April 8, 2022 

Lynx Draft Preview – Deducing who Minnesota has an eye on

Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx hold four picks in the 2022 WNBA Draft, and who they pick might be a sign of which returners might be on the way out

Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve hasn’t been shy about making significant moves to spice up her roster since taking over as team general manager in late 2017. While her ingenuity and pedigree of success have helped lure top-tier free agents to the Twin Cities, her front office’s track record in the draft is equally impressive.

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Below are how the Lynx’s last four drafts under Reeve have unfolded:

2021 Draft

2020 Draft

2019 Draft

2018 Draft

While only four of the 11 players taken are still with the team, two have claimed Rookie of the Year honors (Collier, Dangerfield), one is a multi-time All-Star (Collier), and two figure to be at least solid role players for years to come (Davis, Herbert Harrigan). 

The Lynx own four of the league’s 36 picks during the draft that is set to take place on Monday night, all but one of which was acquired via trade.

  • 1st Round, 8th pick overall: From Phoenix (Kiki Herbert Harrigan)
  • 2nd Round, 13th pick overall: From Indiana (Odyssey Sims)
  • 2nd Round, 22nd pick overall: Own
  • 3rd Round, 28th pick overall: From Washington (Erica McCall)

Reeve told reporters Friday morning that she is rather high on the overall depth of the draft, believing that among its potential selections are a number of viable role players.

“It’s a good class,” Reeve said. “You know, always the top of the draft is a little more appealing. But I think it’s a good class that has good players that I think we always say at a minimum it will have a chance to be serviceable players in the league. I think it’s more of that type of class as opposed to generational players.”

However, the Lynx find themselves in the midst of a roster crunch and will likely only have room for one of their four potential picks on the roster. Which player are they most likely to select? Using the Lynx’s last four drafts as a proxy, let’s try to narrow down the possibilities.

Step One: Roster needs analysis

As Reeve stated during her pre-draft presser, the Lynx don’t really have glaring needs at any position. However, they do need to shed more than $200,000 in salary to not only dip under the salary cap but have enough room to sign a draft pick.

The easiest way to do this is to trade Natalie Achonwa for functionally no returning salary and part with one unprotected player. Doing so would leave Minnesota a little shallow in the frontcourt. Factor in Sylvia Fowles’ looming retirement and drafting a forward or center would make a lot of sense.

If they decide to retain Achonwa, they will likely have to trade or release at least two of Rachel Banham, Bridget Carleton, Crystal Dangerfield, and Rennia Davis. This path would leave the Lynx lacking guard/wing depth.

Potential targets: Elissa Cunane, North Carolina State; Naz Hillmon, Michigan; Nyara Sabally, Oregon; Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech; Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn; Mya Hollingshed, Colorado; Sika Kone, Mali; Veronica Burton, Northwestern; Destanni Henderson, South Carolina; Kiersten Bell, Florida Gulf Coast

Step Two: Past draft trends analysis

Although Reeve’s previous drafts display a preference for pedigree and results more so than measurables and potential, she told The Next that this isn’t necessarily the case.

“When we look at the things that we value, that tends to happen. I think there may appear to be a bias from all of us. But that sort of tends to happen. But I’d say for us, you know, we pick [the three things that we value in a prospect], it’s not among the three.”

However, Collier, Dangerfield, Davis, Herbert Harrigan, and Shepard all came from elite basketball programs and were considered not only among the best players on their teams but in the nation. Reeve also mentioned that the Lynx will be taking a ‘best player available’ approach to the draft and will look for athletes who can contribute this coming season as they push for one last championship with Sylvia Fowles on the roster.

As such, it would be rather gobsmacking to see the Lynx take a project.

Potential targets: Elissa Cunane, North Carolina State; Naz Hillmon, Michigan; Nyara Sabally, Oregon; Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech; Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn; Veronica Burton, Northwestern; Destanni Henderson, South Carolina; Kiersten Bell, Florida Gulf Coast

Step Three: Front office preferences

The Lynx have one of the most respected team cultures in the WNBA. Winning is not only a goal, it’s an expectation. Failing to do so won’t be tolerated. They’re also among the most active in social justice movements and supporting their community.

The front office under Reeve has made it a priority to acquire athletes who share these same values. They value competitive spirits and those that hold themselves to high standards.

They also have had great success with players out of UConn.

Potential targets: Naz Hillmon, Michigan; Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech; Nyara Sabally, Oregon; Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn; Veronica Burton, Northwestern; Destanni Henderson, South Carolina

Final Predictions

If they move on from Achonwa: Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech

If they move on from a guard(s): Veronica Burton, Northwestern

Cubaj stands 6’4” and possesses both the verticality and quickness to be able to switch onto nearly every position. She’s also a strong offensive rebounder and passer, which would make for a dynamite pairing with either Fowles or Damiris Dantas.

Burton is a three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She’s also a Swiss Army knife on offense, able to play both on and off-ball, making for an excellent pairing with Kayla McBride;

Both athletes would fit very well with the Lynx, both on and off the court. They’d be able to contribute as rookies but not face the pressure of being a starter or a future face of the franchise. Reeve and company would likely be very happy if they landed either one.

The Sleeper: Naz Hillmon, Michigan

While Hillmon was an excellent college athlete, many have wondered if her game will translate to the WNBA. She’s a five wrapped in a four’s body and produces negative gravity from the outside. She also has limited athleticism and quickness compared to her WNBA peers.

But what she does well, she does exceptionally. She’s a monster in the post and on the boards. She’s a bulldog defender who isn’t afraid to fight back against women who are bigger than her. She’s also the most individually successful athlete in Michigan basketball history—men’s or women’s.

In many respects, her raw abilities are similar to that of Collier’s but without the outside game. Make no mistake, that’s a significant minus, but it’s a skill set that the Lynx know how to utilize. She also wouldn’t face much pressure to perform immediately as a rookie as Fowles, Bridget Carleton, Rennia Davis, and Damiris Dantas will see the bulk of the frontcourt minutes.

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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