February 23, 2022
ROUNDTABLE: ‘Too Many Lynx,’ starring Cheryl Reeve
The Next staff offers solutions for Minnesota's roster crunch
The Minnesota Lynx are in a bind. Or, at least, general manager Cheryl Reeve is.
Minnesota currently has 15 players under contract, and 12 of them are clearly among the 144 best players in the world. In a perfect world, the Lynx could keep those 12 players into the season. But six of them are making six figures, leaving Minnesota with the unenviable position of needing to shed over $250,000 in contracts by then — not to mention No. 8 pick in the draft.
Five of those aforementioned top-144-in-the-world players are making at or below the veteran minimum, making them easily movable pieces, ones that other teams ought to be eager to add. With the Lynx needing to clear a few of those contracts (assuming they don’t cut Layshia Clarendon), what might other teams be willing to offer in assistance? We have enlisted our staff to offer some solutions.
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- 2023 second-round pick to Minnesota
- 2022 second-round pick (No. 14) to Las Vegas
Las Vegas sends
- 2023 second-round pick to Minnesota
- Rennia Davis to Atlanta
Based on general manager Dan Padover’s claims at a recent press conference, the Atlanta Dream seem like a team would prefer to keep both of its second-round draft picks — unless they can add other young talent. Big wing Rennia Davis would fall under the category of “other young talent” — and fill in every other box on Atlanta’s checklist.
- Youth and depth at the wing: Entering her age-23 season.
- Defense: An all-purpose stopper at 6’1, Atlanta could find its young wing valuable minutes at the two, three or four spots. In college, Davis defended shifty 5’7 ball-handlers and bulky 6’3 posts. The WNBA has a learning curve, but it likely won’t be too steep for her.
- Shot creation, or at least the upside of it: At Tennessee, Davis was an efficient scorer but a shaky safety valve. While she’ll need time to develop a more consistent shot off of the dribble, she’s far from the team’s worst option — and when you lose point guard Chennedy Carter, combo guard Courtney Williams and wing Crystal Bradford in an offseason, it’s worth taking all the chances you can get.
Padover would be wise to call up two numbers: Reeve’s and whoever is at the receiving end of his old work phone. In Minnesota, Reeve (one of the league’s best value-finders) would add two future second-round picks, one of which will likely be at the top of the round, without having to cut an additional player. In Las Vegas, the new front office would get two swings in the top 14 to add role players that can complement big A’ja Wilson.
The Dream could make bets on some of the other Lynx mentioned in this article, but players like point guard Crystal Dangerfield (size next to McDonald) and big Natalie Achonwa (age) don’t align as well with the team’s long-term vision. Reeve will probably want to move Achonwa’s contract the most. But after an injury to Davis kept her out of the season, the Lynx might not want to play the waiting game on a prospect in Fowles’ final season. -Spencer Nusbaum
- 2023 first- and second-round picks
There may not be a trade to be made here between the Lynx and Sky, as it is hard to imagine Reeve giving up on Davis this early on in her WNBA career. Davis, who missed last season after being drafted with the ninth-overall pick in 2022, has a chance to be the best player coming out of her draft class. However, the 2023 draft has some intriguing prospects. Minnesota is in win-now mode and if Davis isn’t ready to help them make a run at the finals this year, they could opt to move her for future draft capital.
It would be a mistake for the Lynx to make this trade. But if we are throwing out hypotheticals here, the Sky would have a clearer vision for what the future would look like with some of their veterans nearing the end of their WNBA careers. They only have two players signed through 2023, with two more having team options, and Davis could be a future building block in the windy city. -James Kay
- 2023 second-round pick
With every bench player from last season signed to unprotected contracts and very limited cap space, it’s very possible head coach Curt Miller runs back almost the same team this year.
Davis’ current salary is a tad more than the Sun could afford if they were looking to give Davis the 11th roster spot that combo forward Stephanie Jones filled last season. But this could be an appealing trade if Miller decides he isn’t set on keeping wing DiJonai Carrington, who Connecticut drafted in the second round last year. Davis is athletic and would give the Sun depth at the wing, and she could be a good future building piece as Bonner nears the end of her deal.
Connecticut doesn’t want to give up much here because Davis wouldn’t be guaranteed to make the roster. Miller values players who have experience with the rest of the roster and coaching staff, and Davis would be competing with players like wing Kaila Charles and Carrington, who have already shown to be capable role players.
