Napheesa Collier is going to have an incredible career.
Collier got the start tonight after Karima Christmas-Kelly was a late scratch. She certainly made her case to hang on to the job. Collier showed tonight why the Lynx were so excited to get her in the draft and she proved definitively not only that she will have a long WNBA future but that she is a potential star.
The rookie, who was the first rookie to start in her Lynx debut since Damiris Dantas did it in 2014, finished with a game-high 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor and three-of-four from three. She added six rebounds, three blocks and two steals. It was the highest-ever point total for a Lynx player in their debut and the second-highest in WNBA history.
There’s something special about the way Collier creates contact and gets to the rim. She’s transitioning to playing on the wing after spending most of her college career in the post and that combination of skills gives her a unique look on offense. She got to the line 11 times using her ball control and change-of-pace to keep defenders off balance and draw fouls.
Collier also showed off great chemistry with her teammates. Though she didn’t record an assist, she looked comfortable in the Lynx’s offensive system, moving the ball well.
On defense, Collier uses her long arms and her strength to disrupt both opponent shots and their movement on the court. She looked very comfortable as a defender both on the perimeter and in the post, something that will help the Lynx find Collier minutes going forward and play a more switchable style of defense.
Head coach Cheryl Reeve said pregame that she was looking for the Lynx to play around Collier rather than through her, giving the rookie a chance to find her rhythm and impose her will on the game. It’s safe to say that was a success—though the Lynx didn’t run many plays explicitly for Collier she found a way to have an incredibly effective and efficient night. She is absolutely relentless off the ball. She never stops moving and always seemed to find a way to get a look close to the hoop.
The development of Collier is important as the Lynx search for more offensive options with which to surround Sylvia Fowles. If this is a preview of things to come, there could be some exciting times ahead. What an incredible night for the young rookie.