February 1, 2024 

Minnesota Lynx open 2024 WNBA free agency with a bang

The 2024 Lynx roster is starting to take shape

When the clock last stroke midnight, it marked the official beginning of the month of February, turning the page to a new chapter where WNBA teams can officially (and finally) agree to new deals with this year’s crop of free agents. The Minnesota Lynx made it an eventful final day of January, and an eventful first day of February as well; acquiring two new players, sending one to Connecticut, losing another free agent player to Connecticut, seeing two more free agents sign elsewhere, and losing another player to an overseas commitment for 2024 (why hello, additional cap space).

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Assuming Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve and company have put their pens down until tomorrow, let’s unpack an exciting day of roster development for the Lynx.

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The Acquisitions

For the Minnesota Lynx, questions have surrounded the point guard position dating back to last year’s free agency cycle. Now, it appears at least some answers have arrived: Minnesota has reportedly struck a deal with the Connecticut Sun, the very team that ended the Lynx’s 2023 campaign in last season’s WNBA Playoffs, to bring guard Natisha Hiedeman into the fold. Per a press release from earlier today, the Lynx acquired Hiedeman from the Sun in exchange for Tiffany Mitchell and Minnesota’s 2nd round pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft (No. 19 overall).

Hiedeman is an exciting acquisition for the Lynx. A veteran of five WNBA seasons, all in Connecticut, Hiedeman has played plenty of meaningful basketball in the league and started every single playoff game in the Sun’s run to the 2022 WNBA Finals. Minnesota could certainly use more shooting, and the Marquette University product is also a career 39.2% shooter from three-point range. 

“With Natisha, what we’re trying to address is a couple of things,” Lynx Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve said in an interview with The Next. “The deficiencies that we had in terms of three point shooting, [Hiedeman] is somebody that we talked to in free agency last year and kind of got to know each other pretty well. From an athletic standpoint, from an energy standpoint, her pace, those sorts of things were appealing to us.”

“I think we improve a little bit with on ball defense. Time will tell as it does with all the moves, but those are the initial things that we felt like we added,” Reeve added.

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Hiedeman is not the only reported newcomer to Minnesota either. Chicago’s Courtney Williams is expected to be the second member of the Sky (following Alanna Smith) to sign a two-year deal with Minnesota after the free agency signing period opens on February 1st, per Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV who broke the news first.

“Obviously [Williams has] spent a lot of her career in the off-guard spot, but one of the things that we talked about with Courtney that increases her value is the ability to play the point guard spot,” Reeve said. “What she did last year, I thought, was really impactful. She was very, very important to the Sky with her pick and roll reads.”

“She certainly is a dynamic scorer. You know that at any time she can go off the bounce and do what she does, which we’ve all watched for years and we’ve tried to guard for years,” Reeve explained.

The Next identified Williams as a potential target for Reeve and the Lynx in our free agency preview, as she would bring even more shooting and playmaking prowess to the North Star State. Williams averaged a career-best 6.3 assists while also hitting threes at a 43.4% clip for Chicago last season.

The move also reunites Williams and Hiedeman, who were teammates on the 2019 Connecticut Sun, who reached the WNBA Finals.

“The real appeal for us is putting Napheesa [Collier] in situations where she’s got a guard — where one of the two of them is going to get a good shot when those two are in an action together,” Reeve said.

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In an offseason cycle where Minnesota has targeted shooting, shooting, and more shooting, the Lynx didn’t just look to the outside world to add to their 2024 roster. Per ESPN’s Alexa Philippou, fan favorite sniper Bridget Carleton and the team have agreed on a two-year deal to keep BC in Minneapolis. Carleton is a career 36.6% shooter from three-point range and had one of Minnesota’s iconic moments of 2023, when she hit a three to cap an incredible fourth quarter comeback 91-86 win against the Sparks on the same night the organization honored Sylvia Fowles by hanging her No. 34 in the rafters.  

“[Carleton’s] about to enter her prime and that’s what’s exciting for us,” Reeve said. “We talked in our exit interview about that, in order to be a scorer, you’ve got to take shots. You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there in those ways.”

If you watch her for her team in Hungary, what she’s doing, and the types of shots, not just that she’s shooting, but the types of shots. A lot of the shots are not necessarily wide open shots. [They’re shots] where somebody’s maybe a little closer to her,” Reeve continued. “She’s having the moments where she’s got the maturity and the recognition [to see] it’s a shot that her team needs her to take and that they want her to take. So that same mindset just continuing to evolve [playing] for the Lynx, so we’re looking forward to these being her best years yet over the next couple seasons.”

The Departures

In addition to sending Mitchell to Connecticut, the Minnesota Lynx announced today they will be without Jessica Shepard for the 2024 season. Shepard will remain in Italy to fulfill contract commitments to her Italian club, Umana Reyer Venezia. 

Mitchell and Shepard represent $262,650 that will no longer count against Minnesota’s cap in 2024 per Her Hoop Stats. $120,000 of that will need to go to Hiedeman, and we’ll soon find out the numbers for Williams, Carleton, and fellow-reported-signee Alanna Smith.

“It’s difficult when you have a player who doesn’t play the point guard position, but when I tell you she did anything and everything we asked her to do at a difficult position, I told her I’ll always remember that,” Reeve said of Mitchell. “I’ll always appreciate that she felt like, ‘I’ll do whatever the team needs.’ That’s the difficult side of it. When you get something, oftentimes you have to give up something and that’s the hard part of the business for sure.”

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The Lynx will also lose a trio of guards from last season’s roster. Their primary ball handler from last season in Lindsay Allen, who signed with the Chicago Sky on February 1st, and Minnesota basketball royalty Rachel Banham, who signed with the Connecticut Sun. Fellow free agent guard Aerial Powers is also on her way to Atlanta.

“Rachel is just, she’s the pied piper. Everyone loves being around Rachel. She was a terrific teammate. Terrific in every possible way,” Reeve said. “What I’m really proud of is we have two players, who as a result of their time with the Lynx, they got good contracts out of this. I’m really proud of Rachel, she got a good contract.”

“People thought we were crazy when we brought Lindsay Allen [back] as a starter. They got to see Lindsay Allen and she’s still improving and finding her way into her best years as a professional,” Reeve continued. “Both of their time with us, I thought, helped them create their next path, so I’m really, really happy for them.”

Where the roster stands now

Among the moving parts packed into a period of about 12 hours, the 2024 Minnesota Lynx are starting to take shape. All-time franchise players Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride will be back. So too will their sophomore phenoms in Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász. Add in Hiedeman, Smith, Williams, Carleton, their first-round draft pick, remaining cap space, and the possibility of Maïa Hirsch, and the Lynx are well on their way to putting another playoff contender on the floor in 2024.

They also do so with more point guard clarity than they had at any point in 2023, and with space to continue growing. As this rendition of the Minnesota Lynx continues to take shape, Lynx fans likely won’t have to wait very long to hear about their next step forward.

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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