Q. What are the Lynx’s chances for contending next season. Do they have the talent?
A. If you mean contending for a title, I believe the Lynx are a ways off. The team is still transitioning away from its title years, remaking the roster. General manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve has done a pretty good job so far. Her deals to acquire Odyssey Sims and Lexie Brown last year and her drafting of future rookie of the year Napheesa Collier and solid contributor Jessica Shepard in the 2019 draft were all big reasons for her being named the league’s basketball executive of the year.
More needs to be done. The Lynx need to draft well again this season, again with the 6th pick. I don’t think this year’s draft is as deep in league-ready players, so the player the Lynx get will likely, at best, be a rotation player to start with.
Contending for a title, if and when the season begins, will be difficult. Defending champion Washington just got a lot better with the Wednesday trade for Tina Charles. Seattle will have both Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird back from their title team of 2018. Connecticut added DeWanna Bonner, the Sparks are deep and Dallas, with all its draft picks and a capable coach in Brian Agler, will be tough.
That said, I believe the Lynx will once again be in the mix for a playoff spot, which would be their 10th straight. I expect Sims to be back, contrary to some published reports. Brown will be better in year two of the system. Karima Christmas-Kelly, whose 2019 season was cut short by knee surgery after signing as a free agent, should be healthy. Shepard, coming off ACL surgery, should be available this season. The team will have Italian sharpshooter Cecilia Zandalasini back after she missed the 2019 season to stay in Europe.
Q. What off-season moves, not including the draft, were most important for the Lynx?
A. The return of Zandalasini will be big; she could start at the off-guard position.
But here are two more:
--The sign and trade with Connecticut that brought Rachal Banham home. She is a natural scorer who wasn’t always given the opportunity she needed in Connecticut. Assuming she’s healthy and in shape, I believe the Lynx will give her that opportunity. That and the return home could be a big boost for Banham.
--The trade with Indiana that brought Shenise Johnson to the Lynx. This is a combo guard that, if healthy, could have a very big impact.
The key is being healthy. Johnson was a starter on the Fever team that met the Lynx in the WNBA finals in 2015. She averaged 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists that season, upping her scoring to 12.9 in the playoffs. But she tore the ACL in her left knee in 2017, missed the rest of that season and all of 2018 while rehabbing. She returned in 2019, but sprained her left knee and had meniscus surgery to repair the meniscus and was limited to 17 games.
I think her addition could be big. So does Reeve. “It’s one of the quietest acquisitions of free agency,’’ she said. “It went unnoticed. She’s a good player. She can do multiple things. And I like that she has a stronger personality.’’
Johnson should play a lot. She’s a strong defender and a tough player. And Reeve expects her to emerge as one of the team’s leaders.