Napheesa Collier has quite a task on her hands.
Not only is the Lynx’s first-round pick dealing with the pressures of coming into the WNBA and facing stiffer competition than she ever has in her career, she’s also switching positions.
The Lynx and head coach Cheryl Reeve believe that while Collier was an excellent post player in college, her ideal WNBA position might be small forward. Collier has the basketball instincts to make this transition successful, but it’s still a difficult task that requires her to think about her role on the court in a different way.
Even in just the last week, Reeve sees her making progress.
“She knows how to play without the ball. She’s still trying to carve out what her role is. We went through the first part of it and probably up until today she was just doing what she’s supposed to do as opposed to now, go get involved,” she said. “I thought she did that today and we’re going to continue to go down that path with her. That’s important. If you just stand in the corner and wait for that to come to you, you’re probably not going to get many shots.”
Switching positions is a tough task, but the Lynx have some experience with it. Maya Moore also played the four in college and the Lynx successfully turned her into one of the best threes in the league.
Going from the four to the three is harder than many other position switches because it requires players to develop ways to attack the rim from the outside and to hit shots from beyond the arc. Collier has a good foundation, but there’s no telling how successful this project will be. There are two main reasons it’s worth the effort for the Lynx. First, there are minutes available at the three on the team, and second, Collier is a little undersized for a WNBA four.
“Not everybody can do it, and I’m not sure that we’ll be successful. I don’t know. I do know that’s how I can get her minutes is at the three,” said Reeve. “With Karima [Christmas-Kelly] returning from an injury it’s going to be valuable minutes, very important minutes. I also want her to spend a little bit of the time at the four as well because I know she’s very comfortable there. She’s just a little smaller”
This all being said, there’s a lot that Collier does well even as she works to adjust. That’s what makes this kind of an experiment possible—she’ll find a way to be successful one way or another. She has the right attitude about it as well.
“Even if I’m not scoring, going in for a rebound or getting tips or after loose balls, because I am uncomfortable in the position so I want to focus on working hard on things I can control, then the other things like shooting the ball or attacking from the perimeter will come later once I get more games, more practices, more comfortable with that,” said Collier.
Reeve recognizes that as well. She’s not trying to completely change Collier as a player, just add to her arsenal. The more versatile Collier can become, the more she’ll be able to play.
“I don’t want to tear the house down type of thing because it maybe doesn’t look great right now, but she’ll figure it out, she’ll get more and more comfortable, but it is hard,” said Reeve.