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Season Review: A new era begins for the Minnesota Lynx with plenty of room for growth

Napheesa Collier was the heart and soul of the Minnesota Lynx in 2023, but she needed more from her supporting cast to take the team further than the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

Connecticut Sun v Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier is the foundation of the next era of Minnesota Lynx basketball.
Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

With Sylvia Fowles retired, the Minnesota Lynx have transitioned to the Napheesa Collier Era. Collier was sensational, making the All-Star game for the third time in her career. But her success didn't translate to a winning season, as the Lynx ended the year 19-21. That was still good enough for a playoff berth as the No. 6 seed and a matchup against the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun. Minnesota did win a playoff game to force a winner-take-all Game 3, but, unfortunately, they were blown out by the experienced Connecticut team.

Year one of the Collier Era featured signs of hope before ultimately ending in a whimper. Here's more on everything that went right and wrong, as well as what's next, for the Lynx:

What went right?

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx
Diamond Miller and Napheesa Collier.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Everything started and ended with Collier. She led the team in points (23.7), rebounds (8.0) and blocks (1.3), making her the epicenter of the Lynx’s system. The result was Collier keeping Minnesota in games they surely wouldn’t have been in without her, as she carried the team on her shoulders. With Collier on the roster, Minnesota always had a puncher’s chance of beating any given team. Her 26-point and 13-rebound performance catapulted the Lynx to a victory in Game 2 of the WNBA playoffs. Even in the blowout loss in Game 3, Collier fought valiantly, scoring 31 points in her 37 minutes of play. Minnesota still has much to improve upon to become a contending team, but having Collier as the nucleus is an excellent start.

Speaking of starts, Diamond Miller kicked off her WNBA career with a tremendous rookie campaign. The 6-foot-3 wing averaged 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists, earning her WNBA All-Rookie honors. With Collier dominating in the paint and Miller demonstrating flashes of brilliance from the perimeter, you can see how a Miller and Collier combo could prove deadly if surrounded by the appropriate pieces.

What went wrong?

Minnesota Lynx v Indiana Fever
Cheryl Reeve and Kayla McBride.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Defensively, the Lynx left a lot to be desired. They had a defensive rating of 105.7, which was the third-worst in the WNBA. While Minnesota did have impressive wins against the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun without Collier, they generally struggled when she didn't have a monster game. Overall, the Lynx just didn't have enough firepower to compete with the top four teams in the league, which was evident in the playoffs with a 30-point loss in Game 1 and a 15-point defeat in Game 3.

Minnesota could never play consistently enough to be on the right side of .500, so the season was often one step forward and two steps back. The Lynx didn't get enough from their bigs to dominate the glass or dictate the pace of games. Ultimately, when you added up the good and the bad that was the Lynx 2023 season, you ended up with a mediocre team ending the season smack dab in the middle of the standings, finishing sixth out of 12.

What's next?

The good news for Minnesota is they'll have plenty of roster spots and cap space to work with this offseason. According to Her Hoop Stats, the Lynx will have $641,942 and five or six roster spots available. With team's top two producers—Collier and Kayla McBride—locked up, in addition to the rookie phenom Miller, Minnesota could contend for a title sooner than later if they make the right moves.

In the draft, they'll have a late first-round pick, as well as a second- and third-round selection. There will be an opportunity to improve by picking up a rookie in what appears to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.

Despite the lackluster record and a dependence on Herculean efforts from Collier, the Lynx are not in a bad place. Although they ended the season in the middle, they are closer to the top than the bottom. With the right moves, they could make a deep playoff run in 2024.