Coming into training camp, the Minnesota Lynx had a plan for their guard group. After re-signing with Minnesota this offseason, Layshia Clarendon was viewed as the likely starting point guard, with 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield, Rachel Banham, and others filling out the depth chart.
Leading up to the start of the regular season, with the deadline to make final roster cuts approaching, those plans suddenly changed. Less than a week before the season opener on May 6, the Lynx announced a wave of final roster cuts, surprisingly featuring Clarendon and Dangerfield, along with 2021 first-round pick Rennia Davis and 2022 draft picks Kayla Jones and Hannah Sjerven. Sjerven later re-signed with the Lynx on a hardship contract on May 13.
Following those cuts, Minnesota then signed former Lynx guard Odyssey Sims to pair alongside Banham, though less than a week after signing her, they moved on from Sims. On May 13, roster moves continued at point guard when the Lynx signed guards Moriah Jefferson and Evina Westbrook to fill out the depth chart at guard.
After an unusual wave of transactions less than a week in the regular season, Minnesota now features a new-look group at point guard as it aims to put together another strong year and a hopeful deep playoff run.
Clarendon, Dangerfield, and Sims Out
In 2021, Clarendon and Dangerfield led the point guard unit for Minnesota, with Clarendon quickly emerging as the top option and Dangerfield serving as the primary backup.
Clarendon had a strong season for Minnesota, but a right fibula stress fracture near the end of the year brought their season to a close and presented a recovery battle during the offseason, which played a big role in the Lynx waiving him.
“It wasn’t that Lay became a bad basketball player,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said, according to the Star Tribune. “It had nothing to do with Lay’s abilities to lead or play. We just didn’t feel like, to start the season, we were in a good place physically.
“Our thinking was I have a point guard who can’t be in every rep and has to be modified and, you know, at the drop of a hat, might have some soreness or things like that,” Reeve continued. “It doesn’t feel like the right thing to do to start the season. Would I love to have Lay back at some point? Absolutely.”
Despite Clarendon saying during Lynx media day that they were healthy, and echoing that after being waived, Minnesota didn’t feel that was the case. Dangerfield signed with Indiana after being waived by the Lynx, and she ended up putting together a nice showing of 10 points and six assists in her first matchup—against Minnesota—on May 10. Dangerfield was waived by the Fever a few days later.
Sims, who played for the Lynx during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, spent a surprisingly brief time in Minnesota, appearing in just two games. Sims was a late addition to Minnesota’s inactive list on May 10, with Reeve indicating after that game Sims was away from the team while “handling personal matters.” A few days later, Sims was released.
Regardless of whether or not these moves were the right decisions for the Lynx, there is a changing of the guard(s) underway in Minnesota.
Jefferson, Westbrook, and Banham In
Less than a week into the season, the Lynx now have a completely new-look group at point guard, featuring Jefferson, Westbrook, and Banham as floor generals.
Jefferson, who has spent time with the San Antonio Stars and Las Vegas Aces during her five-year career, was released by the Dallas Wings on May 9. After having a hard time carving out a prominent role in Dallas, Jefferson now comes to Minnesota to lead the team as starting point guard. In her debut on May 14, Jefferson tallied 16 points, five assists, and one rebound in just under 35 minutes.
“I love the dynamic of this team here… My job is to come in here and be aggressive and put people in the best positions possible. That’s what I’m going to do,” Jefferson said on May 13, her first day with the Lynx. “I think everything happens for a reason. I think things have worked out the way they were supposed to… I want to win games; I want to win championships. I don’t step on the court to do anything else.”
Westbrook, a rookie guard out of UConn, was waived by the Storm after being drafted 21st overall. She appeared in two preseason games for Seattle, totaling 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Westbrook made her debut with Minnesota on May 14, finishing with four points, five assists, and three rebounds in 20-plus minutes off the bench.
“I see a mature player. She has been kind of unfazed by the challenges of the last few days,” Reeve said of the young point guard. “She’s someone who has been through the experiences.”
In her seventh WNBA season, Banham, who re-signed with the Lynx as a free agent this offseason, has yet to impress. The Minnesota native averaged 4.8points, two assists, and one rebound over her first four games, now likely shifting to an off-guard role, similar to her previous seasons.
How will this updated point guard group perform? Will Minnesota need to make further changes this summer? Only time and performance will tell. Regardless, the Lynx are trying to do all they can to carve out this roster on the fly.
“This year, we didn’t feel like we were where we needed to be at the point guard spot…We will keep tweaking until we have the team we want,” Reeve said. “I’ve wanted to see a different outcome, but it’s beyond our control.”
A week into the 2022 campaign, Minnesota has been a team with a lot to figure out, similar to their 0-4 start to the 2021 campaign. Don’t forget, though—they rattled off a 22-6 record the remainder of the regular season. Improving the guard position has been a focus for Minnesota, and this continued evolution means the Lynx are trying to right the ship as soon as possible.
Unless otherwise noted, stats appear courtesy of WNBA Stats.