The Minnesota Lynx have done an impressive job over the last few years finding talent through the draft and having those players quickly adjust to life in the WNBA.
Two years ago, Napheesa Collier dropped to the Lynx at No. 6 overall, and the young forward made an impact right away. She took home Rookie of the Year honors and is now one of the faces of the franchise. Last year, Collier’s college teammate Crystal Dangerfield also fell in the draft, and Minnesota grabbed the guard at No. 16 overall. Her first year in the league caught many by surprise, and she went on to make it back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners in the Twin Cities.
In the 2021 WNBA Draft last week, a similar situation unfolded for Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx when Rennia Davis — a forward out of Tennessee who they viewed as the second-best player in the draft — fell to Minnesota at ninth overall.
“We did not have a mock scenario that had Rennia Davis there at No. 9,” Reeve said. “Two of our top players ranked were there at nine, with Rennia being one of them. … We didn’t target Rennia because we didn’t think she’d be there. We thought she was the second-best player in the draft.”
Davis could eventually be viewed as one of the steals of the draft, much like Collier and Dangerfield. But the scenario Davis is entering will be different than the situations Collier and Dangerfield walked into during their rookie campaigns. Because of that, we shouldn’t expect Davis to continue the trend of winning Rookie of the Year in Minnesota.
“I didn’t think we had a Rookie of the Year candidate in either of the last two years, it just fell that way,” Reeve said. “I want (Davis) to have a great season, don’t get me wrong, but I prefer that we don’t continue with that hype. I want this rookie to come in here and focus on helping us off the bench. She’s not going to be Rookie of the Year. That’s got to be her mindset.
“This is a player that has to view this as a process, whether you’re coming to our team or any other team. Coming into the league right now, you have to see it as a process. You’re not going to come from college and do the things you were doing in college. This league is too darn good.”
Davis will likely see time at both small forward and power forward; Reeve pointed out her ability to be interchangeable at either position on the floor. That will not only allow Davis to play different roles throughout any given game, but other players on the roster will also be able to see time at various positions as well.
Davis will have to fight for minutes during her rookie campaign, given the amount of talent and depth on the roster, unlike Collier and Dangerfield, who were relied upon to make more of an immediate impact.
“Right off the bat, the nice thing for Rennia is she gets to be herself. There’s certainly great competition for her in terms of being able to get minutes because our roster is pretty good,” Reeve said. “I think we have ourselves somebody that allows us to move some players around, and I think she will have the chance to see the floor a little bit.”
Davis knows her role in the WNBA will differ from the expectations for her so far in her basketball career. She will likely see more time on the bench than on the floor, which will be an adjustment. But the incoming rookie is looking forward to learning behind some veteran players and under the tutelage of a skilled coaching staff.
“I’ve never been in a position throughout my basketball career where I’ve been able to soak it all in and be around a group of vets who are willing to teach me and (are) willing to let me learn,” Davis said after Thursday’s draft. “I’ve always been thrown into the fire, so this will be a totally different situation for me. I’m just going to sit back and observe and soak it all in, really.”
Davis could end up being viewed as another draft-day steal for Reeve and Co. She could even enjoy a dominant rookie campaign. Just don’t overload her with expectations.
“This league is hard. That’s the first thing I told her. These players have no idea what they are getting into and the challenges they are going to be faced with,” Reeve said. “Just how good these players are they are going to play against and what a big-time challenge it is to transition. … It’s hard. We’re going to try and keep things simple for her. “
Lynx Finalize Training Camp Roster
A few days after the draft, Minnesota announced their finalized roster for training camp, which will likely begin at the end of the month, leading into the regular season in mid-May.
The camp roster includes 21 players, although WNBA teams can only have 15 players at one time taking part in training camp. That means some players who are competing overseas will be late arrivals to camp, while others are included on the league’s Suspended List.
Minnesota announced Napheesa Collier, Linnae Harper, Kayla McBride, and Cecilia Zandalasini would be “late arrivals due to overseas commitments.” The team also placed Maya Moore and Kelsey Griffin on the Suspended List to begin the 2021 season.
The Lynx also waived Lexie Brown, who spent the last two years in Minnesota but recently signed with the Chicago Sky.
Minnesota will begin training camp in the coming weeks before tipping off its 23rd season against the Phoenix Mercury at 8 p.m. May 14 at Target Center.