The Lynx at the Halfway Point (2023)

OK, not quite halfway. The Lynx are 10-13 as of July 25. The All-Star game is come and gone, and the Lynx have 17 more chances to make their mark. They are sitting precariously in the #7 slot, a half-game above the 8th and final playoff slot. And if they finish 8th, they get the buzzsaw that is the Las Vegas Aces (21-2) in the playoffs. No good. But, in fact, they’re just 2.5 games ahead of 9th place L.A. and 3.5 ahead of 10th place Indiana and Phoenix. And it is also a fact that their schedule now gets tougher. They’re done with Vegas, thank goodness, but they’ve got 5 games left with the New York Liberty (16-5) and the Connecticut Sun (17-6) and 10 games on the road and 7 at home. Oh, and they’re 2.5 games behind 5th and 6th place Washington and Atlanta. So #7 and the New York Liberty looks like, well, about as good as it gets.

The Forwards

I wrote in May that the Lynx’ prospects rested pretty much with the development of #1 draft pick Diamond Miller. The Lynx started out 0-5 with Miller scoring 10 ppg on 37% shooting. She then missed 8 games in which the Lynx went 4-4. Since her return they’re 5-3 as Miller has improved to 13 ppg and 42%. Is it too much to think that down the stretch she gets up to 16 ppg and 47% shooting? Maybe. How about more than 4 boards? So there’s room for growth.

But you can’t really lay the Lynx’ sub-.500 record on Miller. With Napheesa Collier, Jessica Shepherd, Miller and Dorkas Juhasz, the Lynx’ front court is not bad. Its guards, on the other hand, are not good. But, before turning to the guards, let’s just mention that Collier, the 6-1 forward from UConn, has truly blossomed. She scored 13, 16 and 16 ppg in her 1st 3 years, then just 7 last year after giving birth in May. Now she’s scoring 22 with 8 boards. Shepherd is scoring just 9 but leads the team with 9 boards, and Juhasz is now a solid sub with 6 ppg and 5 boards, though it’s true that her assists and turnovers are not good.

The Guards

But, the guards. The Lynx are last in the WNBA in 3-point shooting at 31%. Kayla McBride is OK at 34. Tiffany Mitchell is mediocre at 31. Aerial Powers, who led the Lynx in scoring last year at 14 ppg, is shooting 34% overall and 12% on 3s and has understandably lost playing time and averages just 5 ppg. With McBride and Mitchell scoring the same as last year, this is a  straight-up net loss of 10 ppg. And her fellow guards off the bench, Rachel Banham and Lindsey Allen, are making 37 and 21% of 3s and have dropped from a combined 15 ppg to 10. Ouch.

Their Prospects

So the Lynx are 8th out of 12 in scoring at 79 ppg and they’re giving up 86 ppg. (The league average is 82 ppg, so the Lynx are below average on both sides of the ball.) They’re 10th in overall shooting percentage at 42%. They’re 6th in rebounding, 7th in O-boards, 8th in assists, 9th in steals and 10th in blocked shot. They’re 6th in turnovers. So what is their strength? Where do they beat up on opposing teams? Well, inside, when Collier has the ball. Think what she could do if the Lynx could stretch the defense even a little bit?

Given their 10-13 record and tough schedule down the stretch, a .500 finish is almost out of the question. Winning half of their remaining games would be a surprise. 7-10 is more likely for a total of 17-23. That would give everybody but Seattle (4-18) a chance to catch ’em. So #8 is in fact more likely than #7. #9 is more likely than #7. Just about the best you can hope for is a 1st round playoff loss to the mighty Aces. Sorry, but it’s the truth.