Wednesday could prove to be an important date to look back on when projecting and analyzing the future of the Minnesota Lynx.
As the Lynx continue to try and transition themselves from being one of the most dominant dynasties in WNBA history over the last decade to continuing that trend over the course of the upcoming decade, Wednesday night’s WNBA Draft could be a large component in making that happen.
Minnesota and the other 11 teams around the league will kick off the 2019 WNBA Draft at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Nike Headquarters in New York. The first round of the draft will be aired on ESPN2, with the second and third rounds to follow at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
The Lynx currently have a total of five picks in the three-round draft, including holding – as of now – as high as the No. 6 overall pick. Minnesota has three more picks in the second round (Nos. 16, 18 and 20) and one in the third round (No. 30).
“Every draft that we’ve been in, we’ve worked really hard and we’re hopeful of who we’re able to add to a championship group. But this is a group that has changed a little bit, we have some holes to fill and we are picking a little higher,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve told the media in a pre-draft press conference on Tuesday. “Even picks 16, 18 and 20, we’re hopeful that we are going to get some decent players for us.”
Reeve admitted both in a pre-draft conference call last week and once again on Tuesday in her press conference that the team views the draft as having about five players that could make an immediate impact to whichever team they are selected by.
Of course, the Lynx hold the No. 6 pick and barring any moves made by the teams in the top five, would be on the outside of that group looking in.
“(This draft) doesn’t have your generational player, the Maya Moore or Briana Stewart, but we think it has some really good players in it though. With improvement, can they reach the upper level? Not the elites, but can they get to just below the elites? We think that’s possible,” Reeve said. “It’s debatable how many of those (players) there are, we are picking sixth and we think there’s five. We’re going to have to get lucky to maybe be able to get one of those (players). We’re going to get some help in some key positions.
“There are five players that you look at and you go ‘they are going to be in our league a long time.’ Beyond that, you go ‘there’s a chance for this player to be pretty good, perhaps their ceiling isn’t as high or they are close to their ceiling’ and can you squeeze 20 or 30 percent more out of them? There’s just some where you go ‘I just don’t know.’ They have terrific college stats, but you just don’t know.”
Filling Some Holes
The Lynx come into the draft with a few holes that they would still like to fill ahead of the start of the 2019 season.
With both Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore absent for the upcoming season, as well as Rebekkah Brunson’s status to start the year in question while she still recovers from a concussion she suffered late last season, Minnesota is left with three holes that were filled by three WNBA stars just a year ago.
“You certainly want the best player available. Because we have more than one need, we are going to fill a need as well,” Reeve said. “In the post we are certainly going to fill a need, I think we have needs at the guard spot, and really you can point to every position and say you could use a really good player there. We are going to fill a need for sure, in our case we just have more than one need.”
Having a few different holes to fill leaves the door open as far as options go for Reeve and company heading into the draft, which isn’t necessarily a bad spot to be in considering the Lynx have a relatively high pick.
The top of many draft boards consist of a good mix of guards and post players, which will likely allow Minnesota to select the best available player at their respective position with the sixth pick – assuming they stand pat and don’t ultimately make a move in the opening round.
“We’ve always evaluated higher than what we pick because you’re hopeful that perhaps you can move up. You always want to be ready for what may happen ahead of you,” Reeve continued. “I would say that with the number of picks that we have, as well as having a staff that is available to scout, we were all over the place. I don’t think we’ve ever had four people kind of scouring the country if you will. (Lynx and Timberwolves owner) Glen Taylor increased our scouting budget and we spent every penny of it.”
One name that has popped up often among various mock draft boards when talking about the Lynx and who they could potentially be looking at with the No. 6 pick has been Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale.
Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-8 guard, is one of the more intriguing offensively talented players in this year’s draft and could provide Minnesota with a boost right out of the gate.
“Scoring is on my mind for sure. We are going to be balanced, just like how we were when we had Maya (Moore),” Reeve said. “We might have to be creative in ways that we generate offense, we would sure like to space the floor. That is top of mind for us to be able to get at least one player in the draft at least that can help us from three.”
Making a Move on Draft Night?
The Lynx certainly have assets to try and make a move on draft night as well, centered around their sixth overall pick and the pairing of having three more picks in the top half of the second round.
Reeve — who has traditionally been open about trying to be aggressive during the draft in the past — added on Tuesday that the team has already attempted to move around in the draft order, but have had trouble finding a trade partner willing to work with them.
“We’re the Minnesota Lynx, and that means that no one answers our calls. I have found how deep that runs. We had a call with a team and they said ‘why on earth would we help you?’ That’s what we get,” Reeve said. “We would love to move up (in the draft) and you have to have the assets to do that. When you’re us, you have to overpay in order to do that.
“We have made numerous offers to be higher than what we are, none of which have been accepted.”
Whatever ends up transpiring for Reeve and the Lynx during the 2019 WNBA Draft, we could end up looking back at Wednesday’s draft night and view it as an important night as the organization continues its transition period.
But as Reeve said in last week’s pre-draft conference call and once again to the Twin Cities media on Tuesday, Minnesota feels they are more than ready and prepared for Wednesday’s draft.
“We’ve watched a ton (of college prospects). We have a ton of analytics at our disposal and I don’t think you overdo with that. At this point, we have traveled, we’ve watched them practice, we’ve watched them play, we have interviewed them. It’s been a pretty darn thorough process,” she said. “There will be some surprises, we’re not perfect in terms of how we think it’s going to go. At the end of the day, the evaluation, we’ve all done that. You have to work your tail off during the season.
“That process is pretty thorough because the seasons are opposite. We don’t have a staff that goes out there and does that, we actually get to sit there. I think we’ve had some good chances to evaluate.”
Make sure to follow our Mitchell Hansen on Twitter @M_Hansen13 for Lynx draft coverage throughout Wednesday night’s 2019 WNBA Draft and return back to Zone Coverage following the draft for a full recap of who Minnesota added to the team throughout the night.
Get your Free Zone Coverage NFL Draft Guide for the best coverage in the twin cities