March 2, 2022 

What can Rennia Davis be for the Minnesota Lynx?

2021 first-round pick is back on the court overseas

Cheryl Reeve, not exactly one who is short for words around the media, didn’t know exactly what to say following the 2021 WNBA Draft. The Lynx had numerous trade discussions surrounding the ninth overall pick — a selection they earned following their surprising semifinals run during the 2020 season — but ultimately decided to hold on as they witnessed the virtually unthinkable unfold before their eyes: selecting Rennia Davis.

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“We did not have a mock scenario to have Rennia Davis there at nine. We just simply did not,” Reeve told members of the media following the draft, her surprise evident in her eyes. “We didn’t target Rennia because we didn’t think she would be there. We’re excited about it. We thought she was the No. 2 best player in the draft.”

Davis excelled during her four seasons at the University of Tennessee where she started 116 games, was twice an Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention, and was one of only four athletes in team history to rank in the top 10 in points and rebounds in a career alongside all-time greats Chamique Holdsclaw, Candace Parker, and Tamika Catchings.

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“I thought that she was one of the best players in the draft from a physical gifts standpoint. Also, her numbers, her efficiency, were not through the roof, but good. She was good,” Reeve told The Next earlier this winter. “We didn’t get, like, a franchise player, but if you get a serviceable player that you want in your franchise for multiple years, then that’ll be a good thing.”

Unfortunately, a stress fracture in her left foot kept the former Lady Volunteer on the sidelines for the entirety of the 2021 season. (She only participated in three practices during the preseason before the injury shut her down.) When I spoke to Reeve earlier in the offseason, she was pleased with the effort Davis put forth during her rehabilitation. 

In her senior season of 2020-21, Davis averaged 17.3 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field, along with eight rebounds per contest.*

Now she’s back on the court. Davis has appeared in eight games in Australia (Sydney Uni Flames) and Israel (Elitzur Holon) where she is averaging 18.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. While the sample size is small, Davis has displayed many of the reasons why the Lynx coveted her to such a degree.

“I think Rennia is doing the same things well that we enjoyed about her prior to drafting her,” Lynx assistant general manager Clare Duwelius told The Next via text. “[She’s] using her athleticism and length to make special plays.”

Davis, 6’2, possesses the ever sought-after combination of frontcourt size with the ability to dribble like a backcourt player. She plays with fluidity, calmness, and natural athleticism that has left some questioning her motor, though a single glance at her numbers should abate most of those concerns. Her physical tools have been overwhelming for opponents, who have yet to figure out how to keep her off the glass or from putting up a good look.

While she has always been a threat to score from the block, high post, and free throw line, Davis’s ability — or lack thereof — to knock down outside jumpers was one of her most glaring weaknesses entering the WNBA. However, Davis and the Lynx worked tirelessly on her 3-point shot before heading overseas, an effort that has paid off greatly thus far. As of this writing, Davis has connected on 10 of her 21 3-point attempts. (She converted a mere 113 of 360 attempts — 31.4% — while at Tennessee.)

But for as good as Davis has looked offensively, her game isn’t without its warts. Her defensive intensity frequently waxes and wanes throughout the course of a game, often leaving her out of position to make a positive impact. It should be noted, though, that her involvement within the offense and her overall volume of play will differ drastically with the Lynx compared to in Israel, which will likely allow her to apply greater focus and effort on D.

For what it’s worth, the Lynx aren’t overly concerned about Davis’s defense at this time, citing the defensive impact she had while with the Lady Vols as well as her inexperience at the professional level.

“She definitely has the physical gifts to be able to defend at the pro level, but like any young player, [she] just needs more time and experience,” Duwelius said.

Barring an unforeseen trade, Davis will likely play a prominent role with the Lynx this upcoming season. All-WNBA forward Napheesa Collier is expected to miss at least some of the season due to pregnancy. Additionally, while veteran wing Angel McCoughtry will help fill the void left by Collier’s absence, the extent to which the two significant knee injuries she suffered in recent seasons will impact her effectiveness on both ends of the court remains to be seen.

Davis is not the kind of athlete that serves as the foundation of a franchise. However, she has all of the physical tools and natural gifts to help lift a good team into the realm of the great. She still needs seasoning and will struggle at times throughout her rookie campaign, but, overall, the Lynx should be excited about what they have.

*An earlier version of this story said that Davis had not played in 2020-21. We regret the error.

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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