Cheryl Reeve has made no promises that the Lynx selection — ninth overall — in Thursday night's WNBA draft could become the third consecutive WNBA Rookie of the Year in Minnesota.
Rookies may struggle to make immediate impacts leaguewide as rosters are expected to shrink. But it'll be especially tough in Minnesota, where the Lynx are focused on the future with a deep roster bolstered by three veterans acquired in free agency and the past two top rookies in forward Napheesa Collier and guard Crystal Dangerfield.
"That's what I've talked about when we've spoken to prospects, 'Look, you're not going to play very much,' " said Reeve, the team's coach and general manager. "In order to be a fit for us to draft you, you've got to be somebody that's not complacent or happy about not playing, but that you understand how to deal with it, and when your number is called, you're ready."
The Lynx enter the WNBA draft with "flexibility" with pick No. 9, Reeve said. It's Minnesota's only selection after dealing a second-round pick before last season to Connecticut for guard Rachel Banham and a third-round pick to Indiana.
Minnesota's pick is a difficult projection in the back end of the first round, but the Lynx have whittled down choices to "four or five" from a 2021 draft class lacking star power, according to Reeve. With the team's talent evaluations even atop the draft, Reeve said they may lean toward filling a need over taking a best-player-available approach.
Perhaps that need is backcourt depth after guard Odyssey Sims was dealt to clear salary this offseason, and the frontcourt gained former Fever forward Natalie Achonwa in free agency. But the Lynx can go many directions; UCLA small forward Michaela Onyenwere was Minnesota's pick in the latest mock draft released Wednesday by ESPN.
"You could even make the argument that number one to number nine, there's not a whole lot of difference," Reeve said. "If that's the case, you start moving toward your positional areas of need. If you look at our group, I like our post group a lot, but we'd like to have something different in the post group if we go that route."
The Lynx are deep at forward and center with future Hall of Fame center Sylvia Fowles, who only played seven games last year because of injury, joined by Damiris Dantas, Collier, Achonwa, Bridget Carleton and, if healthy, Jessica Shepard off the bench.
Dangerfield, last season's Rookie of the Year and Minnesota's points and assists leader, is surrounded by more shooting after the free-agent additions of Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride. Reloading the roster with veterans eases the strain of only having one draft pick of trying to evaluate college talent amid shortened seasons and coronavirus restrictions.
"This was the year to have one draft pick, for that reason," Reeve said. "I can't imagine being able to cover the ground you need to cover when you have multiple picks."
If the Lynx add yet another forward, Reeve will be looking to bolster some underrepresented skills in her current group like three-point shooting and passing. If they go guard, Reeve also has a defined vision, wanting sure-handed scorers who can thrive in limited opportunities; Louisville's Dana Evans or Arkansas' Chelsea Dungee may fit the bill.
"On the perimeter, I've called it more insurance," Reeve said. "If your number is called for a couple minutes, are you somebody we can trust? What's your assist-turnover ratio? Can you score efficiently?"
And can they transition quickly? Minnesota's season opener is May 14.
"That page turns quickly," Reeve said. "We have probably, by Monday, half the team here in market. We begin quarantining on the 18th. We have to have all these negative tests before we start group activities on the 25th. So it's going to be nonstop."