With a veteran team and a condensed schedule thanks to this fall’s FIBA World Championships, staying healthy will be the key. There will be fewer days to practice, which is good for veterans. And a rebuilt bench filled with veterans — especially at guard — should make it easy for coach Cheryl Reeve to take minutes from Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. In a 34-game season, health means everything.
2. Big stars must play big
Maya Moore won the 2014 MVP award. Sylvia Fowles won both regular season and finals MVP last season. More than ever, on an aging team, these two in-their- prime players need to lead the way. Moore has pledged a stronger start than last year, and Fowles — who carried the team early on last season — could use it. If both are on top of their game, the Lynx will be very hard to stop.
3. Reserve post play
The Lynx are very deep at guard. Not so much in the post, where Reeve needs second-year player Temi Fagbenle to improve to the point where she can spell Fowles. Also, Lynetta Kizer is Rebekkah Brunson’s top backup but is battling through an injury. If Kizer can’t go, the Lynx might need to go with a rookie as Brunson’s backup — that or use a plethora of three-guard sets.
4. Youth evolving
This is certainly true for Fagbenle. But it’s also essential that second-year players Alexis Jones and Cecelia Zandalasini take another step. Jones played well when given the chance in last year’s finals. She’s tough-minded and can shoot the three. Zandalasini has a great shot. If she can get acclimated to the physical WNBA she, too, could provide three-point shooting off the bench.
5. Getting out of the gate
The Lynx usually have used quick starts to seasons to establish position under coach Reeve. The past two years — in races with Los Angeles that went right down to the wire — the Lynx won the top playoff seed each time thanks in large part to having started strong. In 2016, the Lynx finished the first third of the season 11-0 and last year 10-1. It will be difficult this year. The Lynx face 10 playoff teams from 2017 in the first 11 games — that includes L.A., New York and Washington twice each. And six of those are on the road.