In a 79-68 Lynx preseason victory over Washington on Saturday, Rachel Banham — starting with Kayla McBride in Europe and Aerial Powers not playing — scored 23 points, made half her three-pointers and was a plus-24 in 27 minutes.
It was her four-point play that iced the victory.
Jessica Shepard came off the bench for 13 points and 10 rebounds. Damiris Dantas struggled a bit with her shot but finished with nine points, eight rebounds and three assists. Coach Cheryl Reeve wasn't pleased with Natalie Achonwa's work setting picks, but the backup center scored six points with five assists.
When the Lynx have their full roster, with McBride and Napheesa Collier back, Banham, Achonwa and Shepard — and even, perhaps, Dantas — will come off the bench. On a team that added McBride, Powers and Achonwa during free agency, the roster has gotten deeper and has Reeve more inclined to share minutes with bench players.
"Look who's going to be on the bench," Reeve said. "I want to balance things minutes-wise, maybe more than we ever have."
Bench scoring is not necessarily an indicator of a great team. During the four championship seasons from 2011 to 2017, Lynx reserves never averaged more than the 23.3 points it did in 2012; on the 2015 title team, that number was 14.5 points.
The Lynx bench averaged 19.0 points in 2019 (10th in the league) and 18.9 in 2020 (ninth).
That could change.
Certainly in the post, where Reeve finally feels she has a player in Achonwa who can perform. "We had good intention in years past," Reeve said of her desire to play center Sylvia Fowles fewer minutes. "But, ultimately, we didn't have players we felt could be productive. We have that at this point."
Should Dantas come off the bench, she and Banham would represent the team's two best three-point shooters from last year. The 2020 Lynx set a WNBA record by having six players score at least 25 points in a game. Three of those — Dantas, Bridget Carleton and Banham — could be reserves this year.
Reeve also said the work Banham did during the offseason has made Reeve confident enough that she could see a platoon system at point guard with Banham and Crystal Dangerfield. Banham worked hard during the offseason at getting quicker and handling pressure defense on the perimeter.
"I want to make sure we give her credit," Reeve said of Banham, the former Gophers standout from Lakeville. "Her offseason work was with that in mind. We asked Rachel to take a step in terms of the physical part of the game. When you have the shot credibility that she has, there are opportunities for her to attack closeouts, get into the teeth of the defense, and make plays. Rachel is a very good passer. Very unselfish."
A minutes-sharing situation at point would keep both players fresh and offer Reeve two different styles of point guards.
"Once we get it all settled, and Rachel is truly the backup at the 1, you could conceivably see them platooning. Maybe 22 and 18 minutes," Reeve said. "And whoever's night it is gets the most minutes."