How the Minnesota Lynx Look Entering WNBA Free Agency

(image credit: screenshot from Minnesota Lynx on YouTube)

Back in October, the Seattle Storm swept the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals to put a bow on the 2020 bubble season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

That outcome in the WNBA Finals notched the fourth league championship for the Storm and capped off a truly unprecedented season for all 12 teams, including the Minnesota Lynx, while the pandemic, social justice reform and more took place throughout the country.

RELATED STORY: The Lynx Exceeded Expectations in 2020 and are Close to Contending Once Again

The Storm beat the Lynx 3-0 prior to sweeping the championship series against Las Vegas in the semifinal round of the postseason, ending Minnesota’s time in the bubble after somewhat of a surprising season where they earned the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

With questions still remaining as to what the 2021 WNBA season will look like this summer, the Lynx and the rest of the league are beginning the process of preparing for a campaign that might end up being played back in each team’s home arena, assuming it can be done safely.

With the offseason in full swing, the topic of free agency has come to the forefront yet again as the calendar year flips to 2021. From Jan. 1 to this Thursday, teams are able to start making qualifying offers to players. On Friday, negotiations between teams and free agents can begin to take place and we will start to see how 2021 rosters will take shape shortly thereafter.

The first noteworthy signing that took place for Minnesota happened last weekend when they inked Bridget Carleton to a training camp contract following her breakout season last year. The Lynx extended a qualifying offer to Carleton last Friday, and the 23-year-old signed the next day. The organization also extended qualifying offers to both Anna Cruz and Temi Fagbenle on Jan. 3, according to the WNBA transactions.

There are still plenty of questions surrounding Minnesota and just how the team will look going into 2021, although a majority of the roster is already set to return from the 2020 season. The Lynx have plenty of salary cap space available to make some moves, and there will once again be the question of if Maya Moore decides to return to the WNBA this year or not.

As free agency begins, let’s take a look at who’s currently on Minnesota’s roster and their potential free agents, while looking into some needs the Lynx have heading into a new season and some interesting free agent signings.

Who’s on the Roster and Who’s a Free Agent

The Lynx return a lot of their team from last year.

With a good mix of youth and veteran players, we will likely see the starting five of Crystal Dangerfield, Odyssey Sims, Napheesa Collier, Damiris Dantas and Sylvia Fowles this summer when play resumes.

With the likes of Rachel Banham, Lexie Brown, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Bridget Carleton already under contract in 2021, Minnesota is also set to get Jessica Shepard back into the mix this year after she sat out most of the 2020 campaign while recovering from a torn ACL she suffered in 2019 as a rookie.

According to Her Hoops Stats, the Lynx have a total of 10 players on the current roster, bringing their overall salary to $945,565. That number includes Karima Christmas-Kelly‘s cap hit, even though she was waived in 2020 after suffering a season-ending injury, which leaves two open roster spots available on the team with $393,435 in available cap space. Each WNBA team is capped at 12 players on a regular season roster with an overall salary cap of $1,339,000.

As seen in the table below, the current list of players under contract includes contracts that run either through the 2021 or 2022 seasons, which means the next year or two will be important for Minnesota and allows it some flexibility with potentially shifting the personnel on the team.

Lynx Current 2021 Roster
Player Contract Length 2021 Contract
Damiris Dantas Through 2022 $126,000
Odyssey Sims Through 2021 $119,000
Sylvia Fowles Through 2021 $117,894
Karima Christmas-Kelly Waived in 2020 $106,000
Rachel Banham Through 2021 $103,000
Lexie Brown Through 2021 $70,040
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan Through 2022
(Team option in 2023)
$65,555
Crystal Dangerfield Through 2022
(Team option in 2023)
$60,946
Napheesa Collier Through 2022 $58,710
Jessica Shepard Through 2022 $58,710
Bridget Carleton Through 2021 $58,710
Total Team Salary $945,565
2021 Salary Cap: $1,339,000
($393,435 under cap)

How the free agency market shakes out early on in the signing process will weigh heavily on what the Lynx do with the players not yet signed for 2021.

Among the list of Minnesota free agents (see chart below), you would imagine if Cecilia Zandalasini ends up returning this year, she would automatically get a spot on the roster. There is also the the ongoing question of whether or not Moore decides to come back to the team this summer or take a third straight year off. If Moore doesn’t return, Shenise Johnson, Kayla Alexander and Erica McCall could be some players worth keeping an eye on for a potential return — all three got a decent amount of playing time in 2020.

