There's nothing wrong with the Lynx that Paige Bueckers and a complete roster overhaul wouldn't fix.
The Lynx lost their last must-win game of the season, 90-83, at Connecticut on Sunday, ending their playoff streak at 11 seasons. The endearing stories of Sylvia Fowles' last season and Napheesa Collier's first birth, combined with an eight-team playoff field that kept everyone in contention for most of the season, obscured just how lousy the Lynx were.
For the first time since 2010, when coach Cheryl Reeve was in her first season, the Lynx were, as the kids say, bad at basketball.
They finished 14-22. They ranked fourth in the league in turnovers committed. Their turnovers tended to be of the worst types — unforced — and those that created fast breaks for the opposition.
In the last home and regular-season games for Fowles, one of the greatest players in league history, they destroyed their chances with uncompetitive first quarters.
The two free agents signed to give them scoring, Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride, shot about 38 and 40% from the field. The post they signed to give them frontcourt depth, Natalie Achonwa, has had trouble staying healthy for two seasons.
With Fowles gone, this will become Collier's team, and for all of her ability, she's never been asked to carry a franchise.
The guess here is that the Lynx will try to trade Powers rather than let her play the third year of her three-year contract. And if they can't trade Powers, they might need to trade McBride, who doesn't seem to get the right kind of shots to thrive when playing with the shoot-first, don't-ask-questions-later Powers.
What the Lynx need even more than efficient shooting — and what might help them become more efficient shooters as a team — is better point guard play.
Lindsay Whalen wasn't the all-world superstar that Fowles, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus were, but she ran the Lynx exactly how Reeve wanted them run.
Since Whalen's retirement, the Lynx have sporadically experienced good point guard play, but none of their starting point guards have lasted. Crystal Dangerfield's fourth-quarter shooting helped the Lynx get to the league semifinals in the bubble season. Odyssey Sims and Layshia Clarendon gave the Lynx toughness and savvy. Moriah Jefferson, who dealt with knee soreness this season, proved she could shoot and penetrate.
Clarendon's play last season demonstrated that the Lynx might not need another guard of Whalen's caliber to become competitive again. Clarendon was limited offensively and athletically but knew how to run a team and how to defend, and that's what the 2022 Lynx were missing.
Bueckers, the Hopkins and UConn star recovering from knee surgery, likely won't be eligible for the WNBA draft until 2024. Reeve is unlikely to tank (intentionally lose games) in the hopes of landing Bueckers in the draft, but she could defer decisions on how to remake her roster, and make deals for draft picks, until she lands the kind of top-of-the-draft player who could transform the franchise.
Remember, Augustus and Moore were No. 1 overall picks, Fowles was the second player taken in her draft, and Whalen was the fourth. Landing players of that caliber is difficult. Bueckers is expected to go first in whichever draft she enters, and the Lynx need her or someone like her.
They need on-court leadership — someone who would not tolerate the weak performances we saw in the Lynx' last two games.
As general manager and coach of a non-playoff team, Reeve is facing a new challenge. She refused to rebuild while she had Fowles on the roster, and the signings of Powers, McBride and Achonwa were supposed to make the Lynx dangerous. Those three have failed to win a playoff game.
In a league overstocked with all-world talent, the Lynx, without Fowles, will be Collier and a bunch of role players.
Reeve will have to wheel, deal and draft awfully well to dramatically change that.