While the Minnesota Lynx are likely done signing free agents, that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to make moves to round out the roster ahead of the 2021 season. They opened the free agency period by signing the impressive trio of Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, and Natalie Achonwa in early February. That meant the team would likely need to make some room on the roster via trade this offseason.
On Wednesday, the Lynx made their second trade in the last week, shipping forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan to the Seattle Storm in exchange for a 2022 first-round draft pick that originally belonged to the Phoenix Mercury. The deal took place less than a week after Minnesota traded forward Erica McCall to the Washington Mystics as part of a sign-and-trade deal that returned a 2022 third-round draft pick to the Lynx.
Although the trade of McCall wasn’t all that shocking, the decision to move on from second-year forward Herbert Harrigan was a little more surprising. They had just drafted the 21-year-old with the sixth overall pick out of South Carolina in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Herbert Harrigan averaged 3.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 11.1 minutes per game in 21 appearances during her rookie season. She has always been viewed as more of a long-term development by Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve. Already having to fight for playing time behind the likes of Damiris Dantas and Sylvia Fowles, Herbert Harrigan’s playing time would have likely taken another hit in 2021 when Minnesota added Achonwa to the post group.
Although it may seem a bit premature to part ways with a player you drafted No. 6 overall a year ago regardless of the status of their development, this move will likely end up being for the best for both sides. On one side, Minnesota gets another first-round draft asset that could be used as an additional piece to potentially trade away and creates a roster spot in a suddenly packed depth chart. Herbert Harrigan gets a fresh start in Seattle and likely more playing time while continuing to develop in her young WNBA career.
In order to make the Powers signing official and get her on a protected contract, Minnesota will have to make at least one more move to part ways with one of the current players on the roster. Powers would bring the roster total to 13 players, which would be more than the maximum regular season roster of 12.
Who might that player be and what could a deal include? Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.
The first possibility when it comes to the Lynx making room through a trade could come with veteran guard Odyssey Sims.
Two offseasons ago, Minnesota traded for Sims in a deal that sent Alexis Jones to the Los Angeles Sparks. The move went as well as anyone could have hoped, with Sims providing the Lynx with a reliable offensive threat resulting in her first career WNBA All-Star selection in 2019.
In 2020, Sims managed to play in 13 games for Minnesota in the bubble in Florida, but her appearances were limited as she battled back into game shape following the birth of her first child. The guard ended up starting in seven of those 13 contests, averaging 9.4 points, 3.5 assists, and two rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game in her seventh season.
Sims will turn 29 years old in July and, according to Spotrac, is set to make $119,000 next season — the fourth-highest salary on the team — in the final year of her protected contract.
She could see herself as the odd person out in the Lynx suddenly packed guard group, especially after the signings of McBride and Powers this offseason. With Crystal Dangerfield and McBride filling the two starting guard positions, Sims would be pushed to the bench and the Lynx could end up trying to find a team willing to take her contract before the 2021 season begins.
If Minnesota were to trade away Sims, they could package the guard and a draft pick or two to add to the team’s strength in a different area on the depth chart or stockpile some draft assets for the future.
Lexie Brown is another candidate who could see her way out of Minnesota this offseason. After her rookie season in 2018, the Lynx traded for Brown on draft night in 2019, sending second-round pick Natisha Hiedeman to the Connecticut Sun and bringing in Brown to help bolster Minnesota’s offense, specifically its three-point shooting.
In her second season, Brown provided a nice spark off the bench while averaging 7.6 points, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 33 games. Last season in the bubble, Brown took a bit of a step back while dealing with some consistency and injury issues, finishing the year with 6.4 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.9 rebounds in 17 games.
The 26-year-old Brown is set to make a little over $70,000 this season in the final year of her contract, but she might end up being the odd woman out in the guard rotation that also features Dangerfield, McBride, Powers, Sims, and Rachel Banham.
If Minnesota opts to keep Sims on the roster in 2021, it’s likely we could see Brown on her way out in some sort of trade, perhaps packaged with a draft pick or two.
THEY MAY NOT MOVE EITHER PLAYER
Another option is that the Lynx don’t trade either Sims or Brown, hanging on to both players to feature a talented and deep guard group that would be one of the more offensive-heavy units in the WNBA.
The idea of trading either Sims or Brown has nothing to do with their talents or whether they could contribute in 2021, but rather that there just might not be enough playing time to go around in Minnesota’s rotation. It’s a similar situation to that of Herbert Harrigan in the post rotation.
The Lynx would ultimately have to try and find a trade partner to take either Sims or Brown if they did decide to deal either player, which is easier said than done. If they can’t find a team interested in making a deal, perhaps Minnesota looks elsewhere to create space on the roster to make room for Powers and get to that 12-player total.
One possibility is cutting another player currently on the depth chart, perhaps someone like Bridget Carleton, who signed a training camp deal earlier this offseason. Reeve has spoken highly of Carleton and her performance during the 2020 season, so you’d think Minnesota would prefer to keep her on the team, but the Lynx do have the flexibility to part ways with her if it comes to that.
As the draft approaches and the offseason rolls along ahead of the 2021 campaign this summer, the Lynx have more decisions to make when it comes to how the final roster will look before Opening Day.
There will be at least one more move made by Reeve and company before that day arrives. It’s just a matter of what that it will be and if it will be via a trade or ultimately releasing a player at some point in the coming weeks or months.