Fresh off claiming the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award, Sylvia Fowles will be returning as a cornerstone piece on the Minnesota Lynx for the 2022 season.
After pondering retirement following the 2021 campaign, the 36-year-old center will be returning for at least one more summer to embark on her 15th season in the league and eighth year in Minnesota. Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune reported Tuesday that Fowles, an unrestricted free agent, will return this season, but it’s unknown whether the contract is a one- or multi-year deal. On Wednesday, Fowles confirmed those reports when she announced via Instagram that she will be returning to Minnesota.
Since the Lynx’s season concluded in the second round of the playoffs last September, Fowles has remained relatively quiet during the offseason about her status for the upcoming year. But with free agency getting underway and Minnesota likely needing an answer from her to plan for the season ahead, Fowles ultimately decided to give it another go in 2022.
Fowles’ return is essential for the Lynx as they try to not only put together another strong season but also remain title contenders.
Since she arrived in Minnesota in 2015, Fowles has been one of the biggest keys to success on the court for the Lynx. Fowles already has an impressive resume, including two WNBA titles, one WNBA MVP award, four Defensive Player of the Year awards, seven All-Star appearances and four Olympic gold medals. Fowles’ productivity hasn’t slowed down, wrapping up a 2021 season during which she averaged 16.0 points, 10.1 rebounds (second in WNBA), 1.8 blocks (tied for second in WNBA), 1.8 steals (tied for first in WNBA) and 1.4 assists in 30.1 minutes per game over 31 regular season contests. Oh, and she took home Defensive Player of the Year honors and was named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team.
Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve has been vocal since Fowles’ arrival in Minnesota about her belief that the Lynx’s success rides on the star center being the focal point of what the team does on the floor. Whether in the post offensively or locking down the paint defensively, Fowles leads the way and sets the tone for the Lynx on a nightly basis.
“I do appreciate Sylvia Fowles. I know the sacrifices she has made to do what she’s doing for us. Syl just loves her teammates, loves this franchise and loves the game,” Reeve said during the 2021 season. “I don’t think there’s nothing she can’t do. … You guys are watching greatness. One of the best players ever, certainly at the center spot. There’s nobody close as far as what she does for her team.”
To back that up, during the 2021 season, Fowles ranked first on the team in Player Efficiency Rating (26.8), Win Shares (6.0), Offensive Win Shares (3.1) and Defensive Win Shares (2.9), according to Basketball Reference’s advanced stats.
With that said, Fowles’ most valuable contributions over the last few years might be the leadership and mentorship she brings to the Lynx, making her that much more valuable to Minnesota both on and off the court. Fowles has earned the nickname of “Mama Syl” from her teammates as she oftentimes serves as a mother figure and mentor to players younger than her on the roster.
Although Fowles would be a crucial element to the Lynx finding success in any season, her return is perhaps more important than ever in 2022 as Minnesota is trying to make another championship run. The Lynx, who were viewed as title contenders in 2021 before they fell in the second round to the championship fated Chicago Sky, will likely return as a team who could make a deep postseason run to try and claim their first WNBA title since 2017. That means Minnesota has a sense of urgency to win now, and Fowles will be an integral part to that once again.
The impact Fowles has on Minnesota’s championship chances may be overlooked by outsiders, but the imperative role she plays is not lost on those within the Lynx organization. “I think our league has grossly underserved Sylvia Fowles’ career. … Sylvia Fowles is the most underserved player in the league; you never see the league pushing Sylvia Fowles,” Reeve said. “Let’s do our part to make sure Syl is getting the shine she deserves. … Understand she has carried this franchise. When all the other players left and retired and rode off into the sunset, Syl stayed and has carried this franchise and has put us back in contention.”
Minnesota has other questions yet to answer this offseason, mainly finding out what the status of Napheesa Collier might be and if she will play in 2022. Additionally, the Lynx will need to look to fill out their roster by potentially re-signing free agents, such as Layshia Clarendon, Rachel Banham or others on the free agent market from elsewhere.
With those questions still present, one big question for the Lynx was answered with free agency now underway in the WNBA—Fowles will be returning to Minnesota for her 15th season this summer. Undoubtedly, she will once again play a key role for the Lynx as they contend for a title in 2022.