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WNBA Offseason: Minnesota Lynx tasked with replacing Fowles, holding on to Jefferson

The Minnesota Lynx need a center because Sylvia Fowles has retired. In addition, the point guard position has been an area of focus for them since Lindsay Whalen retired and they have found a good replacement in Moriah Jefferson that they need to hold on to.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier is the future of the Minnesota Lynx.
Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

With the WNBA Finals and World Cup over, it’s time to take a look back at what each WNBA team did this season and forward at what their offseason goals should be. Going from worst to best, here is the third installation in our series: the Minnesota Lynx.

Lynx statistical rankings (per game)

  • 7th net rating (-1.9)
  • 6th scoring (82.4)
  • 6th offensive rating (104.4)
  • 8th scoring defense (83.9)
  • T8th defensive rating (106.3)
  • 4th field goal percentage (45)
  • 8th field goal percentage defense (43.9)
  • 9th 3-pointers made (6.8)
  • 6th 3-point percentage (34.8)
  • 11th 3-pointers allowed (8.9)
  • 9th 3-point percentage defense (35)
  • 4th free throw attempts (19.4)
  • 7th personal fouls drawn (17.9)
  • 8th free throw percentage (78.4)
  • 8th personal fouls (16.9)
  • 6th opponents free throw attempts (17.6)
  • 4th offensive rebounds (8.9)
  • 5th offensive rebounds allowed (7.9)
  • 2nd defensive rebounds (28)
  • T2nd defensive rebounds allowed (24.6)
  • 2nd total rebounds (36.9)
  • 2th total rebounds allowed (32.5)
  • 9th TOVs (14.6)
  • 10th opponents steals (8.2)
  • 12th TOVs forced (11.5)
  • T11th steals (6.1)
  • 11th blocks (2.8)
  • 8th opponents blocks (3.9)
  • 6th assists (20.6)
  • 11th assists allowed (21.5)

Analysis of statistical rankings/offseason goals

The Lynx were tied for ninth in the standings, but were seventh in net rating and pretty high in a bunch of other categories. The explanation for that is that they lost a lot of close games.

That they were second in both rebounds and rebounds allowed is a testament to Sylvia Fowles leading the league in rebounding in her final season at age 36. One of their goals should be to not let their rebounding reputation slip now that Fowles has retired.

The Lynx also did a good job of being physical and getting to the line (fourth in free throw attempts) and they were fourth in field goal percentage. So the shot-making was there; they just need to focus on late-game situations and get better at closing things out.

Another reason the Lynx lost a lot despite their good field goal percentage is that they were hitting twos while their opponents were hitting threes. They were ninth in the league in 3-pointers made and 11th in 3-pointers allowed.

Minnesota’s biggest weakness this past season was turnover margin: ninth in turnovers committed and 12th in turnovers forced. The Lynx need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and being more aggressive on defense.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx
The next Lynx center will have some big shoes to fill.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Under contract for 2023*

  • Kayla McBride (protected) (SG)
  • Aerial Powers (protected) (SF)
  • Natalie Achonwa (protected) (SF/PF)
  • Napheesa Collier (SF/PF)
  • Jessica Shepard (PF)

Unrestricted free agents*

  • Damiris Dantas (SF/PF)
  • Rachel Banham (SG)
  • Moriah Jefferson (PG)

Restricted free agents*

  • Bridget Carleton (SF)

Draft picks

No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 from lottery; 12; 16; 24; 28

Analysis of players/offseason goals

The obvious thing that Minnesota is tasked with is replacing one of the two greatest centers of all-time in Fowles. The Lynx’s chances of getting the opportunity to draft center Aliyah Boston at No. 1 overall are slim. Their 22-10 record in 2021 gives them the worst odds of all the teams in the lottery. But the goal should still be to get a center in the draft or free agency.

Unrestricted free agent Damiris Dantas dealt with a foot injury for part of this past season and then missed the end of it due to personal reasons. She averaged career highs of 26.6 minutes and 12.9 points in the wubble, but averaged just 17. 5 minutes and 5.1 points in 2022. Given that her role on the team has diminished, she might not be that high on the priority list.

Rachel Banham’s career, on the other hand, seems to be headed in an upward direction. She has always been a great 3-point shooter and a hometown favorite, but she added a little something extra this past season, posting career highs in minutes (17.5), points (7.9) and threes per game (1.6). Expect the Lynx to place a high value on her because of the positive energy she brings.

Moriah Jefferson came in and saved the Lynx at the point guard position in 2022. Not counting one game played for the Dallas Wings in which she saw four minutes of action, she averaged 10.8 points and 4.9 assists in her best season since her rookie year of 2016 in San Antonio. She led the league in 3-point shooting among players with more than 32 attempts with a 47.4-percent clip. She even registered the first triple-double in the Lynx’s storied history. Cheryl Reeve may have been hard on her at times, but she’s high on the priority list. Minnesota could look for a back-up point guard in free agency or the draft or let Banham handle some of those duties.

That leaves restricted free agent Bridget Carleton. She has been a solid player in the league and is still only 25. She shot 45.7 percent from three in the wubble and showed her high ceiling as a World Cup All-Star just recently. However, her WNBA numbers don't blow you away. If the Lynx make her a high priority it will be because they like the way she impacts their culture.

Minnesota Lynx v Phoenix Mercury
Moriah Jefferson is the latest point guard to revive her career in Minnesota. Layshia Clarendon did the same in 2021.
Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

* Per Her Hoop Stats