The Minnesota Lynx haven't missed the playoffs since 2010. Maya Moore left the game after the 2018 season and the team came back in 2019 with the same regular season record as the season prior (18-16) and the same postseason result (first round exit). Since 2019, the Lynx have been back in the contender mix with even better seasons.
During the 2021 offseason, Minnesota brought in Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa. The team had a new look and a new feel with all the newcomers, though Powers and Achonwa both missed significant time with injuries. Another new addition was Layshia Clarendon, signed during the season after she was waived by the Liberty. Clarendon not only proved New York wrong by showing that she was not on her way out of the league, but was a big reason for Minnesota’s success.
The Lynx were one of three teams upset by the lower-seeded Sky in the playoffs. It was a disappointing ending to a 22-10 season, but the Lynx should be back in business in 2022 if they can hold on to unrestricted free agent Sylvia Fowles, who was still one of the best players in the league last year at age 35.
By the numbers*
Free agents (type) (2021 average salary)
- Rachel Banham (unrestricted) ($31,702)
- Layshia Clarendon (unrestricted) ($33,914)
- Sylvia Fowles (unrestricted) ($117,894)
- Anna Cruz (reserved)
Total average salary of free agents: $183,510
Total team salary: $947,002
Cap space: $432,198
The Lynx first need to focus on bringing Sylvia Fowles back. They will likely need to pay her to the supermax in order to do that because she is an unrestricted free agent and will receive offers from other teams. But she’ll want to come back to Minnesota where she’s won two championships.
So with that all set, the only two locks I see of the unprotected contracts are Napheesa Collier, obviously a superstar, and Crystal Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year who still has that potential she showed despite averaging 8.5 less points per game last year.
With Fowles, Collier and Dangerfield, plus protected players Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, Natalie Achonwa and Damiris Dantas, the Lynx are left with $330,239 to pay four to five players. If they keep five (12 total), the max they could pay their eighth key rotation player would be $88,355, which isn’t enough to get anyone that good.
So let’s say they keep 11, with three of those being the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft, Rennia Davis (the No. 9 pick in last year’s draft who missed the entire 2021 season with a stress fracture in her foot), and Jessica Shepard, who, despite not contributing much yet in the WNBA, has just been tearing it up overseas. That would leave them with $134,880 to pay either Layshia Clarendon or a free agent. I think they should keep Clarendon and I don't think that’s overpaying someone who averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 assists last year and is still just 30 years old. New York was too quick to call their career over.
Sure you could get someone just as good as Clarendon on paper at $134,880, but they fit in so well with the team, so stick with them.
It would be hard for Minnesota to part ways with Rachel Banham, who is from Minnesota and played at the University of Minnesota. She is also the team’s only true shooting guard besides McBride and it may be risky letting that scoring pop go. But I think the Lynx have to look to the draft for a quality shooting guard. Maybe Christyn Williams (UConn) or Lexie Hull (Stanford), who are both currently projected by ESPN to go in the first round, but later than eighth.
Banham will be more expensive than Davis, Shepard and the No. 8 pick and Clarendon will get some good offers so it may be best to save the money and keep Clarendon.
Bridget Carleton is also a solid player who will be hard to let go of. And she’s slightly more proven in the WNBA than Shepard. Also, keeping multiple unproven players in Shepard, Davis and the No. 8 pick is risky. So maybe the Lynx will have a different opinion and keep different players at the bottom of their roster, but I think Fowles and Clarendon should be kept for the rotation.
* All salary numbers come from HerHoopStats