Disappointment loomed when the Minnesota Lynx announced Cecilia Zandalasini would not play in a single 2019 WNBA game due to an ankle injury. The Lynx needed another sharpshooter, and fans had been awaiting the day they’d once again be able to watch the Italian assassin play in Minnesota.
Nine months later, the Lynx’s resistance to rushing Zandalasini’s return has paid off.
Zandalasini was named to the All-EuroLeague Women’s First Team on Wednesday after emerging as one of the best forwards in the 2019-20 season. Mind you, WNBA greats Courtney Vandersloot and Brittney Griner were named to the league’s second team.
Zandalasini appeared in 15 games for her Turkish club team Fenerbahce Oznur Kablo, averaged 15.9 points per game (fifth among forwards, seventh among all players) and recorded 239 total points (third among all players).
The 6’2 small forward continued to scorch the perimeter by shooting 40.7% from 3-point range after averaging 5.7 3PAs per game. She also added 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 46.1% from the field.
Zandalasini became one of just six EuroLeague players to record 30 or more points on Feb. 19 when she shot 10-for-19 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line in a 74-58 victory over Montpellier, Gabby William’s overseas team.
The career-high performance highlighted what makes Zandalasini so deadly: her world-class shot-creating ability.
Zandalasini can create her own shot by crossing up a defender, creating space off of a screen or curling around the elbow to sink a fadeaway jump shot right in front of a lagging opponent. She doesn’t require much time to gather and release, and limited space isn’t an issue for her either.
Her role with the Lynx will continue to grow if she can carry these skills with her as she enters her third WNBA season.
Zandalasini made her WNBA debut in 2017 when the Lynx picked her up in free agency, but she only appeared in three games and averaged 6.2 minutes per game for the championship team. Her usage surged in 2018 when she averaged 16.5 minutes in the 29 games she played in and averaged 5.7 points and shot 38.3% from 3-point range.
In 2020, Zandalasini could make her way into the Lynx’s starting five as a shooting guard or small forward or serve as a reserve who still receives significant minutes. Only three players shot over 35% from 3-point range in 2019 (Damiris Dantas, Lexie Brown and Napheesa Collier).
Adding Zandalasini into the mix could not only improve the Lynx’s 3-point shooting frequency (they finished 10th in 3PAs per game in 2019), but an improved shooting arsenal could also provide more interior opportunities for Sylvia Fowles.
Zandalasini has proven to be a player who flourishes when given an opportunity to do so. She proved her worth in the EuroLeague this past season and her chance to do so in the WNBA awaits.