Lynx

Lynx Offseason Mailbag: Addressing Depth and Needs, Expectations and Maya Moore

(image credit: courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter)

It’s the return of the Minnesota Lynx Mailbag, offseason edition!

As we sit on the cusp of the WNBA offseason getting busier and movement starting to take place around the league with free agency about to begin, it’s time once again to answer some reader-submitted questions surrounding the Lynx and the WNBA with a mailbag.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on Minnesota and the team’s current state entering free agency. From taking a look at the roster, to the list of free agents and needs on the Lynx going into 2021, that piece should get you ready with everything Minnesota-related as free agency negotiations take place from Jan. 15-31 followed by the signing period kicking off Feb. 1.

In this offseason mailbag, I touch on some of your questions including how the Lynx will address depth at various positions in the free agency or the draft, give an update on the status of Maya Moore, touch on the coaching staff and expectations for second-year players and much more.

Without further ado, let’s dive into your questions.

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Jeff Bogaard: Do you see the Lynx trying to add a backup center via free agency or the draft? Shooting guard feels like the bigger need this year but center is a spot they need now and especially down the road.

When it comes to the Lynx roster’s needs, there are a few spots that could see some additions as we approach the upcoming 2021 campaign. A few areas where they could look to add include the post depth and adding another guard/forward hybrid-type player who could be more of a scoring threat on the floor’s offensive end.

When it comes to the center position, depth was an issue in 2020, especially while Sylvia Fowles was out with injury issues. It will be interesting to see how the development of second-year forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan continues and if she could ultimately be that depth piece coming off the bench. If her progression takes a bit longer, the Lynx could certainly address that need in free agency with a few notable names on the free agent market — and they have more than enough cap space to try and add a player via free agency.

As far as the guard spot, I think this is probably higher on Minnesota’s list of things to address this offseason. They could use another scoring threat in that area of the rotation and may look at the free agent market to bring in a player who could either step into the starting lineup and move someone like Odyssey Sims to the second unit or a role player to come off the bench behind Sims, Dangerfield and others.

In my recent piece looking at the upcoming free agency period, I listed a few interesting names that will be available this offseason. Although there are more names that could make for interesting additions, I listed guard/forward Chelsea Gray, forward/center Natasha Howard and guard/forward Aerial Powers as some players who could fill right in and shore up those needs.

The good news for the Lynx is they have plenty of flexibility to look at either free agency or the trade market to try and add to the team in 2021. Cheryl Reeve and Co. have been known to be aggressive while looking at everything to improve the talent on the roster. I would expect the same to take place once again this offseason.

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Jim Hudspeth: Has Maya Moore retired for good, or will she come back for just a year or so? 

There is no question that Moore has been one of the most accomplished basketball players the game has ever seen — from high school to her time at Connecticut and most recently with the Lynx in the WNBA.

But what Moore has accomplished off the court, especially over the last few years, may be even more impressive.

Before the 2019 season, Moore stepped away from basketball to focus on social and criminal justice issues. Since then, she has managed to help her longtime friend and now husband Jonathan Irons get freed from prison after more than 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit. She was also recently named the 2020 Sports Illustrated Inspiration of the Year, among other things.

Moore hasn’t returned to the hardwood since stepping away from the game, and there are still questions as to if she would return in 2021 — or, really, if she ever will.

When Irons was freed from prison, Moore said she was going to take a break from everything and see where her life takes her from there. Although that is vague and doesn’t provide a timeline for her potential return, she said she hasn’t officially retired yet.

With the 2021 season upcoming, we haven’t heard any update if Moore is considering returning to Minnesota this summer. If I had to guess, if she doesn’t come back in 2021, she will ultimately step away from the game for good. It would be her third consecutive season not playing, and she will turn 32 years old in June.

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Kim Henrickson: Same coaching staff with former WNBA greats? Expectations for last year’s picks, especially Herbert Harrigan?

In 2020, the Lynx featured an all-female coaching staff. Under Reeve, former WNBA and Lynx greats Rebekkah Brunson, Plenette Pierson and Katie Smith made up the assistant coaching staff on the bench. That quartet should return once again.

On multiple occasions in the bubble last season, Reeve praised the work being done by her coaching staff and helping develop players during what has been viewed as a transition period for the franchise. That development will need to continue in 2021. The Lynx still have a relatively young core.

When it comes to development, that also feeds into Kim’s next question about expectations of last year’s draft picks, notably Herbert Harrigan and Crystal Dangerfield. Those two players will continue to play roles in the rotation this season and the coaching staff will work with them in what will be their sophomore campaigns in the WNBA.

Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, will have a large role yet again this summer — likely as the starting point guard as we saw last season. Herbert Harrigan saw increased playing time as the season progressed in 2020, and it will be interesting to see how her offseason work translates into her peformance during the year. If she continues to make strides, she would make for a really nice depth piece behind starters Sylvia Fowles and Damiris Dantas in the post.

Dangerfield has seemed to make the transition from college to the WNBA without missing a step, while Herbert Harrigan continues to make that transition and still has some work to do to carve out a role for herself. But the expectations for those two should be high once again this season.

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Lyn Crosby: How about a quick summary of team player status. Who is signed/will be back for sure; who won’t be back this year and reason; status of the other players.

Earlier this week, I took a look at the Lynx roster heading into the start of free agency later this month, touching on who is currently under contract, who is a free agent that was on the 2020 roster, some team needs, and a few interesting names on the free agent market, among other things.

Without entirely diving into that piece or replicating it too much, Minnesota has 10 active players on its roster as of the publishing of this mailbag. Those players include Damiris Dantas, Odyssey Sims, Sylvia Fowles, Rachel Banham, Lexie Brown, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Crystal Dangerfield, Napheesa Collier, Jessica Shepard and Bridget Carleton. When it comes to the list of Lynx free agents, that features Shenise Johnson (unrestricted free agent), Kayla Alexander (unrestricted free agent), Erica McCall (restricted free agent), Anna Cruz (reserved player), Temi Fagbenle (reserved player), Maya Moore (suspended/contract expired player) and Cecilia Zandalasini (suspended/contract expired player).

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That will do it for this offseason edition of the Lynx mailbag. As always, thanks for submitting your questions and for reading. As WNBA free agency moves along and the offseason continues leading up to the 2021 season, be sure to check back here for coverage and analysis on all the latest news.

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