May 14, 2022 

Lynx tab Moriah Jefferson, Evina Westbrook as solutions to their early-season woes

A week into the season, Minnesota has overhauled its roster and emerged with nearly a brand-new team

On Thursday, the roster of the Minnesota Lynx was burned to a crisp. On Friday, it arose from the ashes like a newborn phoenix, ready to take the WNBA by storm. Or, at least, that is the hope.

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The Lynx signed five players to fill the void left by the recently departed players, headlined by point guards — and former UConn Huskies — Moriah Jefferson and Evina Westbrook. Both put pen to paper on rest-of-season contracts, and Jefferson is expected to start on Saturday against the Chicago Sky. Yvonne Turner, Nikolina Milić and Hannah Sjerven, all of whom have spent time with Minnesota since the beginning of training camp, were signed to hardship deals.

Jefferson was the second overall pick in the 2016 draft and spent the past five seasons with the Las Vegas Aces and Dallas Wings franchises. Although she has not played 1,000 minutes or more in a season since her rookie campaign, Jefferson has established herself as a competent lead guard and one of the best outside shooters the WNBA has to offer, two traits Minnesota has desperately lacked this season. 

Jefferson has connected on 70 of her 179 career 3-point attempts (39.1%) and ranked in the 98th percentile (1.356 points per possession) in spot-up opportunities last summer, according to Synergy. It has been many years since Minnesota has had as dynamic a jump shooter as Jefferson.

Additionally, she owns a career 2.1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and provides a steady veteran presence on the court, a characteristic that head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve values highly.

“We’re looking for leadership, someone who would not only be able to organize, but have the sense to understand what you’re running while you’re running it,” Reeve said on Friday of the decision to sign Jefferson. “It may take a little bit of time in terms of the nuances [of our offense], but in terms of just management of the floor, that’s something we feel like Moriah can do.”

Westbrook, on the flip side, is less of a known commodity in the WNBA. She was selected by the Seattle Storm with the 21st overall pick in the 2022 draft but was released prior to the regular season. She played two seasons each for UConn and the University of Tennessee, and she earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2018 and was named to the 2022 Big East All-Tournament Team.

Westbrook has a nose for the ball defensively and is by all accounts a hard worker, but she struggled with consistency offensively during her college career, particularly from beyond the arc. At 6’, she provides a solid frame and good rebounding ability from the point guard position. 

“We’re still learning about it. I just know that she’s going to get opportunities,” Reeve said of Westbrook’s potential role with the Lynx. “It depends on what happens when she’s on the floor. We’d like to have a player come off the bench that is going to be assertive, aggressive, that sort of thing, and we can make decisions from there. If it goes well, she’ll stay out there longer.”

The signings of Jefferson and Westbrook tie a bow on a saga that saw some of the most unproductive basketball in Lynx history. This is officially a new team.

Hindsight always provides clarity, but often 20/20 vision isn’t needed for gleaning valuable lessons. Reeve articulated this point rather clearly when asked if she would have conducted the offseason differently knowing what she knows now.

“What would I do differently? Yeah, I’d have healthy players. That’s what I would do differently,” she said matter-of-factly.

The Lynx now have healthy players. Although Kayla McBride is still a couple of weeks away from returning to WNBA action and it is unknown when Damiris Dantas will be cleared to play, Minnesota is, theoretically, in a much better place than it was one week ago. But the schedule isn’t getting easier, and the players who remained following Reeve’s great expulsion will have to learn the on-court tendencies and idiosyncrasies of at least two more players.

Winning games may still not come easily, but at least now, one can envision them coming in relatively short order.

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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