From the moment Cheryl Reeve took over as Minnesota’s head coach in 2010, the Lynx have focused on maximizing the talent of an often veteran-heavy roster, while making championship runs on an annual basis. That mindset proved to be successful, resulting in four WNBA titles and one of the most impressive dynastic runs in recent memory.
Minnesota continued this push, even as late as the 2022 season with Sylvia Fowles giving it one more go before retiring. But now, for the first time in years, the Lynx appear to be taking a different approach, even if somewhat reluctantly. The Lynx are looking ahead. It’s about the future. It’s about developing prospects to evolve into veteran talent down the road. Reeve ultimately hopes this will result in a stretch to mirror her early years with the franchise.
“It’s a different time,” Reeve said this offseason regarding the state of the Lynx. “When I met with [Lynx owner] Glen [Taylor], really during the 2019 offseason, from that point we analyzed the upcoming drafts and talked about free agency and what was our best path. Our best path at that time, especially when getting [Napheesa Collier] in 2019 was that we could get some solid free agents and put a solid team together that could do well. And we did.
We had a good enough team to make the playoffs last year, it just didn’t happen. Now, as I shared with Glen, the drafts are starting to change a little bit in terms of our interests.”
Even while holding the second overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, with which Minnesota selected Maryland guard Diamond Miller, to go along with four other selections over three rounds, the Lynx still considered going all in and handing out money to win-now players. They tried to lure top-tier free agents to join Collier and company in Minnesota while turning the page to a new era of Lynx basketball.
That ultimately didn’t work out as hoped, resulting in a diversion of the overall plan—to lay the groundwork and foundation on which to build a better future.
“There were a few players (in free agency) where, if you get them, maybe you have a different mindset,” Reeve said. “When you don’t, you have it decided for you.”
Planning for the future began with Minnesota’s showing in the draft. Headlined by the selection of Miller at No. 2, the Lynx put together one of the strongest drafts in the league—surrounding the shiny new Diamond with Maïa Hirsch (No. 12), Dorka Juhász (No. 16), Brea Beal (No. 24), and Taylor Soule (No. 28), all players who have potential first-round talent. Hirsch won’t be playing in the WNBA in 2023, but at least three of the draftees have a legitimate shot to make the final roster, something that hasn’t been much of a consideration in recent seasons.
“When I think about November when we started the process of getting ready for this draft knowing how many draft picks we had, we spent a lot of time traveling the country combing through a lot of really good prospects,” Reeve recalled. “If you would have told me in November this is where we would have landed, I would have been pretty darn excited.”
The new wave of youth injected into the Lynx will allow the organization to develop talent from the ground up for the first time since Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and, more recently, Collier broke into the league. This new group of rookies will have a chance to prove themselves and grow alongside a strong veteran presence, notably Collier, Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, and Tiffany Mitchell.
“I think it’s really cool being part of a franchise that has great vets. They’re going to teach us, and we’re going to need it,” Miller said after the draft. “Growing pains are a part of the journey and the transition from college to a professional. I’m really happy I have people who have been through it and understand the growing pains and can help us through it.”
With the future in mind, the Lynx want to ensure their face of the franchise, Collier, has all the pieces in place to help build something successful. Everything Minnesota does will center around the 26-year-old forward, both on the court and with the people brought into the organization. After all, Collier is the only non-rookie under contract beyond the 2024 season.
“The culture piece, everybody wants that. Phee is the epitome of what we want to see in terms of a selfless person, emotionally mature, who handles ups and downs in a way that is really impressive,” Reeve said. “Making sure we’re giving her a team that she wants to play with, and that there’s a clear direction with our team and who we are putting around her—that’s important to us. We want to make sure there are selfless individuals who are talented and care about winning first. That’s what we want.”
Making a team younger can be a rollercoaster ride for an organization, and that feels likely for the Lynx’s 2023 campaign. If done the right way, however, and with the right pieces and personnel in place, the payoff can be worth it. Though operating in this space for the first time in years, the Lynx hope this focus on the future will make for a brighter path ahead, one perhaps to rival the dynasty of the mid-2010s.
“We’re excited to start playing basketball and get to work,” Juhász said. “We’re all competitors. We all want to win a WNBA championship one day, and this is why we are here. We want to be a part of this historic franchise.”