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Lynx Update: The Minnesota Lynx continue to defy expectations heading into the final stretch

Many expected the Minnesota Lynx to treat the 2023 WNBA season as a rebuilding one, but with only a few games remaining on the regular-season schedule, they’ve instead proven to be a resilient team that has outperformed those expectations, particularly when compared to teams that have received much more fanfare.

Minnesota Lynx v Atlanta Dream
The Minnesota Lynx’ 2023 season has been one of resilience and outperforming expectations.
Photo by Dale Zanine/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx weren’t supposed to be in the position they’re in.

With the Sylvia Fowles era officially ending after the 2022 season—and with it, the last remnants of a Minnesota dynasty that won four WNBA championships in seven seasons—the Lynx were confronted with the decision faced by most teams at the end of their glory days: to rebuild or retool?

On the surface, that decision seemed to be an easy one. The Lynx already had lucked into the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, which they used to select a uniquely athletic wing player in Diamond Miller, and with the amount of franchise-changing talent projected to enter the league via the 2024 and 2025 draft classes—Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, Stanford’s Cameron Brink and UConn’s Paige Bueckers are just a few examples—the Lynx could have chosen to take it easy in 2023 and emphasize long-term player development over short-term win-now tactics while hoping for another big payoff in the draft lottery.

And for a little while, it looked like that’s what would happen. Minnesota began the regular season 0-6 and didn’t win its first game until June. Our staff at Swish Appeal voted the Lynx No. 9 in the site’s preseason power rankings, and even that seemed overly optimistic.

Connecticut Sun v Minnesota Lynx
Lynx forward Napheesa Collier is playing the best basketball of her career, leading Minnesota to a better-than-expected regular-season performance.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

A slow, steady under-the-radar turnaround

The Lynx slowly turned things around, though. A couple of plucky wins here and there preceded a five-game winning streak, and soon Minnesota was back at .500. The Lynx were getting contributions up and down their roster; forward Napheesa Collier, in her first season as the team’s unquestioned go-to player, was performing at an MVP-caliber level, while veteran point guard Lindsay Allen brought a calming yet assertive presence to the starting lineup—something that was clearly missing at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Miller was improving every game, and Minnesota’s frontcourt rotation of Jessica Shepard, Nikolina Milić and rookie Dorka Juhász emerged as a whole greater than the sum of its parts, with few flashy individual performances but results that couldn’t be argued with.

Even so, the Lynx continued to fly under the radar. Those same preseason expectations that pegged Minnesota for a second-straight draft lottery appearance were certainly factors; not only were the Lynx not as star-studded as teams like the Atlanta Dream or Washington Mystics, but they weren’t projected to be as good either. The other shoe was bound to drop soon. Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve would “embrace the tank” and start competing for lottery balls rather than victories...right?


Minnesota Lynx v Seattle Storm
The future is bright for Lynx rookie Diamond Miller, whose boundless energy and competitive drive has been as valuable to her team as her skills on the court.
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Lynx’s season-long rise continues

It’s now August 26, and the Lynx are an even 17-17, good for fifth place in the WNBA standings. They’re ahead of both the Dream and the Mystics and trail the Dallas Wings—another team that, on paper, the Lynx should pale in comparison to—by just one game after sweeping a home-and-home set. The Lynx have wins against upper-echelon teams like the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun under their collective belts, too—wins that could very well define their season when it’s all said and done. Individually, Collier’s career year (21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game) continues, and Miller and Juhász both seem to be locks for the 2023 WNBA All-Rookie Team.

Minnesota will play only six more games in the regular season. There’s no turning back now; the Lynx, while undoubtedly an imperfect basketball team, are in it to win it, just as they have been in every season dating back to 2011. The Lynx may have punted on the opportunity to draft a bonafide superstar next year, but perhaps the foundation they currently have is worth something, too. We’ll find out how far that core has truly come in the last two months when the 2023 playoffs begin.