Since she last took the floor in the WNBA in the 2018 season, the Minnesota Lynx have wanted to reunite with Cecilia Zandalasini and bring the now-25-year-old forward back stateside.
Over the last few years, Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve has talked about the team’s desire to add Zandalasini to the roster. But the Italian sharpshooter has yet to return to the WNBA in almost three years, having dealt with injuries in 2019 and missed the 2020 campaign due to personal reasons.
Now Zandalasini reportedly wants to make her way back to Minnesota after the Tokyo Olympics conclude, and you would imagine the feeling would be mutual. In mid-July, Basketinside.com reported Zandalasini wanted to return to the Lynx for the second half of the regular season, even reporting she plans to fly back to the United States following the Olympic Games.
Even if both Zandalasini and the Lynx want to reunite for the remainder of the season, it is easier said than done for multiple reasons. In a recent midseason Lynx mailbag, someone asked was how the signing of Zandalasini could work and who might be moved to make room for her on the roster, given Minnesota’s current salary situation. Who might be moved is up for debate, but one thing is for certain: It won’t be an easy task.
Let’s take a look at why it might be difficult to sign Zandalasini, even if both sides want it to happen, and what her contract might look like.
Lynx Salary Cap Situation
The biggest hurdle is the Lynx’s salary cap situation. According to Her Hoops Stats’ salary cap database, the Lynx have minus-$3,105 in cap space available. If you’re familiar with how math works, that would equal less than zero. There is no room to add Zandalasini, meaning a move of some sort would need to be made, whether that comes via trade, the suspension of a contract, or another avenue.
You would think the Lynx would try the route of the trade market and shed enough salary to allow them the freedom to explore signing Zandalasini. This could work. If not, we won’t see the young forward in Minnesota this year.
What Zandalasini’s Contract Could Look Like
Let’s say the Lynx are able to move around enough salary to make things work. I wouldn’t put anything past Reeve, whose skill at maneuvering the roster is well established.
According to the WNBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which went into effect before last season and runs through 2027, Zandalasini would make a percentage of the full-season minimum base salary if she were to sign a rest-of-season contract with Minnesota.
Since Zandalasini falls under the 0-2 years of experience category, that full-season minimum base salary would be $58,710. With the Olympic break and the current pause in the WNBA, the entirety of the 2021 season is a total of 95 days long. But obviously, Zandalasini wouldn’t make that entire salary since she would only be playing the final half of the regular season.
If Zandalasini were to sign with the Lynx right away to start the second portion of the year, she would play on the team for a total of 36 days. That percentage comes out to about 38%, so that means the forward would be set to carry a salary of roughly $22,300.
It’s certainly doable and Zandalasini would be on a cheaper contract due to only playing a portion of the overall season, but the question remains: How exactly does Minnesota clear up that much space?
How She’s Playing Overseas
Outside of a short stint in the final portion of the 2017 season and the entirety of the 2018 campaign with Minnesota, we haven’t seen a ton of Zandalasini in the WNBA. In 32 career games, she holds career averages of 5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1 assist in 15.5 minutes per game. The 6’2″ forward shot 40.5% from the field, along with 38.3% from three and 84% from the free-throw line.
Since then, she has played for Fenerbahçe in Turkey from 2018-21 and recently joined Virtus Bologna in her home country of Italy.
In 2018-19, she averaged 9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 16 games. In 2019-20, she averaged 15.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 15 games. In 2020-21, Zandalasini’s final season with Fenerbahçe, she averaged 8.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 10 games. Currently, in EuroBasket competition for Italy, Zandalasini has averaged 14.8 points, 3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in four games.
Since being a part of the 2017 WNBA Championship Lynx team, Zandalasini has claimed two Turkish League Championships (2019 and 2021), two Turkish Cup Championships (2019 and 2020), and one Turkish Presidential Cup Championship (2019).
Zandalasini has a history of success overseas and has continued to create a name for herself around the globe. Minnesota and WNBA fans experienced that briefly during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and perhaps the Lynx will make things work to have her finally return to the WNBA this season. But it won’t be an easy task.