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Collier and Shepard highlight a new direction for the Minnesota Lynx

With Napheesa Collier and Jessica Shepard, the Minnesota Lynx used the 2019 WNBA Draft to put the team on a new path, with a badly-needed injection of youth.

The Minnesota Lynx select Napheesa Collier (right) with the sixth overall pick at the WNBA Draft at Nike’s New York Headquarters on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in New York City. Presenting her with her jersey (left) is WNBA COO Christin Hedgpeth.
Photo by Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx are at a crossroads. They have made the playoffs every year since 2011. However, in 2018, they failed to win 20 games for the first time since 2010. With the retirement of Lindsay Whalen and the sabbatical by Maya Moore, the team has a lot of talent to replace.

The Lynx attempted to do just that in the 2019 WNBA Draft.

Napheesa Collier was their pick at No. 7. Minnesota owned three consecutive picks in the second round, picking up another forward in Jessica Shepard, as well as two guards: Natisha Heideman and Cierra Dillard.

In the third round, the Lynx added a third guard, Kenisha Bell, out of Minnesota.

The additions of UConn and Notre Dame stars Napheesa Collier and Jessica Shepard point to a specific direction by the Lynx. Collier and Shepard are outstanding post players who will be able to complement — and eventually replace — Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson.

Collier averaged a double-double in her senior year and contributed over one block per game. Shepard does not have the defensive prowess of Collier, but her offensive game is up there with the best entering the draft, averaging 16.6 points in her final collegiate season. It would not be surprising to see Collier starting next to Fowles in May.

Guard talk

Natisha Heideman’s draft rights were traded on draft night to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for 2018 No. 9 pick Lexie Brown. It is difficult to grade the trade at this juncture due to the lack of time Brown has seen at the professional level. However, trading a former first-round pick one year after drafting her shows how much Connecticut valued Heideman.

Guard Cierra Dillard out of Buffalo began her college career at UMass. There, she averaged 10.6 points and 15.5 points in her freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. Her junior season saw a slight uptick to an average of 16.2 points before making a major jump in her senior year, to 25.6 points.

Kenisha Bell set the freshman scoring record at Marquette, with 14.6 points per contest before transferring to Minnesota. Bell was selected as an Honorable Mention AP All-American in her junior and senior seasons. She left Minnesota in the top 10 of nine different statistical categories for the Gophers.

Both of these guards can shoot from deep, with Dillard a 34 percent shooter and Bell a career-high 35 percent shooter this past season.

Predicting the roster for the Lynx is a difficult task, but the front-court talent is obvious. However, only time will tell how Coach Cheryl Reeve manages the backcourt, which has been given a much-needed injection of youth.