When assessing just how important Seimone Augustus is to the Lynx, look at the numbers.
No, not those numbers.
A cursory look at her 2017 season might indicate a player, approaching her mid-30s, who is slowing down. Augustus took only 4.6 shots per game, the lowest total of her 12-year career. Her 10.9 scoring average also the lowest of her time in the league.
But 2017 was one of her best seasons.
The longest-standing member of the franchise, Augustus has made a career of doing what’s needed. As a young, talented player on a bad team, Augustus scored. After Cheryl Reeve came to coach the Lynx in 2010, Augustus scored a little less and played defense a whole lot more.
Last season was another step. Reeve’s plan last year was to unleash the full force of center Sylvia Fowles upon the league. The result: Augustus set career highs in assists per game (4.0) and assist percentage (22.3).
Reeve said Augustus was the best player on the team at getting the ball to Fowles, who was MVP of both the regular season and the playoffs.
“Mone is a piece of that MVP award,” Reeve said. “Because of her constant mind-set of where Syl is. She knows exactly how to get it to her. The timing to get it to here, the way you get it to her. We had nobody on the team as good as Seimone at doing that.”
To be honest, Reeve said that, for all the good passing, she didn’t expect Augustus to defer so much. This year Reeve wants her to keep passing but — as Augustus’ grandma suggested during last fall’s postseason — to shoot more.
Whatever it takes.
“I’m enjoying this more,” Augustus said. “I scored more points earlier, but we didn’t get any wins. Now I only average 10, 15 points, whatever, and we get wins. I understood that, as maturity came in, I would rather win over scoring.”
But when she did shoot, she was efficient. Augustus came within two free throws of averaging 50 percent on shooting overall, 40 percent on three-pointers and 90 percent on free throws; her 43.2 percent three-point shooting led the team. And, Reeve said, Augustus was the team’s best perimeter defender from the start of the season to the end.
“When Maya [Moore] came here, when Syl came here, I knew my shots were going to go down,” Augustus said. “So the shots I do take need to be quality shots. And I need to be able to knock ’em down. When my number is called, I’m ready.”
This season, the Lynx added Tanisha Wright to the mix. Her defensive prowess will get her on the floor a lot with starters in three-guard sets. This will mean Augustus will move to the small forward spot a bit, a matchup she should be able to exploit. But, at the other end, she will have to rebound more. Reeve also wants Augustus shooting more three-pointers.
Whatever it takes.
“I didn’t want her to pass so much that she wasn’t a scorer,” Reeve said. “So maybe we can find a happy medium there.”