Crystal Dangerfield is the likely rookie of the year. Cheryl Reeve could win the coach or executive of the year award, which would give her a third of the former and a second of the latter.
Napheesa Collier is a fringe MVP candidate. And anyone who gives birth, decides to take off a season, then decides to show up with her infant to quarantine in a bubble so she can play and is able to contribute — we’re talking about Odyssey Sims — should at least be considered for the comeback player of the year award.
One of the reasons the Lynx boast so many award candidates is their ability to hang around the top of the league without their departed stars and their currently injured star — center Sylvia Fowles.
Overachieving is impressive, but what the Lynx have done this season is create the possibility that they might simply achieve in the playoffs — if Fowles can return from a calf injury. And that sounds like a possibility.
Renowned ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe said during the game with Washington on Tuesday from Bradenton, Fla., that Fowles has made serious progress with her injury and was seen jogging across the court.
On Sunday, the Lynx lost to Seattle, the best team in the league, largely because of poor interior defense. Tuesday, the Lynx struggled against the previously-struggling Mystics largely because of poor interior defense, taking an 89-86 defeat that created their first two-game losing streak of the season.
The Mystics scored easily inside. If Fowles can play at her accustomed level, she could fix that problem, and give the Lynx a starting five that may not have sounded too formidable a couple of months ago but now looks good enough to win a playoff series or two:
Point guard: Dangerfield, whose quickness and creativity will make her a star.
Shooting guard: Sims, who is playing her way into game condition after making the All-Star Game last year.
Small forward: Collier, a versatile player who has looked comfortable becoming a primary offensive option.
Power forward: Damiris Dantas, a classic stretch-4 who has gotten hot in the last week.
Center: Fowles, one of the best in league history.
The Lynx have two games remaining in the regular season. If they could land a top-two seed, they would advance to the semifinals and buy Fowles plenty of time to rest, but their losing streak and a daunting matchup with Las Vegas on Thursday probably will keep them from climbing the standings.
If they land a top-four seed, they would get a bye into the second round. And that may be necessary for them to have a chance to compete with a top-tier team.
After the loss Tuesday, Fowles gathered her teammates for a pep talk, and Reeve again lamented her team’s interior defense. She said the Lynx could give up 100 points, as they did against Seattle, if they aren’t better inside against Vegas’ powerhouse lineup.
“I’m at a loss for any more words,” Reeve said, indicating her players aren’t following coaching instructions on defense. She has also noted in the past that guiding a team through a shortened, intense schedule can be difficult because she can’t always push players hard in practices, or even practice some days.
Dantas didn’t play down the stretch — not because Reeve was dissatisfied with her, but because of “soreness.”
The Lynx need time off after the regular season on Saturday, but that creates a Catch-22.
They need time for Fowles to heal, but may not get it because of Fowles’ injury.
At 13-7 with a team that faced few outside expectations even before Fowles was hurt, the Lynx have already overachieved.
But they’d likely trade in that distinction, and a slew of potential postseason awards, for a chance to achieve in the playoffs, with a healthy Fowles and a bolstered inside defense.