Since the Minnesota Lynx claimed their fourth championship in franchise history in 2017, nearly all of those players from one of the most dominant teams in WNBA history have departed from the team. In 2018, Lindsay Whalen (retirement) and Maya Moore (off-court commitments) stepped away from the court. In 2019, Seimone Augustus left the franchise in free agency. After not playing since 2018, Rebekkah Brunson officially retired in 2020.
In 2022, Sylvia Fowles was the last remaining staple from those dynasty teams to move on from the Lynx and the WNBA, retiring after a legendary career in both Chicago and Minnesota. With Fowles’ retirement, the door officially closes on that era of Lynx basketball.
As one door closes, another one opens in Minnesota. After a few years of transition into a new era, the Lynx officially step through this new door in 2023 as the organization turns a page while attempting to become championship contenders once again.
Looking Back on 2022
The 2022 campaign was a rollercoaster ride for the Lynx, to say the least. The Lynx had a surprisingly slow start to the season, followed by a late-season dash in attempt to reach the playoffs for a 12th year in a row.
Ultimately, Minnesota couldn’t overcome all that occurred early in the regular season to reach the postseason in 2022, falling short of the playoffs during Fowles’ farewell tour. The franchise’s run of 11-straight playoff appearances came to an end. As one of the bottom four teams in the WNBA standings, Minnesota headed to the WNBA draft lottery and came away with the second overall selection in April’s draft.
One of the Lynx’s greatest challenges in 2022 was that they dealt with arguably the most roster movement and turnover right out of the gate. By the middle of June, a month and a half into the regular season, Minnesota had seen 17 different players take the court in a game, which at the time was the most of any team in the league. Injuries, absences, and player movement in pursuit of the right personnel fit made it difficult for Minnesota to find its footing early on. In particular, not having the likes of Napheesa Collier (pregnancy) for most of the year was a significant blow to this team. The lack of roster stability helped contribute to the Lynx dropping to the bottom of the standings with a 3-13 record in mid-June.
However, the Lynx did turn things around, making a late-season dash in hopes of claiming a spot in the playoff picture. After that 3-13 start, Minnesota went 11-9 over the final 20 games to finish with a 14-22 record, only one game short of a postseason seed. With a few games remaining in the regular season, the Lynx controlled their own destiny while holding on to a playoff spot, but they ultimately couldn’t retain their postseason ticket.
At the end of the year, Minnesota head coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve said the Lynx “weren’t good enough to be in the playoffs,” noting that the team’s lack of dedication and buy-in halted their success right out of the gate. The writing was on the wall for Minnesota since the season began.
What Might Come in 2023?
With Fowles now retired and the 2022 season in the rearview mirror, Minnesota’s focus is now on the 2023 season and attempting to officially begin a new era of Lynx basketball with Collier leading the way.
Collier, a two-time WNBA All-Star who is entering her fifth season in the league next summer, is now the sole face of the franchise and will become a leader of the organization both on and off the court in 2023. Collier missed most of last season after giving birth to her daughter, Mila, on May 25. However, Collier appeared in four games to round out the 2022 season and will be back to full speed when the new year begins this May.
Minnesota will build around Collier this offseason and moving forward. Currently, the Lynx have Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, Natalie Achonwa (who recently announced her pregnancy), and Jessica Shepard already on contract to surround Collier during the 2023 season. Heading into free agency, the Lynx have some flexibility and space to make a splash to fill out the roster before the 2023 campaign tips off, carrying roughly $540,000 in cap space (according to Her Hoop Stats).
Minnesota will try to attract top talent to join the organization either in free agency or via trade in an attempt to replace Fowles with another star to form a feared duo alongside Collier. It also has the ability to add a solid prospect in the WNBA draft with the second overall selection, assuming that the Lynx hold on to that pick. Alternatively, Minnesota could trade its pick to bring in a win-now talent.
If Reeve is able to work her magic to add a star or a few top-tier players to the roster this offseason, the Lynx could be a bounce-back team in 2023. Having Collier with the team will help immediately, and depending on what occurs in free agency and around the draft, Minnesota will attempt to have a more finalized roster by the time training camp rolls around this year, unlike what took place in 2022.
One thing is for certain: Reeve will do all she can to help make sure the Lynx aren’t in the draft lottery again after the 2023 season. If the dominoes fall into place this offseason, Minnesota should be able to recover from the disappointment that occurred last season. The Lynx will hope to return to the playoffs—and even title contention—in 2023, starting both a new era of Lynx basketball led by Collier and a new postseason streak.
Collier couldn’t hardly make that 2017 roster.