For so many years WNBA draft day was an exercise in patience for the Lynx.
In the middle of a stretch of four titles in seven seasons, the Lynx were at the back end of the first round with a pick they were as likely to trade as to use.
That has changed.
Coming off an 18-16 season and a first-round playoff exit, the Lynx are a team in the middle of a major transition. Maya Moore is essentially on sabbatical for at least a year. Lindsay Whalen is retired, coaching at the U. And forward Rebekkah Brunson still is battling the aftereffects of a concussion that ended her 2018 season; it is unlikely Brunson will be ready to return by the time training camp starts. General Manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve really has no choice but to plan for the possibility Brunson does not return.
So, suddenly, Wednesday night is very, very important.
“We have so many needs right now,” Reeve said. “One pick is not enough.”
The Lynx hold the sixth pick in the first round in Wednesday’s draft, which begins at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. The team also has three picks in the second round (16th, 18th and 20th overall) and one in the third (30th). But in a 12-team league where it’s difficult even for a late first-rounder to make an impact, second- and third-round picks don’t have extraordinary value.
That said, the Lynx likely will be hoping to strike gold with at least one second-round pick. This team needs players. Reeve signed veteran forward Karima Christmas-Kelly, and expects a lot from her, but she is coming off knee surgery.
Point guard Danielle Robinson is coming off ankle surgery. Top backups Temi Fagbenle (Great Britain), who was recently named regular season MVP in the Polish League, and Cecilia Zandalasini (Italy) are both expected to stay in Europe to help their countries in an Olympic qualifying tournament and likely won’t be with the Lynx until midseason.
At this point the Lynx have a starting lineup that looks like this: Sylvia Fowles at center, guards Seimone Augustus and Robinson, and forwards Christmas-Kelly and Damiris Dantas.
The Lynx have a big need for a playmaking perimeter player, for depth in the post and shooting. And while all those needs will be hard to meet, the Lynx might be able to fill one well.
This year’s draft doesn’t have a consensus star such as A’ja Wilson was last year.
But a draft that already was at least five deep in potentially very good players got deeper when Notre Dame guard Jackie Young declared for the draft as an early entry. Expected to go high, Young’s addition to the draft should help the Lynx.
“We think [the draft] has some really good players in it,” Reeve said. “It’s debatable how many of those there are. Anytime you’re picking sixth, you think there’s five. That’s probably no different. We’re going to have to get lucky.”
And that’s an exciting proposition for a team that could use an injection of youth and talent.
“It wasn’t exciting in October, when we weren’t playing,” Reeve said. “But when you feel good in October you don’t feel as good in April. And that’s been our situation for many years. Now April is important to us.”
Reeve said the Lynx have explored ways to either move up in the draft or add another first-round pick, but haven’t had much success. “People don’t want to help the Minnesota Lynx,” she said.
Much will be expected of the player the Lynx does get in the first round. “For us, if we do it right, it will be someone who plays significant minutes for us,” Reeve said.