Lexie Brown has found a home in Minnesota. Throughout training camp and through the first part of this season, Brown has emerged as a reliable scoring option off the bench and one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league.
Brown, who was the ninth pick by the Connecticut Sun in the 2018 WNBA Draft, was heavily scouted by the Lynx but did not fall to where they were selecting at No. 12. When Minnesota saw an opportunity to acquire Brown after she didn’t play much at all her rookie season they jumped at the chance and it’s paid off in a big way.
On Thursday night against the Phoenix Mercury, Brown scored a career-high 12 points and went three-of-six from deep. She also added two rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Whether Connecticut never knew what they had in Brown or they did and just weren’t able to find minutes for her in a crowded backcourt, the additional opportunity Brown has here in Minnesota is paying dividends for her. She’s revitalized what might have been considered by some to be a career on the edge and she will continue to play a huge role for the Lynx moving forward.
Three-point shooting is Brown’s most important skill for the Lynx. She cannot be left open, the backspin she gets on her shots is a sight to behold and she can get shots up in very little space. However, it’s evident watching her play that she brings more to the court than her sweet stroke—if you play for Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve you need to do more than one thing.
“I think Lexie has been confident, and that’s what I’ve enjoyed about her. But she’s not just a shooter and that’s a great thing about her. She’s not a specialist,” said Reeve after Thursday night’s game. “As you saw tonight, she’s good off the bounce, confident, she’s just a player that since she’s been here has really enjoyed the freedom that she’s going to have a role in what we’re doing. She knows about when she’s coming in the game, she knows how to stay in the game.”
Brown sees a perfect partnership here in Minnesota—she brings the Lynx a skillset they badly need and in return she sees the floor consistently. That consistency in return helps her become an even better shooter.
“Obviously they want me to shoot, that’s something they had been lacking the last couple seasons so coach Reeve has given me the super green light—if I see an opening I can take that shot and that’s been really fun to do and it’s built my confidence up a lot.”
Reeve’s confidence in the young guard paid off on Thursday. Brown hit a huge three-pointer and a great pull-up jumper in the fourth quarter, never hesitating as she launched two of the biggest shots of the game.
“A game like today who we all know is a really big game and then tough moments when she rose up, I have to believe she’s gaining in confidence and we’ve just asked her to shoot every time [she’s] open. It’s not just threes, it’s just putting pressure on the defense and I thought she did a good job of that,” said Reeve.
Taking some time to adjust to playing in the WNBA is common. Though Brown is undeniably finding her footing now, for players who are not immediate stars it can take a long time to figure out how to impact the game. Almost every player who makes a WNBA roster is a star at the college level, and that was certainly true of Brown at Duke. Leading a team and playing minutes off the bench require entirely different mindsets and that comes into play. The adjustment to the WNBA isn’t just a physical one, there are very important mental elements.
“Our first couple preseason games I was telling my parents, I’m not really used to coming off the bench, having to make an impact,” said Brown. “Being a starter for so long in college and high school you kind of can feel out the game, but when you come off the bench if you don’t know what’s going on, you’re coming right out because your job is to maintain the energy that the starters brought out.”
Brown has trusted in her development and done what her coaches asked. As a result, that adjustment is happening quickly. She has scored in double-digits three times this season and hit multiple threes in four games. The relationships she has developed with the rest of the Lynx bench squad have been key. The unit as a whole takes a lot of pride in what they bring to the team and getting to be a part of a group like that makes a difference.
“As the season has gone on, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable coming in, being ready, being locked in on the bench,” said Brown. “Our group on the bench, we’re a really close-knit group and we’re really proud of what we bring on the court.”
When players learn to stay focused on the game when they’re sitting on the bench, it does wonders for their play. They are more easily able to adjust. Sometimes seeing things from the sidelines can offer a lot of clarity. That translates to defense too—an area where Brown has been a difference-maker.
Brown not only hit two late threes, but drew a late charge as well. So far this season she’s shown a real knack for drawing offensive fouls both on charges and moving screens. She’s learning more and more how to beat her opponents around screens. Often, when a big sees that she has the better position, they adjust or bump her and get called for the foul.
Though many might not have expected Brown to be as good of a defender as she’s been, it’s no surprise to Reeve. Not much slips past the Lynx in their draft process and they keyed in on Brown’s potential as a WNBA defender right away.
“A thing that we liked about Lexie in college is that she does defend. Even though it was a zone mostly, she shoots passing lanes and she has a great understanding of help. You saw that tonight,” said Reeve.
Brown is matter-of-fact about her progress on defense. She said she doesn’t seek out charges (“Charges hurt!”) but she’s always focused on being in the right place at the right time and when she does that good things tend to happen.
“Some of these players are super aggressive in going to the basket so if you beat them to the spot you might get it,” she said. “Most times you don’t get it but if you beat them early enough, you’ll get one.”
Brown’s game isn’t perfect, but the progress she’s made in just a few weeks is exciting and encouraging for a team constantly on the hunt for more firepower. Brown made a real impact on Thursday and there will certainly be more to come. Hopefully we’ll see her in the three-point contest this year, too—it’s always fun to see her let it fly.