The Lynx hit a home run in the 2019 WNBA Draft. They got deeper, tougher, and better on both sides of the ball. They added players who can shoot, players who can defend and players with diverse skillsets that will be able to help the team right away and down the line.
With five picks in the draft and four in the top 20, the Lynx came into the night feeling like they had the chance to seriously improve their team. The team picked: Napheesa Collier, Jessica Shepard, Cierra Dillard and Kenisha Bell. They also traded the No. 18 pick to the Connecticut Sun for Lexie Brown, who was taken with the No. 9 pick last year.
“It was just a really good night for the Minnesota Lynx. We’re excited, we got a haul of talent that we needed. I thought that we maximized value at each pick,” said the Lynx general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve after the draft.
In Collier, the Lynx got a player who they feel can play right away. Collier is a great defender and rebounder, who scores very efficiently. She’s one of those players that does seemingly everything on the court. You can read more about her here.
“The little parts of her game, every time she plays, she does those things regardless of what level. I had a chance to see that from USA Basketball. This was a young player who was still in college playing with professional players. I just saw how easily she fit in and every single day she brought exactly the same thing,” said Reeve. “I can just envision Napheesa just, the first day, it being natural for her. This is a player who is going got be a pro for a long time. Consistent, steady, has to improve a bit offensively and she’ll see that, but I have a comfort level with her, that’s why we were so excited.”
The Lynx were very excited when Collier was still there at No. 6. Earlier in the week they were fairly sure she was going to go earlier.
“We really hunkered down Monday and Tuesday, and we left on Tuesday night not thinking that it was going to be Napheesa Collier. Our mock had her above us,” said Reeve. “Then when I got home Tuesday night, I got a phone call that this particular person was pretty sure that Napheesa was available so we were very excited when we got that news last night.”
At No. 16 the Lynx got someone who they didn’t think would fall to them in Shepard. A tenacious rebounder and an incredibly strong player down low, Shepard has a lot of Rebekkah Brunson to her game which is something the Lynx might need this season as Brunson’s future is still in doubt. Shepard also projects as a decent three-point shooter in the WNBA even though she didn’t take many at Notre Dame.
“Jessica Shepard is a player that, since I left her with USA Basketball, I’ve followed her… I think this is a player that I think our fans are going to enjoy watching,” said Reeve. “She likes to pass the ball, we thought that was really important for our offense. We’re going to ask her to shoot the ball more… I think she’s excited about that. I said, ‘As long as you make them.’”
“She has a chance as a 16th pick to be important for our basketball team.”
That’s not something you hear every day.
The Lynx badly wanted to draft Brown last year. They liked her shooting and her defensive abilities, but she was taken at No. 9 by the Sun and the Lynx ended up moving their pick.
“Lexie Brown is a player that we linked in last year’s draft, just couldn’t fit into Connecticut’s rotation and they offered her to us,” said Reeve. “We think it’s a big deal for us in terms of positional need. Three-point, shooting, she plays defense, she’s pretty darn eager to be here in Minnesota.”
Brown will have a chance to prove herself in a deep and talented group of Minnesota guards. Competition will be fierce, but it will make everyone who is a part of that group a better player. That includes the Lynx’s No. 20 selection, Cierra Dillard. Dillard is a ferocious point guard with a sweet shooting stroke who dominated in college. She knows she’s going to have to work hard to make it in the WNBA, but she’s up to the task.
“Cierra Dillard, this is a young lady that is just so excited to be drafted and to be selected by the Lynx. She’s got some swag to her. She’s got a three ball. She’s unafraid. That was something that is really appealing to us just to add some depth, give us some more options in the backcourt,” said Reeve.
With their final pick, the Lynx took Bell from the University of Minnesota. Fittingly, Bell becomes the first player taken from Lindsay Whalen’s program at the U of M. However, don’t think for a second that this was just a favor to a former Lynx legend. Reeve things Kenisha has a shot.
“Kenisha can defend, I told Lindsay I’m going to ask her to shoot more from the outside as opposed to always driving. It’s hard in our league when you get in there so I’m excited to see what Kenisha can do,” said Reeve.
“She defends and she’s an elite athlete. Those two things are an automatic get her in to camp and see if you can learn about her offensively,” she continued.
Looking at the players the Lynx selected in this year’s draft gives a sense of how they’re going to play in 2019. They will still be entered around Sylvia Fowles, but they hope that they can have a more even distribution of scoring around her, and they believe their defense will be better as well.
“We’re still going to remain balanced,” said Reeve. “Sylvia Fowles is going to do her thing. We’ve got to be able to have double-figure scorers all around her. It doesn’t have to be 15, 16 points. You have a bunch of 10 or 11 or 12-point scorers you have a chance to be difficult to guard.”
Everyone on the roster is excited about how the draft ended up and they’re excited to return for what is certain to be a very intense training camp. Bringing in players who work as hard as these players do elevates the level of play for everyone. Internal competition is a good thing and the Lynx will support one another as they all fight to earn roster spots and playing time.
“There’s going to be a level of excitement internally with the returning players,” said Reeve. “These players that are coming in are really hungry. They don’t quite know what they’re in for yet, but if everyone kind of comes in with this clean slate and has this energy and enthusiasm and a love for being there together, the quality of the environment and your chance for success goes up. That’s the environment that we want, that contagious behavior of being passionate, working really hard, being a great teammate, those are the things that have made us great and I’m really, really happy that we were able to add a lot of players that share that mindset.”