November 23, 2022 

What Natalie Achonwa’s pregnancy means for the Lynx

Lynx will need frontcourt help with Fowles' retirement, Achonwa's pregnancy

Minnesota Lynx backup forward Natalie Achonwa announced on Instagram on Tuesday that she is pregnant. 

“On behalf of Lynx players, coaches and staff, I want to share a heartfelt congratulations to Natalie and her family,” Lynx president of basketball operations and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement provided by the team. “Being a parent is an exceptional joy and we wish Natalie a healthy pregnancy.”

This is the second consecutive season in which a Lynx player is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season due to pregnancy. Forward Napheesa Collier missed all but the final four games of the 2022 season after giving birth to her first child. 

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As was the case with Collier, Achonwa’s pregnancy and subsequent recovery mean that the Lynx will effectively be down one roster spot until they qualify for a hardship exemption. Due to WNBA salary cap constraints, Reeve has often begun the season with only 11 players on her roster; hardship exemptions can be granted after a team falls below 10 active players.

Additionally, the contracts of players who miss time due to pregnancy still count against teams’ salary caps. As such, the Lynx have roughly $540,000 in cap space for next season.

Achonwa has had a rather underwhelming run with the Lynx since signing a three-year, six-figure deal prior to the 2021 season. She’s appeared in only 43 games due to various injuries and averaged a mere 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game. 

With her contract set to expire following the 2023 season, it is possible that Achonwa has played her final game in a Lynx uniform. The eight-year WNBA vet is respected within the locker room and is an engaged, vocal leader on the sidelines, even when injured. However, her performance on the court to date has left the Lynx wanting more.

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Achonwa’s absence will also put more pressure on the Lynx to bring in frontcourt help this offseason. The team was already looking to replace future Hall-of-Famer Sylvia Fowles following her retirement, and now it needs to replace her backup as well. 

One direction the Lynx will undoubtedly look is toward 6’3 forward Nikolina Milic. Milic — who often goes by Nina — was a somewhat surprising signing last season following Minnesota’s slow start. But the 28-year-old rookie impressed in 31 games, drawing praise from both the front office and her teammates. Milic averaged 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per game, with the bulk of her playing time coming when Fowles was dealing with a knee injury.

Written by Lucas Seehafer

Lucas Seehafer has served as The Next's Minnesota Lynx beat writer since 2022. He is also a physical therapist practicing in southern Minnesota. His work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Forbes, FanSided, and various other websites.

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