The Minnesota Lynx were evasive when asked about whether the signing of Taj McWilliams-Franklin back in February signaled any further trades to balance out their roster, giving something essentially along the lines we're always open, but not looking spiel.
'We'll continue that selective approach," said Roger Griffith at the time, talking about how the team was selectively looking at off-season improvements.
But with a frontcourt of McWilliams-Franklin, Nicky Anosike, Charde Houston, and Rebekkah Brunson on an 11-player roster with the potential to draft for rebounding and size with four picks in the top 15 of Monday's WNBA draft, a trade not only seemed imminent but inevitable. After rumors of being close to a trade for some time, the Lynx finally pulled the trigger today, sending elite defensive center Nicky Anosike to the Washington Mystics for a 2012 first round pick.
Although it's definitely a bargain for the Mystics given how good Anosike has been, one way to look at this deal is switching Anosike and McWilliams-Franklin on their roster - it wouldn't have been prudent to keep both and McWilliams-Franklin adds a dimension they didn't have. This "trade" has been in the works for some time even if there was some discontinuity.
Who they lose: Nicky Anosike
What they lose: Anosike was one of the Lynx's most valuable players, particularly because of her rebounding. Given that rebounding was a significant strength for the Lynx and Anosike was a versatile defender, she will be missed.
Who they get: A 2012 draft pick and Taj McWilliams-Franklin
What they gain: What Taj McWilliams-Frankin adds to the Minnesota Lynx
How this helps:
As talented as the Lynx already are, what this trade gives them is a different dimension with a post player who is capable of stepping out and hitting mid-range jumpshots, which will nicely complement the personnel they already have.
"What we're really looking forward to is her ability to knock down jumpers - 15 to 17 feet, I don't know if there's a player who's more consistent than Taj," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said in a February conference call. "And I know that Whalen will really enjoy running a high pick and roll and having a player who will fill in the high post and will be able to get an assist there and knock down jumpers.
"Taj knows how to be in the right spot, especially playing with Whalen - she knows exactly where to be where Whalen can get her the basketball. So I think the face-up that spreads the defense is different than the post group that we have."
McWilliams-Franklin mentioned her three years of experience with Whalen in Connecticut and why she likes playing with her.
“The fact that Lindsay is such a strong point guard. She is able to handle contact; she can pass seamlessly, without even looking at you. I know her penetration style and where she likes to get you the ball, where and when you like it. A lot of point guards can break down defenses, but when they pass the ball it’s like an afterthought to pass the ball to the bigs when the help comes. For Lindsay it’s her primary thought – who can I get open off this drive, who can I get the ball in position to score. That’s one of the big things I like about her. She’s a perennial point guard in the league. I can’t wait to get back on the court with her.”
In other words, for whatever the Lynx lose in a defensive stalwart like Anosike, they gain yet another offensive weapon that will spread the floor to open up the driving lanes for their talented perimeter players. That they made this combination of off-season move without losing much on the offensive rebounding front is impressive to say the least.
Who they lose: A 2012 first round draft pick
What they lose: Not much - if your aim is to repeat as regular season conference champions, then trading a first round pick doesn't hurt.
Who they get: Nicky Anosike
What they gain:
It's really hard not to like this trade for Washington, a team that was looking for some post help this off-season.
Anosike adds a rebounder to an already very strong rebounding team that lost Nakia Sanford to free agency, but more importantly a very versatile defender to complement Langhorne's development into among the most efficient low post scorers in the league.
How this helps: The Mystics' biggest statistical weakness was their turnover differential and Anosike's very presence will improve their ability to hold their ground and create turnovers - Anosike brings a strong defensive player in the front court that can disrupt opposing offenses and set up perimeter defenders for steals. But when you also think about replacing Sanford with Anosike, that's a clear upgrade as Anosike is able to play starter minutes productively, even if they are similar players in terms of statistical tendencies (interior-oriented utility players). And perhaps a somewhat more minor point given their position, but for a team that had some turnover problems, the fact that Anosike is less turnover prone (15.83% turnover ratio) and a better passer (14.39% assist ratio) than Sanford (23.82%, 8.75% respectively) also can't hurt.
Moving forward: Former Mystics GM Angela Taylor wrote in a blog earlier today that both Anosike and now-Mystics teammate Lindsey Harding were players rumored to be on the move. The question is what they are looking for in return for Harding and how much their trade of Anosike changes draft strategy to help them fill whatever they would lose in a Harding trade.