Because the Lynx weren’t well-equipped to make them pay for it last year, opponents made center Sylvia Fowles pay.
Fowles almost always was guarded by two defenders, sometimes three, during games in 2019. Sometimes even getting the ball to her was a problem, with forced passes often becoming turnovers. While assembling the 2020 roster, General Manager and coach Cheryl Reeve was determined to change that.
Reeve is determined to push the Lynx along the path basketball in general and the WNBA in particular has been going for years. She wants more shooters on the court, more spacing on the offensive end, more three-pointers taken and made.
“You look at our starting five last year,” Reeve said in a conference call Tuesday. “It didn’t scream spacing. We spent the season trying to be creative in different ways to score.”
It wasn’t so much a problem in the past. For years Reeve had Lindsay Whalen, one of the best point guards in the league, calling plays. She had great shooters in Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus forcing defenses to pick their poison, Fowles in the post with power forward Rebekkah Brunson.
So Reeve has adapted. Last year the Lynx were 10th in the 12-team league in three-pointers taken (17.5) and made (5.8) per game and ninth with a 33.2 three-point shooting percentage. Power forward Damiris Dantas as a starter and Lexie Brown off the bench led the team with 4.1 attempted threes per game.
“She was half our three-point shooting last year,” Reeve said of Dantas. “If she didn’t shoot 10 a game we had a hard time getting to 20 attempts. In this day and age, that’s not going to work.”
This year, to start, Reeve will be going with a guard rotation that won’t include a lot of pure point guards. But she will have a rotation that has a number of shooters.
Brown will have more opportunity. Rachel Banham can shoot the three, as can Napheesa Collier; as Rookie of the Year last year she shot 36.1% on threes but attempted just 2.4 per game. That is expected to increase. Also, veteran guard Shenise Johnson can shoot the three.
In addition, Reeve has pared down her playbook and, to a certain extent, relaxed the structure of the offense.
“It’s not always going to be set in stone, like [Whalen] taking the ball up every time,” Johnson said. “It’s whoever gets it, fly. Everyone get wide, and it goes from there. Rachel is a shooter, Lexie. I can hit threes. I think it will be hard for the opposition.”
All of this should help Fowles. Reeve said at the start of training camp inside the “bubble” at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Fla., that Fowles looks great this summer. Fowles began camp in the best shape she’s been in for a while, free of the elbow injury that plagued her offseason before last year. She is looking forward to an offensive zone with more spacing and fewer triple-teams.
“Hopefully this is a good effect, taking away the double- and triple-teams,” Fowles said. “Keeping ’em honest. I think we have the players to do that this year. We can shoot it from behind the arc.
“It’s pick your poison this year, and I’m looking forward to it.”