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2024 WNBA Free Agency: The Minnesota Lynx should be aiming high

The Minnesota Lynx will be looking to improve a roster that outperformed expectations in 2023. They’ve already got building blocks in place, but there’s a possibility they can sign a big-name free agent, too.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier (left) and Diamond Miller are now the centerpieces of the Minnesota Lynx franchise. Who will the Lynx add to their core in free agency?
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx exceeded expectations in 2023, going 19-21 and earning the No. 6 seed in the WNBA playoffs in what was thought by many to be a rebuilding season. Despite the retirement of all-world center Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota pressed on, overcoming a slow start to the season with a patchwork roster that featured several high-profile rookies alongside just enough veteran talent to keep the Lynx competitive.

Minnesota didn’t go very far in the postseason, though, losing its opening-round matchup against Connecticut, and the Lynx are now faced with several decisions as the 2024 WNBA free agency period begins. With half of their roster from last season set to become free agents and plenty of cap space to work with, the Lynx will need to choose which players to bring back while also finding ways to improve for 2024.


Facts and figures*

Players under contract (contract status; 2024 salary)

  • Napheesa Collier (unprotected; $208,219)
  • Kayla McBride (protected veteran; $208,000)
  • Tiffany Mitchell (protected veteran; $139,050)
  • Jessica Shepard (unprotected; $123,600)
  • Diamond Miller (unprotected; $75,792)
  • Dorka Juhász (unprotected; $66,597)

Free agent (type; 2023 salary)

  • Natalie Achonwa (unrestricted; $155,100)
  • Lindsay Allen (unrestricted; $74,305)
  • Rachel Banham (unrestricted; $74,305)
  • Bridget Carleton (unrestricted; $91,000)
  • Aerial Powers (unrestricted; $201,984)
  • Nikolina Milić (reserved; $90,000)

Total salary of free agents: $686,694

Total team salary: $821,258

Cap space: $641,942

Unsigned draftees (2024 salary)

  • Maïa Hirsch ($69,663)

2024 WNBA Draft picks (2024 salary)

  • Round 1, No. 7 ($73,439)
  • Round 2, No. 19 ($67,249)
  • Round 3, No. 31 ($64,514)

Analysis

Indiana Fever v Minnesota Lynx
Lindsay Allen was a key contributor to the Lynx’ success in 2023, so don’t be surprised if the team brings her back this summer.
Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

First things first: The Lynx, for the most part, already have their core in place. Collier is an All-WNBA performer who excels on both ends of the court and is Minnesota’s best player. She’s also young enough (27 years old) to be considered part of both the franchise’s present and future—a future that will undoubtedly include 2023 All-Rookie honorees Miller and Juhász as additional building blocks. All are under contract, so there’s nothing for Minnesota to worry about there.

The question that head coach Cheryl Reeve and general manager Clare Duwelius must ponder, then, is which of their free agents will best fit alongside that core of players in 2024, and thus which should be prioritized in contract negotiations.

Thanks to some excellent local reporting, we already have a good idea of which players that will be. According to Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune, the Lynx will show the most interest in bringing back Allen and Carleton, while Achonwa and Powers will most likely sign with different teams.

There’s nothing particularly surprising about this. Allen was one of 2023’s under-the-radar success stories; the steady point guard stabilized a Lynx guard rotation devoid of primary ball handlers and recorded a career-high 4.5 assists per game. Carleton, meanwhile, has been a favorite of Reeve’s for years, her outside shooting prowess and knack for making smart plays making her an ideal low-usage complement to players like Collier and Miller.

Powers, on the other hand, saw her role reduced dramatically in 2023, and she had hinted before the season even ended that she wouldn’t be back in Minnesota. Achonwa missed the entirety of the 2023 season after giving birth to her first child and will likely be looking for a change of scenery after playing the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Lynx.

Can the Lynx finally land the big fish?

Phoenix Mercury v Minnesota Lynx
Dorka Juhász was impressive in her rookie season, but that doesn’t mean Minnesota shouldn’t be looking to upgrade its frontcourt for 2024.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

All of that being said, Minnesota will still have plenty of cap room to aim big—again. None of Allen, Carleton, Milić or Banham (should she remain in her home state) will command top dollar, and the Lynx could do what they’ve been trying to accomplish since the crumbling of their 2010s dynasty: sign a superstar player to lift them back to greatness.

In 2021, the Lynx had the cap space and the infrastructure (an aging but still effective Fowles and a recent Rookie of the Year in Collier) to sign one of the several stars on the market, but were left to give big, guaranteed contracts to McBride and Powers—skilled players, to be clear, but not ones who would elevate the Lynx to the WNBA’s upper echelon. 2023, Minnesota was in a similar scenario, but saw teams like New York and Las Vegas load up instead and once again settled for leftovers.

Could 2024 be the year Reeve and her front office convince one of the WNBA’s big names to sign in Minnesota? There are a few out there: Skylar Diggins-Smith, for instance, would give the Lynx a true primary ball handler and paint attacker, something the team has been missing for quite some time. Frontcourt players like Nneka Ogwumike and Jonquel Jones would also be warmly welcomed in Minnesota; even Elena Delle Donne could be an option, though she was recently given the core designation by the Washington Mystics and would thus need to find her way to Minnesota via sign-and-trade.

However the Lynx approach their top free agent targets, one thing is clear: the WNBA is as star-driven as it’s ever been, and as plucky and competent as last year’s Lynx were, they didn’t have enough talent to compete with the league’s elite. It won’t be enough for the Lynx to just run it back in 2024; if they’re truly going to return to greatness this year, they’ll need to make more than a couple of small moves in free agency.


*Thanks to Her Hoop Stats for all salary numbers.