The Minnesota Lynx enter the 2021 free agency period with plentiful cap space and, thus, plenty of options. What surprising moves might Cheryl Reeve have in store?
At the close of the 2018 WNBA season, the active roster of the Minnesota Lynx included Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen. Heading into 2021 free agency, only Fowles remains.
And yet, general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve once again has the Lynx situated for championship contention.
Last season, Minnesota exceeded expectations, finishing fourth in the regular-season standings with a 14-8 record, despite Fowles missing much of the season due to a stubborn calf injury.
In Fowles’ absence, Napheesa Collier blossomed into an All-WNBA talent while 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield proved she is the present and future point guard of the Lynx. Combined with Fowles, who was in MVP form before her calf injury stalled her 2020 season, they form a promising core.
The likes of Odyssey Sims, Damiris Dantas, Lexie Brown, Rachel Banham and recently-signed reserved free agent Bridget Carleton round out a strong supporting cast. After showing flashes her rookie season, 2020 No. 6 draft selection Mikiah Herbert Harrigan could assume a bigger role in 2021. A second-round draft pick from 2019, Jessica Shepard also could re-emerge as a contributor. Having torn her ACL six games into the 2019 season, she opted out of the 2020 season to continue her rehab.
The Lynx’s 2021 prospects could get even brighter. They enter the 2021 free agency period with enough cap space to add a maximum-contract player to their already robust roster.
By the numbers*
2021 Free Agents (type) (average salary):
- Kayla Alexander (unrestricted) ($68,000)
- Shenise Johnson (unrestricted) ($105,000)
- Erica McCall (restricted) ($68,000)
- Maya Moore (suspended-contract expired) ($117,000)
- Cecilia Zandalasini (suspended-contract expired) ($41,202)
- Total average salary of free agents: $399,202
- Total team salary (not including above players): $945,000
- Cap space: $393,435
Assuming they intend to retain Carleton, who signed a training camp contract, and Shepard, who is the only other player on an unprotected contract who conceivably could be cut, the Lynx enter the free agency period with two open roster spots.
If Maya Moore decides to return to the WNBA, one of those spots, and a maximum contract, would belong to her — without hesitation! However, as there have been no hints about the happily-married Moore returning to the WNBA, the Lynx are unlikely to prioritize any of their current free agents.
Even accounting for the salary that will be allocated to the player they select with the No. 9 pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, Minnesota will have close to $330,000 in available cap space. This means Cheryl Reeve can go big game hunting, offering a maximum contract to an elite unrestricted free agent in order to entice her away from her current team.
The spiciest option would be Chelsea Gray. Could Reeve add another twist to the Sparks-Lynx rivalry by bringing the Point Gawd, an unrestricted free agent, to the Land of Lakes? Gray and Dangerfield would be a potent backcourt pairing, as both can operate effectively on or off the ball. With her sturdier frame, Gray would both complement and compensate for the undersized Dangerfield.
Of course, when it comes to roster changes, Reeve always seems to surprise, suggesting an unexpected move or two may be in order for Minnesota. Amidst last year’s free agency frenzy, the Lynx were relatively quiet, only making moves on the margins. This could again be the template for Minnesota. For instance, they could choose to bring back restricted free agent Erica McCall, who gave the Lynx good minutes as a bubble-addition last season. The oft-injured but experienced Shenise Johnson, who Minnesota traded for last offseason, also could return at a lower salary. Nevertheless, it would seem unwise to not explore adding a player who could substantially increase the Lynx’s championship upside.
Other interesting free agent targets might include Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers. Both unrestricted free agents have skill sets that would augment any team, including the Lynx. McBride can provide elite shotmaking and reliable defense while Powers offers incessant energy and improving offensive creation.
In short, the Lynx have lots of options and Cheryl Reeve is in charge — a great combination for successfully navigating 2021 free agency!