Stats: 25 games, 25 starts, 7.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 40.5 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 67.3 FT%
Season in a Nutshell: A productive and record-setting season by an all-time great cut far too short by injury.
A Deeper Dive: To understand Rebekkah Brunson’s value to the Lynx, the best thing to do might be to look at how the team fared without her. The Lynx had one of the best defenses in the league headed into the All-Star break, but after Brunson went down with a concussion and broken nose the team’s defensive rating skyrocketed.
Brunson’s role headed into the 2018 season was to be a strong presence on the defensive end and lock down the boards for the team—she was successful. Brunson became the WNBA’s all-time rebounding leader and anchored a great defensive unit. Brunson is a tenacious individual defender but she also has a great understanding of the Lynx’s defensive game plan. She might not rack up stats in the same way that fellow frontcourt player Sylvia Fowles does, but Brunson takes pressure off her teammates and effectively neutralizes opposing players night in and night out. Though Brunson isn’t as athletic as she was in her prime, she’s still so smart and savvy she finds ways to win individual matchups.
Going into the season Brunson wanted to add a three-point shot to her game, and as the Lynx’s season progressed it became clear why that was a priority. Minnesota struggled all year with floor spacing and creating room around Sylvia Fowles. Brunson ended the season shooting 37.5 percent from three. That’s pretty darn good for someone who only added a three-point shot late in her career, but Brunson’s shooting never became a go-to offensive weapon. The fact remains that Brunson was most useful to the Lynx when she could work in the paint, grab offensive rebounds and draw defenders off Fowles.
While 2018 wasn’t Brunson’s best season statistically, she’s beginning to get to a point in her career where her contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet. She was the minutes leader on the team for most of the season, and the team simply wasn’t the same without her on the court.
Top Three Games:
3. June 26 vs. Seattle
Brunson didn’t shoot the ball particularly well against the Storm, but she scored nine points, gathered nine rebounds and dished out six assists. She also had two steals and a block. This type of stat line really exemplifies Brunson’s value to the Lynx. When you talk about a do-it-all player, you should be thinking of Brunson. There are the players that put up the numbers and there are the players that hold it all together—Brunson is one of the best at the latter.
2. June 24 at Las Vegas
This was a game where Brunson gave her team exactly what they needed to win. She scored 11 points and shot perfectly from the field. She added six rebounds and three assists. When Brunson is this efficient, the Lynx won’t lose many games. Minnesota doesn’t need Brunson to be a go-to scoring option, but they do need her to knock down shots when the opportunity presents itself. Brunson doesn’t put up eye-popping stat lines but she doesn’t put up many duds either. She may not have made the highlight reels, but this was a phenomenal performance.
1. July 5 vs. L.A.
To make it to the top of this list, it would have been enough that Brunson set an all-time WNBA record for career rebounds, however, she decided to play one her best outings of the season on top of it.
Brunson scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and hit three three-pointers to go along with 12 rebounds and two assists. Importantly, the Lynx also got the win over their arch nemeses the Sparks. Brunson’s rebounding prowess is legendary, it was great to see her get the recognition she deserves in breaking the record.
Brunson’s main priority should be to get healthy and rested for next season. She always stays in excellent shape, so her conditioning won’t be a concern, but she should be resting and dealing with all the nagging things that always come up over the course of the season. Additionally, Brunson should be putting in more work on her three-point shot. It might not be a weapon that the Lynx need to turn to often, but it’s a great thing to have in their back pocket. More shooting is never a bad thing.
Role in 2019:
Assuming health, Brunson’s role will be similar in 2019 as it was in 2018. She is still a high-impact defender and a locker room leader. The way Brunson communicates with the rest of the team and marshals the squad on defense is very important to what the Lynx are trying to do. Coach Cheryl Reeve often talks about making the Lynx a team that isn’t fun to play against and Brunson is a huge part of making that work. She won’t be a focal point on offense, but Brunson will continue to get her buckets where she can find them—on offensive put-backs, off assists from Fowles when she’s being double-teamed and in the pick and roll.