Written By Mitchell Hansen (ZoneCoverage.com)
The WNBA season is officially here.
The Minnesota Lynx will start the defense of their 2017 championship on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Sparks in Minneapolis.
An immediate rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals between two of the league’s best teams and rivals is fitting, as the Lynx will receive their championship rings while raising yet another banner in the Target Center rafters before the game.
Before that game and the year arrives, let’s take a dive into some questions heading into Minnesota’s 2018 campaign:
Will the new-style, new-look backcourt benefit the Lynx?
One of the biggest stories among the offseason moves in Minnesota was its shakeup of the backcourt.
The Lynx will still roll with Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus at the two starting guard positions, but the supporting cast behind them looks much different than it did during last year’s title run.
With the departure of Renee Montgomery in free agency and Jia Perkins to retirement, three players are going to step into those holes this season.
Alexis Jones, who is entering her second season in Minnesota, Tanisha Wright, who was talked out of retirement to join the Lynx and Danielle Robinson, who was traded for during the offseason, will be those players in 2018.
Jones, Wright and Robinson offer a new style of play that the Lynx haven’t really seen much of out of their second unit in years past. Jones is a constant 3-point threat who can also hurt opponents off the dribble, Wright is a defensive power that will hold her matchups in check and Robinson is an incredibly quick guard that can get to the basket while also being capable of playing solid defense.
This new style of play will be a nice change for the defending champions and will provide them with a different look in more ways than one. The biggest change that was noticeable in the two preseason games was Minnesota’s willingness to constantly push the ball up the floor, both with the starting unit and the bench.
If the Lynx are able to continue to push the ball and play with the pace with both units, that new backcourt could lead to some more consistently-built leads.
Can Moore and Fowles both play at MVP levels?
The start of last season was a little different for Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles.
Moore started the year slow after taking the offseason off, struggling to find her shot early on and not playing to the level many were used to seeing out of the former MVP.
Fowles, on the other hand, got off to a hot start and continued that to put together an impressive season and grab the 2017 MVP award.
This year, though, Minnesota is going to need them both to return to playing at MVP levels in a quest for a championship repeat. The fact that Moore and Fowles each played overseas this offseason might help both players in getting off to a quick start.
“The thing we need to try and do is try and have both Maya and Syl in that MVP conversation,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve told Zone Coverage. “If we are able to do that, that’s going to be a really good thing for us.”
With a presence like Fowles in the paint, paired with Moore on the perimeter, those two alone can hurt teams on any given night.
Those two playing at MVP levels, along with the mix of talent the Lynx have spread throughout their roster – that has and will continue to be a scary thought for other WNBA teams.
Will age finally start to become a bigger factor this season?
It seems like we’ve been talking about this topic for at least two or three years – and each year they prove everyone wrong – but age is unquestionably something to look at in 2018.
With another grind of a season, which will likely end with another deep playoff run, it will be interesting to see how Reeve and company manage playing time throughout the regular season.
Reeve already said in a story at Zone Coverage that Whalen and the newly-acquired Robinson will see a mix of roles as the schedule advances and as games and minutes pile up. That’s just one case.
Already one of the oldest teams in the league, Minnesota also added a few veterans in Wright and Lynetta Kizer to the mix this year on the second unit, both who will play decently important roles throughout the year.
The biggest thing age-wise is the grueling schedule that will come in the middle of the regular season. But once the postseason hits, the age and experience can – and has – benefited Minnesota.
Still, you have to wonder if the age that’s been talked about for years finally starts to become a bigger factor throughout the summer.
Can the Lynx make history in 2018?
The start of the new WNBA season this weekend kicks off Minnesota’s journey of trying to add to its already impressive list of accomplishments over the last decade.
The Lynx, who have won four championships in the last seven years (2011, ’13, ’15 and ’17), will try to not only win a title in an even year in 2018, but also try to repeat for the first time in franchise history.
Minnesota would join the Los Angeles Sparks (2001, ’02) and the Houston Comets (1997, ’98) as the only teams in WNBA history to win back-to-back titles.
The Lynx are also looking to secure their fifth title, which would be the most in league history. They are currently tied with the Comets for the most championships won by a single franchise in the WNBA.
Can the Lynx make history in the even year of 2018? The journey of finding that out begins on Sunday.