After months of uncertainty surrounding when, or even if, the 2020 WNBA season would take place amid the coronavirus pandemic, the wheels are in motion to kick off the year in Bradenton, Fla., in just a few weeks.
In mid-June, the WNBA announced its plan to tip off the 2020 campaign at IMG Academy in Florida, with all 12 teams playing in one central location while conducting a 22-game regular season followed by a traditional playoff format.
On Monday, 11 of the 12 teams — including the Minnesota Lynx — departed for Florida to commence preparations for the upcoming season, which is scheduled to begin in late July.
Although some players around the WNBA have announced they will not be taking part in the upcoming season, whether that be due to COVID-19 concerns or social justice issues throughout the country, Minnesota will have a majority of its team present in Florida once the regular season schedule officially kicks off.
The only exception for the Lynx is Cecilia Zandalasini, who announced earlier this offseason she would not be making the trip to IMG Academy. She joins Maya Moore, who was already planning to sit out her second straight season even before COVID-19 concerns arose and altered the upcoming WNBA schedule.
Regardless of who will or will not be taking the floor for Minnesota in 2020, we are less than a month away from the start of the season, a little more than two months after it was originally scheduled to begin in mid-May. And the Lynx have the hopes of putting together a strong year to be able to return to the playoffs for a 10th straight summer.
Before the season officially begins, let’s dive into some questions readers submitted surrounding the Lynx squad as the team prepares to get things underway in Florida at the end of the month.
JP (@JP00834678): Who is option #3 for this team on the offensive side right now behind Phee and Syl? Who can be that third consistent option in your opinion?
There is no question that Cheryl Reeve and company will once again rely on second-year forward Napheesa Collier and center Sylvia Fowles to lead the charge this season as they managed to do a year ago.
Collier will look to build onto her stellar rookie campaign while continuing to lead the charge for Minnesota, and her production will also help Fowles operate in the paint as she begins her 13th season in the league.
Outside of those two main options, however, the Lynx will obviously need someone else on the roster to step up and help out, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Exactly who that player will be could lie within a few different positions.
The first player that immediately comes to mind is guard Odyssey Sims, although it’s still to be determined exactly when she will join the team in Florida and be ready for the season following the birth of her first child this offseason. Sims was relied on heavily to help lift the Lynx offense in her first season with the organization last year, and if she is able to to return soon she could once again be a nice third option in the rotation.
Recently, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune reported that Sims is expected to join Minnesota at some point during the season but won’t be with the team for at least the start of the regular season.
It will also be interesting to see how a healthy Karima Christmas-Kelly will be incorporated into the mix this season after missing most of the 2019 campaign with some injury issues. Christmas-Kelly, who is one of three Lynx captains for the 2020 season along with Fowles and Collier, will no doubt help this team if she can remain healthy.
Another player to keep an eye on as the No. 3 option on offense is forward Damiris Dantas. As she enters her sixth season in the WNBA, Dantas could once again be a nice option to turn to in the post, especially when Fowles is gaining a bulk of the attention in the paint from opposing defenses.
Depending on how soon Sims can get back on the floor, it will be interesting to see who steps up among the Lynx rotation as an offensive threat behind Collier and Fowles. And it could be very likely that we see that production spread among a few different players until Sims returns.
The Sky Show CHI (@TheSkyShowCHI): In a recent podcast, Coach Reeve had stated that it will be her first time ever coaching a few of the new Lynx players. Which new player do you think will flourish most with Reeve’s coaching? Banham? Herbert-Harrigan? Johnson? Alexander? Dangerfield?
Oftentimes in past years, Reeve and her coaching staff have done a great job of slowly incorporating some new faces into the rotation and ultimately getting the most out of the Lynx players while they are on the floor.
In 2020, there will be a decent amount of new faces and some new challenges for the coaching staff, but Reeve has seemed excited about that opportunity and allowing her new-look coaching staff consisting of Katie Smith, Plenette Pierson and Rebekkah Brunson to help develop those players.
When it comes to a specific player that I am most interested in seeing transition into the Lynx rotation, and into the WNBA in general, is rookie forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who Minnesota drafted sixth overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Immediately following the draft, Reeve talked extensively about Herbert Harrigan’s potential and being able to work with both Pierson and Brunson to develop her into a nice option to back up Dantas and Fowles in the post. Herbert Harrigan’s development and production could be an increased version of what we saw out of Temi Fagbenle in past seasons in Minnesota.
Outside of Herbert Harrigan, I’m really intrigued about adding former Minnesota Gophers standout Rachel Banham into the mix of the Lynx guard depth. Banham should have some early opportunities to carve out her spot in the rotation — especially while Sims is absent — and will be able to provide Reeve and company with some offensive production on that end of the floor.
This Lynx team will once again have some new faces taking the floor this season, much like we saw in 2019, but Reeve and company are committed to getting them acclimated and ready for the shortened year starting in July.
Anna Springfield (@aespringfield): Reeve has mentioned the possibility of doing more “platooning” in the guard spots. Which players are you excited to see play together?
Just a short few seasons ago, Lynx fans were accustomed to seeing Lindsay Whalen annually claiming the point guard role with the likes of Renee Montgomery and others playing more off the ball in the guard unit.
Following the departure of Whalen and Montgomery a few years ago, an overhaul of that position took place and resulted in Danielle Robinson, Sims and Lexie Brown leading that charge during the 2019 campaign.
Now with Robinson joining the Las Vegas Aces in free agency this offseason and Sims’ return to the team delayed, we will once again see a new-look guard group taking floor in 2020 with Brown serving as the lone returning player currently set to start the year.
Reeve has mentioned this offseason that Brown will see an elevated role and likely get more time on the floor, adding she likes the team’s ability to space the floor and shoot the ball.
Among the fresh faces joining Brown and eventually Sims in Minnesota are guards Shenise Johnson, Banham and rookie Crystal Dangerfield.
The Lynx will no doubt be incorporating a platoon-type system within those guard spots, but the combination I am most excited to see play together to start the regular season is Brown and Banham. The offensive boost that those two could provide the Lynx should be fun to watch.
Reeve has mentioned that combination in the backcourt could see some time together. You’d imagine Brown and Dangerfield would also be on the floor at the same time, with the rookie obtaining more of the traditional point guard duties with Brown playing more off the ball as we saw a decent amount last season.
Outside of that combination, I am also especially intrigued with how Dangerfield will be added into the mix alongside Brown, Banham and eventually Sims. Her ability to be a floor general, which Minnesota has lacked since Whalen retired, would allow the trio of Brown, Banham and Sims to operate away from the ball to assist the offense.
Until Sims returns to the floor, the rest of the guard unit will certainly get plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents and abilities early on in the regular season in Florida.
That will do it for this edition of the Lynx mailbag. As always, thanks for submitting your questions and for reading. Make sure to check back here at Zone Coverage for coverage of the 2020 WNBA season when the year finally kicks off in July.