx No. 9 within the website’s preseason energy rankings, and even that appeared overly optimistic.
A sluggish, regular under-the-radar turnaround
The Lynx slowly turned issues round, although. A few plucky wins right here and there preceded a five-game successful streak, and shortly Minnesota was again at .500. The Lynx had been getting contributions up and down their roster; ahead Napheesa Collier, in her first season because the crew’s unquestioned go-to participant, was acting at an MVP-caliber stage, whereas veteran level guard Lindsay Allen introduced a chilled but assertive presence to the beginning lineup—one thing that was clearly lacking initially of the season. In the meantime, Miller was enhancing each sport, and Minnesota’s frontcourt rotation of Jessica Shepard, Nikolina Milić and rookie Dorka Juhász emerged as a complete higher than the sum of its components, with few flashy particular person performances however outcomes that couldn’t be argued with.
Even so, the Lynx continued to fly beneath the radar. Those self same preseason expectations that pegged Minnesota for a second-straight draft lottery look had been actually components; not solely had been the Lynx not as star-studded as groups just like the Atlanta Dream or Washington Mystics, however they weren’t projected to be nearly as good both. The opposite shoe was certain to drop quickly. Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve would “embrace the tank” and begin competing for lottery balls somewhat than victories…proper?
The Lynx’s season-long rise continues
It’s now August 26, and the Lynx are a fair 17-17, good for fifth place within the WNBA standings. They’re forward of each the Dream and the Mystics and path the Dallas Wings—one other crew that, on paper, the Lynx ought to pale compared to—by only one sport after sweeping a home-and-home set. The Lynx have wins in opposition to upper-echelon groups just like the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun beneath their collective belts, too—wins that would very properly outline their season when it’s all mentioned and accomplished. Individually, Collier’s profession 12 months (21.6 factors, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per sport) continues, and Miller and Juhász each appear to be locks for the 2023 WNBA All-Rookie Workforce.
Minnesota will play solely six extra video games within the common season. There’s no turning again now; the Lynx, whereas undoubtedly an imperfect basketball crew, are in it to win it, simply as they’ve been in each season courting again to 2011. The Lynx might have punted on the chance to draft a bonafide famous person subsequent 12 months, however maybe the inspiration they at the moment have is value one thing, too. We’ll learn how far that core has really come within the final two months when the 2023 playoffs start.