After finishing second to last in the league with a 10-24 record in 2006, the Minnesota Lynx needed a change. Several staples will be back on the court in 2007, but all in all, it will be a very different looking Lynx team.
The team returns all five starters from last season: 2006 Rookie of the Year Seimone Augustus, Nicole Ohlde, Amber Jacobs, Kristen Mann and Tamika Raymond (née Williams). Augustus, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft became an All-Star and was the only player on the team to average double figures in points with 21.9 per game. She should continue to tear up the league with her energetic style of play.
A natural power forward, the 6-5 Ohlde frequently played out of position at center and still managed to lead the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game. The Lynx hope that some of their new additions will allow Ohlde, 25, to reach her full potential by allowing her to play at her natural position.
Jacobs averaged a career-high 8.2 ppg in 2006 and should continue to develop into a solid two-guard. On the perimeter, Mann shot 37.5% percent from 3-point land. Her ability to hit from deep will stretch the defense of opposing teams. At 27, team captain Raymond is one of the oldest players on the squad. Svetlana Abrosimova should once again provide valuable minutes off the bench.
NOT COMING BACK
During the offseason, Tynesha Lewis announced her retirement, Adrian Williams was traded to Sacramento for a second-round draft pick and Vanessa Hayden said it is unlikely that she will be back this season due to the birth of her child. Lewis, a six-year veteran, averaged 2.4 points and 10.6 minutes in 19 games and Hayden saw action in 33 of 34 games while averaging 5.4 ppg.
Though the loss of these players strips away a good amount of the depth off the bench, it does make way for some of the new, up-and-coming talent.
There are plenty of new faces in Minnesota, both on the coaching staff and on the roster. There are currently five new players on the team, four of whom are rookies.
Coach Don Zierden was hired to replace interim coach Carolyn Jenkins, who replaced Suzie McConnell Serio after she was let go in the middle of last season. He has experience as an assistant coach in the NBA but will be making his head coaching debut this season in the WNBA with the Lynx.
Also new in town is Duke's Lindsey Harding, who was the first pick in this year's draft. Phoenix selected her, then dealt her to Minnesota for Tangela Smith, who the Lynx had picked up in the Sting Dispersal Draft. Harding is fast, has a strong presence on both ends of the court and may get plenty of minutes at the point guard slot. The Lynx are hoping that the pairing of Harding and Augustus will turn into a dynamic duo for years to come.
With their own top draft pick, the fourth overall, the Lynx nabbed Noelle Quinn from UCLA. Averaging 17.2 ppg her senior year, she has the skills to be another of the league's top rookies in 2007. Quinn will add depth at the two, allowing Zierden to give Augustus a breather without taking all of the air out of the team.
Other newcomers include rookie Kathrin Ress, a big 6-4 forward out of Boston College, and Eshaya Murphy, a high-scoring guard from USC. The Lynx also brought in veteran center Katryna Gaither to add some height and depth in the paint. The Lynx selected Brooke Smith in the second round of the 2007 Draft, but she was waived during training camp.
All the newcomers in Minnesota will provide Coach Zierden with more options and depth than last year. Coming off a rough season and entering a new one with a handful of youngsters, nearly every player will be in a fight for playing time. If the new players can come in and develop a rhythm with the veteran players, the Lynx could win twice as many games this year. Still a young team led by a budding superstar, the Lynx are not a shoe-in for the postseason, but these cats just might surprise some folks around the league.