List of Lynx Free Agents
Player Free Agency Designation WNBA Salary in 2020
Shenise Johnson Unrestricted $106,000
Kayla Alexander Unrestricted $68,000
Erica McCall Restricted $68,000
Anna Cruz Reserved Played Overseas
Temi Fagbenle Reserved Played Overseas
Maya Moore Suspended/Expired Did Not Participate
Cecilia Zandalasini Suspended/Expired Played Overseas

WNBA players who are free agents or do not currently hold a contract with any team hold the free agency designation of unrestricted free agent, restricted free agent, reserved player or suspended/contract expired.

Unrestricted free agents are players who have completed a minimum of five years of service in the WNBA and are free to negotiate and sign with any team. Restricted free agents are players with four years of service in the WNBA and can negotiate with any team in the league, but their previous team can match any contract signed by that player.

Reserved players are those who hold three or less years of service in the WNBA and are allowed to negotiate with the previous team only. Finally, suspended/contract expired players are individuals who have had their contracts expire while they are suspended — for example, players who did not play in 2020 season or players such as Moore sitting the year out without officially retiring — resulting in them only being allowed to negotiate with their previous team, similar to a reserved player.

Team Needs

Guard was a major question mark last season, in regard to both the starting lineup and on the bench. The Lynx appear to have found a gem with Dangerfield. She won the 2020 Rookie of the Year award and should lead the team as the starting point guard moving forward.

This offseason, one of the areas of focus will likely be at the forward and center positions, adding depth to a team led by Dantas and Fowles in the paint. Post depth was a glaring weakness on the team, especially when Fowles was out for a majority of the season last year, and probably will be something Minnesota addresses either in the draft or free agency.

Outside of the need post depth, the Lynx could scan the free agency market for another guard that could play alongside Dangerfield, Sims, Brown, Banham and Co. Minnesota has a decent amount of options at small forward already on the roster with Collier, Shepard and Carleton, but adding another piece to that unit who could be somewhat of a multi-position or hybrid player would be a valuable addition.

The Lynx don’t have as many questions or holes at key positions as they did at this point last year, but there are still some needs the team will address during free agency with plenty of cap space available to make some moves.

Free Agent Market

In 2020 we saw a decent amount of bigger names shift teams and somewhat tilt the landscape of the WNBA leading into the new year. Most notably, players such as Skylar Diggins-Smith, DeWanna Bonner, Kristi Toliver, Angel McCoughtry and Seimone Augustus found new homes in the offseason, which is the type of big-name movement you don’t commonly see take place all at once in the WNBA.

This offseason, with free agency about to kick off, there are some big names available on the free agent market once again.

There are a total of 43 unrestricted free agents and 11 restricted free agents looking for new contracts prior to 202, according to Her Hoop Stats. Some notable names on the unrestricted list are Candace Parker, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike, Liz Cambage, Alyssa Thomas, Natasha Howard, Chelsea Gray, Aerial Powers, Jasmine Thomas, Alysha Clark and Emma Meesseman. Additionally, Brittney Sykes, Allisha Gray and Brionna Jones are some interesting names available on the restricted list.

It’s hard to imagine players like Parker, Bird, Taurasi, Ogwumike and Meesseman leaving their teams this offseason, but crazier things have happened in the past — the most recent case being a player like Augustus leaving the Lynx to join the Los Angeles Sparks last year — so you can’t rule it out entirely.

When it comes to some players Minnesota might try and take a look at, you think it would look at the guard or forward position. Some interesting players on the unrestricted free agency list include Gray, Powers and Howard, to name just a few.

Gray, a 28-year-old guard/forward who has spent most of her career in Los Angeles, is a player that you could slide right into the starting shooting guard spot and potentially move Sims to the second unit. She would also provide Minnesota with some additional toughness and grit, something Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve has looked for in players in the past.

Howard, a 29-year-old forward/center who has played the last three years in Seattle after two-year stints in both Indiana and Minnesota to begin her career, could make a cool reunion story and would boost the team on the defensive side of the ball in the starting lineup next to Fowles. An addition of Howard would push Dantas to the bench and would result in a talented post group in Minnesota.

Powers, a 26-year-old guard/forward who has spent the last two-plus seasons in Washington, could give the Lynx a high-energy option who can also drive to the hoop and shoot from three at any point in the game. Her role would be similar to what Gray would bring to a team.

Those are just three names that could be worth monitoring and keeping an eye on this offseason, with plenty of other options also available for the Lynx to look at with a solid amount of cap space to try and persuade them to come to Minnesota.

Regardless of what happens when free agency officially kicks off, the Lynx have plenty of options and flexibility at their disposal, which is always a great thing to have in any given offseason. Beginning shortly, we are about to find out just how Minnesota and the rest of the WNBA will look with the always-exciting free agency period nearly underway.

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