June 29, 2022 

‘Mrs. Triple-Double’: Moriah Jefferson is excelling with the Lynx

Jefferson is the 10th player in WNBA history — and the first Minnesota Lynx — to register a triple-double

“Anybody have any questions for Mrs. Triple-Double?” Minnesota Lynx PR aficionado Cymonne New quipped as she ushered Moriah Jefferson into the media room following the Lynx’s crushing 92-64 defeat of the Dallas Wings on Tuesday.

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“Relax,” Jefferson retorted sheepishly, the heat emanating from her flushed face virtually palpable. “Y’all gotta chill.”

Jefferson became the 10th athlete in WNBA history—and the first Lynx—to register a triple-double when she grabbed her 10th and final rebound with five seconds remaining on the game clock. Her 13-point, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and two-steal game with only a single turnover was only the second occurrence since the league’s inception. (Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes provided the other, according to Across the Timeline.)

“For any player, when you get a triple-double, it’s exhausting because you’re playing defense, you’re playing offense, you’re passing the ball. Your teammates have to make shots. You have to be in the right moment at the right time,” Jefferson said postgame. “But when you’re doing it in the course of the game, and it just flows and you’re not forcing it and trying to get it, I think that’s the best … Coach Cheryl like really, really challenged me last game, got in my face. I needed it and I love when that happens. And my job as a point guard is to respond and hopefully, Coach, you’re happy with what I did today and if not, I’m sorry [laughs].”

Jefferson’s historic night came off the heels of a devastating buzzer-beating loss to the Chicago Sky just a few days earlier, a game in which she was benched in the fourth quarter due to poor play. But, by and large, her triple-double was simply the latest encapsulation of a special season that the Lynx grew accustomed to during the mid-2010s but have not experienced since.

Lindsay Whalen, Hall of Famer and five-time All-Star, forever set the bar for Minnesota Lynx point guard play during her nine seasons with the team. She helped guide the franchise to four WNBA titles and was a leader on and off the court. Her impact on basketball in the state of Minnesota—women’s and men’s—can’t be overstated and will never be forgotten.

But, when viewed from a purely statistical lens, there is an actual argument to be made that Jefferson’s 2022 campaign has been one of the best by a Lynx point guard in franchise history. And certainly, the best since Whalen retired.

During her 15 games in Minnesota, Jefferson has unlocked the team’s offense and helped propel it into the top five (101.4 offensive rating). When Jefferson is on the court, the Lynx own a 107.0 ORTG compared to a 95.2 ORTG when she is off. (*Insert all caveats about individual player rating stats here*, but in this case, the number back the eye test; the Lynx offense simply runs more efficiently and effectively when she is on the hardwood.)

Jefferson is a skitterbug with the ball in her hands and is keenly able to dissect sharp angles and speed disadvantages in real time. The result often involves her simply blowing by her defenders with relative ease.

She’s also a dynamic 3-point and spot-up threat, the likes of which the Lynx have not had for years, if ever. Her game is not perfect—she’s a below-average finisher at the rim, partly due to her size, and she would probably benefit from extending some of her mid-range Js beyond the 3-point line. But there are few lead guards in the league or who are about to enter who would be a better fit to help move Minnesota past the Sylvia Fowles era.

For what it’s worth, Jefferson seems to agree.

“For me, I’m the best when I’m in pick-and-roll situations and we’re heavy on pick-and-rolls,” Jefferson said of why she has been able to find such great success with the Lynx. “[Sylvia Fowles] sets amazing screens. My teammates do a great job of being u-turn players, knocking down open shots. And when you can do that, it’s easier, as a point guard, to get to your spots. So I just think the system that we’re in, the way that the ball moves, everybody having each other’s back. If I have a bad game, I know somebody else is gonna step up for me. So yeah, I think it just the system and then the belief that my teammates and my coaching staff has in me, it’s confidence-boosting.”

Jefferson will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 season. And the Lynx will enter the offseason with only three protected contracts on the books and over $500,000 in cap space. As such, it would appear to be a no-brainer that the two will come to an agreement on a long-term deal next winter.

But for now, the focus is on continuing to turn the season around and ultimately, reaching the playoffs. Minnesota is 3-4 over its last seven games, with the four losses—three of them to Chicago, Seattle and Las Vegas—coming by a combined 10 points. The Lynx currently sit 2.5 games out of eighth place with 16 games remaining.

Moriah Jefferson will be a big reason if they can accomplish the previously thought unaccomplishable.

Written by Lucas Seehafer

Lucas Seehafer is a general reporter for The Next. He is also a physical therapist and professor at the undergraduate level. His work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Forbes, FanSided, and various other websites.

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