The start to the 2022 WNBA season hasn’t gone as planned for the Minnesota Lynx. After beginning the year with an 0-4 record for the second season in a row, Minnesota has managed to record a couple of wins. Still, they remain near the bottom of the league standings a month into the season.
Entering Friday’s game against the Washington Mystics, the Lynx are 3-9. They are 11th in the 12-team league standings and currently on the outside of the postseason picture. Coming off a back-to-back series against the New York Liberty on Sunday and Tuesday, Minnesota has dropped five of its last seven and hasn’t been able to find its footing after finally cracking into the win column.
From key absences to injuries and roster shake-ups, a lot has fed into the early-season struggles for the Lynx. There is still plenty of season left for Minnesota in the 36-game schedule, but time is starting to run out for the Lynx to turn things around like they did a year ago.
“Our vets have done a really good job of (saying) ‘we obviously don’t want to lose, but it’s a long season,’” said rookie guard Evina Westbrook, who signed with the team on May 13 and immediately jumped into the rotation. “It definitely feels like we’ve been going for months, and it’s only Week 3 or 4. We have so many games coming up that we have to have our minds right for. We have lost however many games in the past, but that’s in the past, and it’s time to move on.”
As Minnesota continues to work out early hurdles that have resulted in a rough start, what can we expect from the Lynx moving forward?
Early-Season Struggles, Sliding Down Standings
The outlook of the overall record is disappointing enough for Minnesota, but we can assess that disappointment to many things. The team ranks near the bottom of the league in multiple statistical categories a month after Opening Night took place on May 6.
After Tuesday’s loss in New York, the Lynx rank (just to list a few):
- 11th in defensive rating (106.1)
- 11th in three-point percentage (31.4 percent)
- 11th in free throw percentage (76.9 percent)
- 10th in net rating (-7.9)
- 10th in opponent field goal percentage (45.3 percent)
- 9th in scoring (78.5)
- 9th in assists (18.6)
- 9th in opponent scoring (85.2)
- 8th in turnovers (16.0)
- 8th in offensive rating (98.2)
- 8th in opponent three-point percentage (34.6 percent)
- 7th in field goal percentage (42.2 percent)
There are a few positives to consider, though. Minnesota ranks second in getting to the free-throw line with 23.1 attempts per game, along with ranking second in rebounds allowed to opponents (32.4) and fourth in rebounds as a team (35.9).
Along with statistical negatives outweighing the positives, Minnesota has quickly dropped down the WNBA standings. There is plenty of time left, but we’re now at the one-third mark in the year. As the 11th seed, the Lynx could be in danger of seeing their longest active postseason streak end in 2022 if they don’t jump up to one of the top eight spots.
Minnesota has reached the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the WNBA and the second-longest run in league history. The Lynx have shown the ability to turn things around quickly. Last year was the most recent example: They started 0-4 overall only to rattle off 22 wins over the final 26 regular-season contests. But time is running out to mirror that performance this summer.
“We definitely didn’t want to go down that road (like in 2021),” Sylvia Fowles said earlier in the season. “We gotta get better. We just have to make sure we stay together as a team, make sure we treat each other right, and also work on the things we’ve been lacking.”
Key Players Returning Soon
Whether it has been due to injuries, absences right out of the gate in the season, or the roster transactions that have been made as a result, Minnesota has seen a heavy flux of players come and go already this summer.
Just over a month after the start of the new year, the Lynx have had 17 players play in a game this season. Only five teams have played more than that amount in an entire year, according to Across the Timeline. The Phoenix Mercury hold the WNBA record of 21 players set in 2003. Only 20 teams in league history have played more than 15 players in a single year.
That constant change in personnel is challenging for any team to overcome and has undoubtedly fed into Minnesota’s slow start. But on the bright side, the Lynx are anticipating some key players returning soon. Napheesa Collier (maternity leave) and Damiris Dantas (foot) have yet to appear in a game this season. Collier, who gave birth to her first child on May 25, could return at some point later in the summer, but Dantas should return soon for the Lynx.
Moriah Jefferson is a welcomed return to the lineup. She signed with the team mid-May to take over the starting point guard duties. So is forward Natalie Achonwa, who has played only two games in 2022.
Jefferson suffered a quad strain on May 29. She has been out indefinitely but should return at some point in June to help build back up a point guard unit that has been depleted since the year began. Achonwa has been sidelined indefinitely since May 8 with a hamstring strain, although there has yet to be an announced timeline for her return.
This season has seen plenty of disappointment and shortcomings for Minnesota, and we’re one-third of the way through the regular-season schedule. There is still plenty to shore up and fix, of course. But there is some optimism that the Lynx that figure things out as they did in 2021, especially as players finally begin to return to the rotation in the coming weeks and months.