When the Minnesota Lynx held the sixth overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft in April, one of the names thrown around as potential targets for Minnesota was point guard Crystal Dangerfield out of the University of Connecticut.
Ultimately, the Lynx decided to not go that route after selecting forward South Carolina’s Mikiah Herbert Harrigan in the first round, but that didn’t stop Minnesota’s pursuit of Dangerfield later on in the draft.
The Lynx wound up addressing a big need within their rotation in the second round, snagging Dangerfield with the 16th overall pick and throwing her into the mix as the team’s lone true point guard.
“The round pick wasn’t what I was concerned with, it was the pick of the team and the fit,” Dangerfield said this week regarding her draft position. “I’m in a good situation here with great teammates and an amazing coaching staff. I came in ready to learn as much as I could in training camp, and I think it has really showed what we’ve been working on.”
Through two games of the young 2020 WNBA season, Dangerfield has already managed to make her impact on the floor, making the most of early opportunities leading the offense in Minnesota.
“I wouldn’t say we were surprised that if she got the minutes that she would be successful. Our plan was not for Crystal to see significant minutes (early on in the season),” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “That’s why she got an opportunity, we were looking for something different at the guard spot. She’s made the most of it. She’s ready and she’s confident.”
A DEBUT TO REMEMBER
In her first game in the WNBA during Sunday’s season opener against the Connecticut Sun, Dangerfield had a professional debut to remember for her new team in Minnesota.
The Lynx went with guards Shenise Johnson and Lexie Brown at the two starting guard spots for the first game of the year, but Dangerfield got an opportunity to make her mark right out of the gate in Game 1.
After recording just four minutes off the bench and being held scoreless in the first half of the game against the Sun, Dangerfield didn’t make a huge impact in the opening two quarters. In the second half, that completely switched.
“At halftime (of the season opener), we had a talk with her and let her know that our guards set our tone. If they move fast, we move fast,” Lynx center Sylvia Fowles said. “She came out and did exactly that. She came out and made plays.”
The rookie point guard ended up getting over 16 minutes of playing time in the second half and played a big role in helping the Lynx erase an 11-point deficit to complete a comeback win.
In the final two quarters of that victory, Dangerfield finished with 10 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and recorded a team-best plus/minus of plus-17 in about 20.5 total minutes.
Most notably in the fourth quarter, the floor general helped pace the Lynx to a surprising comeback to get the season started on the right foot.
“We probably don’t win without Crystal’s minutes,” Reeve said after win on Sunday. “We were looking for something different. We were looking for a little bit more ball handling, controlling and I thought Crystal has really capitalized. She has increased in confidence in what she’s doing.”
To follow up that performance, Dangerfield didn’t make as strong of a showing in the second game of the season against the Seattle Storm on Tuesday, a game that resulted in the Lynx falling 90-66 and dropping their first game of the season.
Going into the game, Reeve said Dangerfield had earned some extra time on the floor following her debut Sunday, but the rookie didn’t necessarily wow everyone Tuesday night battling against Storm veteran Sue Bird and some other quality Seattle guards.
In Tuesday’s game, Dangerfield took the floor for a little over 11 minutes for the Lynx, and was held scoreless while shooting 0-for-3 from the field and finishing with one assist.
Although Dangerfield struggled a bit in her second game, especially when comparing it to Sunday’s season opener, she’s still off to a solid start early on in her rookie campaign.
ANOTHER UCONN PLAYER JUMPING IN RIGHT AWAY
The flashes and promise that Dangerfield has displayed early on in her WNBA career creates some excitement for fans who had high hopes for the lone true point guard on Minnesota’s roster. And Dangerfield isn’t the first Connecticut product to sport a Lynx jersey and produce right out of the gate.
In 2011, Maya Moore entered Minnesota out of Connecticut as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft, going on to play in all 34 games for the Lynx while being the only WNBA rookie to do so that year. She went on to be named an All-Star, Rookie of the Year and helped Minnesota win its first WNBA title that season.
More recently in 2019, Napheesa Collier broke onto the WNBA scene after being selected by Minnesota with the No. 6 pick in that year’s draft, notching a dominant debut with 27 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals. She later went on to also be named an All-Star and Rookie of the Year by the end of the season.
It’s hard to imagine that Dangerfield will rise up to those types of expectations in her inaugural WNBA season, but it is just the latest case of a Lynx player out of Connecticut making a smooth transition to the WNBA and impacting the team immediately.
“She’s been showing us she can get us in a groove and get the ball to the right person,” Fowles said. “At the same time, she can’t forget about herself as well.”
For Collier, who played collegiately with Dangerfield for the Huskies before breaking into the WNBA, she’s happy to be teammates once again with the point guard and is excited to see her grow in her rookie year.
“It felt really good to play with Crystal again in a game. I’m so proud of how she did coming out in her first WNBA games,” Collier said. “It’s always nice to be on the floor with someone who you know so well and you know their game.
“I’m proud of what she did, and I hope she continues to do it throughout the season.”
It is still early on in the season with a small sample size of a few games, but Dangerfield has already started to make her impact in Minnesota. And both Dangerfield and the Lynx both hope that continues throughout the rest of the 22-game season in Florida.
“Overall, I just try to listen to what coach says about it being basketball and just go out there and you play basketball,” Dangerfield said. “Just do what you have been doing the last two weeks. She wanted us to come out with no nerves and just play basketball and do what we had been doing.”