The Lynx reached the WNBA Finals in six of the last seven years and won four titles before their first-round playoff loss to Los Angeles last season. And there are some gaps the Lynx need to fill because several key parts of their recent teams won’t be with them in 2019.
To rebuild, Minnesota had the most draft picks with five in the 2019 WNBA draft on Wednesday at the Nike Headquarters in New York City.
“It was just a really good night for the Minnesota Lynx,” head coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve said. “We feel like we got a haul of talent that we needed.”
The Lynx used their first-round pick to take University of Connecticut forward Napheesa Collier sixth overall. Collier averaged a double-double this season, and led the Huskies to the Final Four, averaging 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. She was named the American Athletic Conference’s player of the year and defensive player of the year as a senior.
“I can bring versatility,” Collier said in a telephone interview. “I think I can play a lot of different spots, and I work as hard as I can on both sides of the floor.”
The Lynx used their last pick in the draft to select Gophers guard and Minneapolis native Kenisha Bell. She was a redshirt senior and started all 32 games for the Gophers this season. She averaged a team-high 19.1 points per game. She was taken in the third round with the 30th pick overall.
“Kenisha can defend. I told Lindsay [Whalen] I’m going to ask her to shoot more from the outside as opposed to always driving,” Reeve said. “I’m excited to see what Kenisha can do.”
The Lynx selected Notre Dame forward Jessica Shepard with the 16th pick of the draft — their first of three second-round picks. Shepard also averaged a double-double this season, and she ended her season with a loss in the NCAA title game.
The Lynx took Marquette guard Natisha Hiedeman with their third pick but traded her draft rights to the Connecticut Sun for guard Lexie Brown. Brown was drafted last season out of Duke with the ninth overall pick.
“I found out about the deal maybe 15, 20 minutes before it was announced on TV,” said Brown in a phone interview. “I’m just really excited because I remember when we played at Minnesota, the atmosphere was amazing.”
With the 20th pick in the draft, Minnesota took Buffalo guard Cierra Dillard. She was the second-leading scorer in the nation, averaging 25.2 points, while setting her school and conference record for points scored in a single season.
Other draft notes:
• The Las Vegas Aces selected Jackie Young, a 6-foot guard from Notre Dame as the No. 1 overall pick. The New York Liberty took Louisville guard Asia Durr with the second pick. The Indiana Fever selected center Teaira McCowan from Mississippi State with the third. Then the Chicago Sky took Katie Lou Samuelson, a guard from UConn, with the fourth pick, and the Dallas Wings chose Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale with the fifth pick. … All five Irish starters were taken by the end of the second round.
• Five international players were drafted. The Seattle Storm selected Australian forward Ezi Magbegor with the final pick in the first round. In the second round, the New York Liberty took Han Xu, a 6-9 center from China. Xu was the first Chinese player drafted in the WNBA since 1997. Another Chinese player, Li Yueru (taken by Atlanta), and two Spanish players — Maria Conde (Chicago) and Angela Salvadores (Los Angeles) — were drafted in the third round.
• The first Big Ten player drafted was Iowa’s Megan Gustafson by Dallas at No. 17.
Jack Warrick is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.