The Lynx entered this year’s WNBA draft hoping to get bigger in the post and to find a true point guard to back up Lindsay Whalen.
So it’s understandable why President Roger Griffith and coach Cheryl Reeve were so happy Thursday night. Thanks to a first-round trade and a second-round surprise, the Lynx were able to accomplish both.
But it took some wheeling and dealing.
In order: The Lynx traded their first-round pick (No. 11 overall) and their second- and third-round picks (Nos. 23 and 28) to the New York Liberty. In exchange the Lynx got guard Anna Cruz and New York’s second- and third-round picks. Those turned out to be Cal forward Reshanda Gray with the 16th pick and Gophers forward Shae Kelley at No. 35.
Got all that?
Griffith is glad he did. In Cruz — a native Spaniard who played last year for the Liberty — the Lynx got a savvy point guard with loads of international experience, an apparent lack of fear of the big moment, and the ability to defend on the ball that has Reeve excited. In Gray the Lynx got a player they had ranked in the top six overall, a banger down low with a knack for getting to the free-throw line. Kelley will come to camp looking to prove that her intensity and skill can make up for her relative lack of size.
But Cruz was a key. “We’re in a window of opportunity to win a lot of championships here,” Griffith said. “To have a player who has done what she’s done in the league was a better situation than the unknown that comes with a draft pick. We thought it was a wonderful thing to go with.’’
Reeve saw what Cruz could do both last summer — when she started the whole season at the point for the Liberty — and last fall at the World Championships. Reeve, an assistant with Team USA, counted among her jobs scouting the Spanish team before the championship game.
Cruz gives the Lynx a true backup to Whalen, a veteran with a scorer’s mentality whose defensive abilities — paired with those of Monica Wright— should give opponents fits.
But the Lynx will have to wait. Cruz will play with the Spanish team at the WorldBasket tournament in June, an Olympic qualifier, and won’t join the Lynx until early July.
“Anna gives us something different than Lindsay Whalen,” Reeve said. “For Anna, probably the most appealing part of her game is she’s unafraid. When you can have bench players who can come in and impact the team right away, that’s a luxury.’’
Gray, meanwhile, is a player who loves to play down low. The Lynx liked her, and they were able to nab her after improving their second-round position with the trade.
“She enjoys playing down low, she enjoys contact,” Reeve said. “She has a very impressive free-throw rate. She gets fouled a ton.’’
Both Gray — last season’s Pac-12 player of the year — and Kelley were thrilled to be coming to the Lynx.
“Minnesota has a lot of great players,” Gray said.
“A lot of great people on and off the court. … They know what it takes to win.’’
Said Kelley: “I’m just blessed to have an opportunity to be able to learn from those players. I’m very excited.’’
But some decisions will have to be made by the time training camp starts. The Lynx entered the draft with 14 players on their roster. A potential 15th, Tan White, is an unrestricted free agent. The team is allowed only 15 players in camp, though Cruz won’t count against that number at the start. That means moves will have to be made to make room for Gray and Kelley at the start of camp.