Courtney Williams Adds Legitimacy To A Hungry Lynx Team

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Lynx signed Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith away from the Chicago Sky in the offseason, and Smith says their bond has carried over to the Twin Cities.

“It’s just like old times. You can joke around with Court,” Smith told reporters during training camp. “She’s always up for a laugh,”

The Lynx signed Williams and Smith to bolster their eighth-ranked offense in 2023. Williams and Smith are playmakers who are elite mid-range shooters and strong leaders.

Williams came to Minnesota with clear goals in mind. She wanted to help the Lynx “stand on business,” as she said on Lynx media day, meaning she intends to not just talk about the Lynx being a good team but ensure that the Lynx are competitive in 2024. Williams has immediately stepped into a vocal leadership role. Cheryl Reeve described a situation where Williams had already coached up second-year standout Diamond Miller on her ability to run the lanes in the fast break. The Lynx needed offensive leadership from their point guard last season. No Minnesota player averaged more than 4.5 assists per game last season.

In Chicago, Williams immediately bolstered the assist rate despite last season, even though it was her first season playing point guard. Williams said this helped her “fall back in love with basketball” on media day. After changing positions, Williams averaged 6.3 assists per game, 2.3 more than her previous career-high of 4.0 during her lone All-Star season in 2021. Through two games in 2024, she’s already made her impact felt, averaging 6.5 assists.

It’s difficult for a player to go from a score-first mid-range specialist to a floor general. However, Williams did so with aplomb, maintaining a 2.56 assist-to-turnover ratio in 202. For context, MVP candidate Breanna Stewart averaged 2.59.

Williams maintained that assist-to-turnover ratio while playing 30.1 minutes per game in all 40 games, ranking her in the top 30 minutes in the WNBA. Her assist percentage, a percent of a player’s possessions that ended with an assist, was an impeccable 32.6%, good for fourth in the league among all players. Again, considering that last season was the first time in her career playing point guard, her ability to succeed at a high level would suggest that there is room to grow into an elite point guard this season with the Lynx.

The superb assist percentage also came without Williams dominating the offense. She was 62nd in the WNBA in usage percentage, which should gel with Napheesa Collier, and Williams can set her up offensively without overcontrolling the offense. Furthermore, Williams showed an innate ability to make good decisions on offense, with a 12.9% turnover percentage. For context, New York Liberty All-Star guard Courtney Vandersloot ranked ninth in offense rating and first in assist percentage in 2023. Still, she had the same turnover percentage as Miller at 12.9%, suggesting that Miller takes care of the ball at an elite level.

That should dovetail with the Lynx offense. Minnesota typically sets up in the half-court, and Williams and Collier can share ball-handling duties. Williams excels as a probing ball handler who tests defenses before dropping off passes or kicking out to shooters. Below is an example of Williams probing in the midrange area after rejecting a screen, luring the soft double in, and then slinging it back to Smith for a deep two.

Another example seen below is Williams using a Collier pick and roll before lobbing a pass over the defender for an easy two.

Williams is also an elite shooter. She shot 43.7% from the field and 44.3% from three in 2023. The three-point shooting may have been the most important addition for the Lynx. Last season, Kayla McBride led the team, shooting 34.2% from distance. However, Williams excels in the mid-range game, ranking third in the league in 2023, with 37.2% of her points coming from midrange. Miller shot 40.1% from the midrange last season and has a knack for finding the smallest open spaces, as seen in the clip below.

Seeing how Miller can influence the Lynx’s offense in 2024 will be fascinating. She has all the tools to continue to grow as a dominant point guard and pair with Collier for the foreseeable future. As the Lynx start the season 2-0, Williams has been a massive part and should continue to be as they grow into a playoff contender by standing on business.

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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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