After a tumultuous start for the new-look Minnesota Lynx, the team has figured things out lately and has emerged as the hottest team in the league entering the month-long Olympic break which runs until Aug. 15. Winners of seven in a row and 12 of their last 15, the Lynx hold a record of 12-7 overall and are in the No. 4 seed in the WNBA standings with 13 games left to play in the second half of the summer before postseason action tips off.
Before the home stretch of the regular season begins and Minnesota tries to pick up where it left off, let’s dive into some of your questions in this midseason edition of the Lynx Mailbag.
Cecilia Zandalasini is a player who has been on the minds of many Lynx fans since she first came over to Minnesota. She joined the Lynx at the end of the 2017 campaign and last played for the Lynx in 2018 before returning overseas. Over the last few years, the Lynx have talked about wanting to reunite with Zandalasini, but the forward didn’t make her return to the WNBA in 2019 while dealing with injuries and also missed last year’s campaign in the Bradenton, Fla bubble.
Now, there have been rumors swirling that Zandalasini would like to come back to the United States to re-join Minnesota once again, but that is easier said than done with the Lynx’s current salary situation. Essentially, the Lynx don’t have any cap space available to add Zandalasini to the roster even if they wanted to bring her back, meaning Minnesota would likely have to make a move to free up some cap room in order to add the young forward. Who exactly would be moved if the Lynx indeed want to find a way to make a reunion happen is unknown, but they can’t sign her for the rest of the season without making room.
Regarding Zandalasini’s contract, she would make a percentage of the full-season minimum base salary of roughly $58,000. The 2021 season, factoring in the pause of the Olympic break, is a total of 95 days this year. So even if Zandalasini is signed right away to start the second half, she would play on the team for a total of 36 days, meaning she would make roughly 38% (36/95 days) of the base salary. So she would be looking at a salary around the ballpark of $22,000 or so.
The Lynx would like to bring back Zandalasini, as has been well documented over the last few years, but it’s just not that easy given the team’s salary situation right now.
After joining the team via free agency, Aerial Powers began her first year with Minnesota carrying some ball-handling duties while initiating the offense at guard alongside Crystal Dangerfield. When healthy, Powers showed flashes of what Cheryl Reeve envisioned this offense and team would look like, but she hasn’t been able to stay healthy for very long.
Now with Layshia Clarendon taking over the lead guard spot and Dangerfield coming off the bench as Minnesota’s two primary ball handlers and point guards, Powers will likely be shifted a bit in the rotation when she returns from her thumb injury and is healthy enough to get back on the floor.
If Reeve wants to place Powers back into the starting lineup, which is more likely than not, she would likely be slotted in the shooting guard or small forward spots. This would move Damiris Dantas back to the bench, making Minnesota’s starting five Clarendon, Powers, Kayla McBride, Napheesa Collier and Sylvia Fowles. We could also see Powers getting a nice mix of time with the second unit as well, depending on how that cohesion works when Powers returns.
It will be worth keeping an eye on the exact role Powers will take over when she returns to the floor and in what way it might change, especially since she’s a player Minnesota isn’t all that familiar with yet due to only playing in a total of four games. Let’s just hope Powers is able to get back to full health in the second half of the year to be able to showcase what she’s capable of.
The Lynx rotation has shifted around a few times throughout the first half of the season, mainly due to the team trying to find what will work to build an identity and try and turn things around after a slow start to the year.
To begin the season, Dangerfield resumed her starting duties at point guard, but ended up being moved to the second unit while Clarendon took over as a starter. Clarendon will still be the starting point guard unless something unexpected pops up, meaning Dangerfield will remain as the floor general coming off the bench.
Now, I wouldn’t look too far into Dangerfield not being the starter, even if it appears as though it is a demotion. Clarendon’s veteran presence has helped the team in multiple ways and has been a great insertion into Minnesota’s rotation. Dangerfield has and will still play a large role for the Lynx, it will just happen while coming off the bench.
Initially, Dangerfield was moved to the bench because Reeve and her staff wanting some sort of offensive spark on the second unit. Dangerfield has done just that and has played well in her new role. She’s often been on the floor late in games regardless, as she would have been as the starting point guard.
Part of Dangerfield’s move to the bench was her up-and-down start to her sophomore season and the fact that Reeve might be more comfortable with Clarendon in the starting spot as floor general. But we will still see a large amount of Dangerfield in the rotation, just not a starter.
Injuries have been an ongoing issue for Minnesota since training camp when the Lynx found out rookie Rennia Davis would be out for an extended period of time while dealing with a stress fracture in her left foot. Since that point, injuries have continued to pop up, most recently with two-thirds of the free-agent trio Minnesota signed this offseason.
Going into the final game of the first half of the season on July 11, three Lynx players joined Davis on the last injury report reported by the team, that being Dangerfield (shoulder), Natalie Achonwa (right MCL sprain), and Powers (right UCL tear).
I think Dangerfield’s injury is the least serious of the three, and she should be ready to go for the start of the second half, barring a setback. Achonwa is planning on playing in the Olympics for Canada after missing time to conclude the first half. Assuming everything goes well in the Olympics, she should be ready for the home stretch of the year as well.
The Powers injury is a bit more serious. This is due to the fact that Powers had to have surgery on her thumb shortly after injuring it. A specific timetable for her return hasn’t been announced by the team, but she should be able to return at some point in the second half of the year even if she does remain out when play resumes on Aug. 15 for the home stretch of the season.
The Lynx hope this month-long break will not only allow players the chance to rest up in general, but also get healthy so the team is finally at full strength to try and make a deep run in the postseason.
Brian Brunner: Will Maya Moore become Hall of Fame eligible for next year’s class?
Maya Moore has been in the national spotlight lately, mainly for her work away from basketball. It’s been noted how impressive her life has been both on the court and off, but the future of her career on the floor is still uncertain. Moore still hasn’t made any official decision as to what her playing career will look like and if she wants to return to the Lynx or the WNBA in general.
With that said, because Moore hasn’t officially retired yet, she is still not eligible for the Hall of Fame. According to The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a player must be fully retired for four full seasons in order to become eligible. The player would then be considered for enshrinement in the fifth year of retirement.
Since Moore hasn’t retired, that clock hasn’t started yet for her to become eligible for potential enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. If or when she does announce an official retirement from the WNBA, Moore would have to wait five years to have her name appear on a ballot to be considered to join an exclusive group of basketball legends.
One of the best to ever lace them up while already having put together an impressive career, Moore will likely find herself in the Hall of Fame at some point. As far as when, well, that’s up to her and when she wants to officially call it a career.
That will do it for this midseason edition of the Lynx mailbag. As entertaining as the first half of the WNBA season has been, the second half of the year will likely be as entertaining or more approaching the playoffs.
As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned here at Zone Coverage for continued coverage throughout the rest of the 2021 season.