The return for the Lynx isn’t likely enough to satisfy Reeve, who drafted Davis No. 9 overall last year, especially since Davis has yet to play a WNBA game. It might not be a huge deal for the Sun to throw in another pick or two, but the deal is likely not worth the time on either side. -Jacqueline LeBlanc
- 2023 first- and second-round picks
Two things the Dallas Wings have lacked these past couple of seasons are size and veterans. No more picks for the Dallas Wings. If nothing else, Achonwa could bring the Wings the veteran experience the team has lacked, if it can work out financially. Dallas has the scorers; it needs a body. -Arie Graham
The Fever have their own roster-construction crunch already, with 13 players currently under contract (including camp deals) and several draft picks on the way. Adding in more players would be difficult for the Lin Dunn-led Indiana front office, which will already have to make some tough cuts. In the absence of slam-dunk positive value, the Fever will likely sit this one out. -Tony East
In a perfect world, devoid of all but basketball, the Lynx and Sparks would line up on a Chiney Ogwumike trade. Chiney would become the heir apparent to the retiring Sylvia Fowles, the Sparks would solve their logjam of bigs. But there are plenty of non-WNBA reasons why Chiney wants to stay in Los Angeles, since she has a burgeoning broadcasting career based there. Moreover, the combination of her guaranteed deal and what it’s worth — $116,390, or less than any of the six the Lynx have — make the math hard even if the entertainment world relocated to Minneapolis. (And they should consider it, that’s a lovely city!) Also, the Lynx need to shed, not add, players. Clearly, I failed to understand the assignment! -Howard Megdal
- 2023 second-round pick
The Liberty are in need of a combo guard. New York struggled at the point guard position when Sabrina Ionescu was out recovering from left ankle tendonitis. Sami Whitcomb shifted over to take on the primary ball-handling duties alongside Betnijah Laney, who also facilitated when needed. When New York waived Layshia Clarendon, the idea was that Jazmine Jones and DiDi Richards would get more opportunities leading the offense.
In an offense led by new head coach Sandy Brondello, however, Whitcomb might be the person who leads the second unit. Whitcomb started at lead guard for the Australian Opals last week, and while leading the second unit is a slightly different animal than starting, there are some concerns. FIBA color commentator Shona Thorburn uttered this during the Opals’ game against Serbia on Feb. 13, noting that Whitcomb is taken away from her most valuable strengths in shooting and moving off the ball.
If Whitcomb is going to take on more of a combo guard role this season, she needs to have someone with a similar skill set who can play alongside her and behind her. The Liberty could trade for Dangerfield, but this is not a move I expect for the Liberty to make, especially if Jonathan Kolb can figure out how to successfully get off-ball guard Marine Johannès back in the W in 2022, someone who fits exactly what New York needs to a tee.
Dangerfield would fill that void if Johannès doesn’t sign. While she’s four inches shorter than Paris Kea, Dangerfield’s ability to handle the ball and distribute is much more polished than Kea, who, similar to Jazmine Jones, was pushed into a peg that didn’t fit in 2020. -Jackie Powell
- … a third round pick?
- … Banham, I guess?
It’s pretty much impossible to envision a scenario where the Mercury can make any more trades for 2022 and 2023, seeing as they have traded away their first- and second-round picks in both years. They do have both of Atlanta’s third rounders, in addition to their own thirds, but those don’t really seem to carry much value around the league.
So let’s say Reeve elects to cut Banham but wants to do right by her and not potentially expose her to waivers and having to malaise in Indiana. She’d fit as a backup depth piece in Phoenix, and if Reeve would take a third to not cut her, this makes sense. But it doesn’t really seem like these teams are a good match for a trade. But if Reeve was feeling generous and wanted to give the Mercury a fifth Olympic gold medalist, they can afford to fit in combo forward Napheesa Collier! (jokes jokes jokes) -Alex Simon
- 2022 and 2023 second-round picks
It’s no secret Dangerfield underwhelmed in her second season. The point guard benefitted from a Wubble environment that put shooting at all-time highs and saw many teams missing key stars — so it’s possible she may simply never reach her Rookie-of-the-Year heights again. But Seattle’s only point guard is Sue Bird; and Dangerfield’s still just 23; and she was one of the best pick-and-roll operators and overall playmakers in the league this year. Plus with combo guard Jewell Loyd and wing Gabby Williams, Dangerfield’s defensive woes are easily masked.
Dangerfield is already better than your average second-round pick, but Reeve has shown a propensity to have Carleton or Banham or even Powers run the offense. Plus the second round in 2023 is going to be a real good one, with players like Villanova big wing Maddy Siegrist, Stanford off-ball guard Hannah Jump, and Duke combo guard Celeste Taylor possibly on the board. Let Reeve flip the 2022 pick for one in 2023, and the Lynx are cooking with gas. -Em Adler
If Washington hadn’t just signed Japanese point guard Rui Machida — a player who Mystics general manager and head coach Mike Thibault called “one of the most dynamic point guards in the world” in the team’s announcement — I might have suggested that Thibault talk to Reeve about Dangerfield. But it seems wise to give Machida, who holds the Olympic single-game assists record, a shot at backing up Natasha Cloud, especially given that Machida is on a minimum contract.
Beyond that deal, I don’t see a lot of options that would both appeal to the Mystics and fit their salary cap constraints. That is, unless the Lynx would entertain a trade of Collier for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Collier is likely a surer bet than anyone in this draft class, but she’s also in the final year of her rookie contract and will likely miss most of the season due to pregnancy. If Reeve is confident Collier wants to stay in Minnesota past her rookie deal, she’s all but certain to reject the offer. But if Thibault is confident he could keep Collier in DC as a restricted free agent in 2023, he should put the draft pick on the table. -Jenn Hatfield