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(Updated) 2023 WNBA Free Agency: Lynx need to create cap space if they want Jefferson

The Minnesota Lynx have a strong core with Napheesa Collier, Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers. They also have the chance to get an impact player at No. 2 in the WNBA Draft. But can they hold on to point guard Moriah Jefferson?

Minnesota Lynx WNBA All Access Practice
Moriah Jefferson (left) and Sylvia Fowles
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Since we last checked in on the Minnesota Lynx, they have signed free agent Tiffany Mitchell away from the Indiana Fever at $135,000, re-signed Bridget Carleton at $91,000 and re-signed Nikolina Milić at $90,000. They have also signed Damiris Dantas, Lindsay Allen, Stephanie Watts, Maya Dodson and Kiana Williams to training camp contracts.

By the numbers*

Free agents (type) (2022 average salary)

  • Rachel Banham (unrestricted) ($72,141)
  • Moriah Jefferson (unrestricted) ($67,141)
  • Anna Cruz (reserved)
  • Cecilia Zandalasini (suspended-contract expired)

Total team salary: $1,197,222

Cap space: $223,278


Indiana Fever v Washington Mystics
Tiffany Mitchell
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Mitchell has averaged double figures three times in her career, with a high of 12.7 points per game coming in the 2020 wubble. Her career scoring average is 9.6; she spent the first seven seasons of her career with the Fever. She is 28 years old.

Mitchell could be a good player who provides some scoring, but Indiana didn’t allow her to have a great season last year, only playing her 16.3 minutes per game. We’ll see if she gets more time in Minnesota and can readjust to being more of a contributor. Or, maybe she will play a smaller role with the Lynx than she did in 2020 and 2021 with the Fever.

Carleton is a good young player and it’s nice to see her re-sign with the Lynx. She shoots 37.9 percent from three and I think she can have a pretty high impact as a 3 in the WNBA. The low level of pay she received indicates that the Lynx aren’t sold on that yet though, which is understandable for a player that is averaging just 4.7 points per game for her career.

Milić got paid around the same amount as Carleton. She showed flashes of being a pretty high-impact player in her rookie season of 2022. She averaged six points in just 11.7 minutes.

As I speculated might be the case in the original Lynx free agency piece, the Lynx didn’t place a high value on Dantas. And apparently nobody else was interested either, despite Dantas scoring 12.9 points per game as recently as 2020, because the unrestricted free agent settled for a training camp contract.

Here’s what an 11-player Lynx roster could look like, roughly in order of importance with projected salaries:

  • Napheesa Collier, starting PF ($202,154)
  • Kayla McBride, starting SG ($201,984)
  • Aerial Powers, starting SF ($201,984)
  • No. 2 pick Haley Jones, starting point-forward ($74,305)
  • No. 12 pick (Stephanie Soares, Taiyanna Jackson or Jessika Carter), starting C ($68,295)
  • Jessica Shepard, second PF ($120,000)
  • Tiffany Mitchell, second shooting guard ($135,000)
  • Natalie Achonwa, third power forward ($155,100)
  • Rachel Banham, third shooting guard ($80,678)
  • Bridget Carleton, third small forward ($91,000)
  • Nikolina Milić, fourth power forward ($90,000)

In the original piece, I suggested the Lynx trade Natalie Achonwa for Queen Egbo, Julie Allemand or Aari McDonald. I would still advise them to move Achonwa, but they are sticking with her for now. That’s likely going to cause them to lose out on Moriah Jefferson. In fact, it would leave them with only $148,973 to pay their last two players, assuming they keep the No. 2 pick. Let’s say they keep the No. 12 pick at $68,295 for their 10th spot. They can’t get a top-level player with the remaining $80,678. I gave them Banham with that money to be optimistic, but Banham is worth more than that.

ESPN has Minnesota taking Haley Jones at No. 2 over Diamond Miller so I went with that. Jones can run an offense, so I put her as the starting point-forward. Another option would be, with four power forwards, make one of them (Jessica Shepard) your starting center and then use the No. 12 pick to get a point guard; maybe Jacy Sheldon.

* All salary numbers come from Her Hoop Stats