The WNBA draft is Thursday night. Three rounds, 36 total picks. And for most of the first half of the yearly affair, the Lynx will sit and wait.
This is by design.
Determined to keep the championship window open for her starting five, Lynx General Manager and coach Cheryl Reeve has restocked her bench with veterans in the wake of losing Plenette Pierson and Jia Perkins to retirement, Renee Montgomery to free agency and Natasha Howard in a trade.
Reeve traded her first-round pick to Phoenix for point guard Danielle Robinson and signed guard Tanisha Wright and forward Lynetta Kizer as free agents. The team is high on the potential of Italian forward Cecelia Zadalasini. Forward/center Temi Fagbenle and guard Alexis Jones should be better in their second WNBA season after having played overseas.
So Reeve’s goal heading into the draft is not necessarily to plug a roster hole but to bring in players who can add competition to training camp. The Lynx will head into the season trying to win their fifth league title in eight years and trying to repeat for the first time. With such a big goal, Reeve is trying to find the right fits in the draft.
The Lynx have two picks in the second round — No. 17 and No. 24 — and the final pick in the third round, 36th overall.
“You’re hoping for a way to improve your roster, to create competition in training camp,’’ Reeve said. “Someone who will make you say, ‘Hey, this player might give this player competition, force us to make a choice.’ ”
The Lynx have, in the past, used second- and third-round picks by taking international players that aren’t ready or interested in coming to the WNBA right away. That avenue is not as available this season, Reeve said, as most of the top international talent wants to come to the WNBA right away.
With starters Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, veteran backups Wright and Robinson, and Jones, the guard spots are pretty much set. So the Lynx will likely target a post player when their picks in the second round.
Reeve likes Fagbenle and hopes the second-year player will get to the point where she can spell starting center Sylvia Fowles this season. But Fagbenle is not an absolute lock. And while Kizer has been signed, as Reeve said, “We’re not married to anything.”
Among the post players the Lynx could be interested in are Monique Billings (UCLA) and Mercedes Russell (Tennessee), though both could be gone in the first round. Other names to consider are Marie Gulich (Oregon State), Stephanie Mavunga (Ohio State), Myisha Hines-Allen (Louisville) and Kaylee Jensen (Oklahoma State).
The Lynx could look locally in the third round, with a good chance the team could take Gophers guard Carlie Wagner if she’s available late.
“The biggest thing is they might not stick this year,” Reeve said of the upcoming draft class. “But maybe in the future.”
A good first impression lasts. And the Lynx might circle back to someone who made a good impression in camp. This spring’s camp might be a good opportunity for that, with several players scheduled to arrive late because of overseas commitments.
“They get a head start by us seeing them,” Reeve said. “And they learn about you. We see that a lot, people coming back to teams.”
So don’t necessarily look for a big impact from the players the Lynx choose Thursday night, at least not immediately. But being at training camp is a first step.