On paper, it looks like the only team that can stop the Minnesota Lynx is the Minnesota Lynx themselves. The defending champs are coming off a season where they not only coasted through the regular season to the tune of a 27-7 record, but lost only one game in the Playoffs. Better yet for the Lynx, they return almost every key contributor from that dominant squad. That's why, in May, it looks as if the only people that can stop the Lynx from repeating as champions are the ones staring back at them in the mirror.
"The biggest thing from day one is that 2011 was special, we did great things, but itís over," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. "2012 is a different year, but the goal is the same. As a team we need to come out just as hungry as 2011."
Every other team in the WNBA will be gunning for the Lynx this year since they are the reigning champs, so maintaining that desire night in and night out when they are constantly getting the best of every other team will be vital during Minnesota's title defense. It's a tall task -- no team has repeated as champion since the 2002 Los Angeles Sparks -- but Minnesota will benefit from continuity because their roster is largely the same as last year.
"We certainly have the talent," Reeve said. "Health will be a big part of it. Itís a group that plays well together, they respect other. I think we can be even better this year."
That is not something the 11 other teams wanted to hear.
So where can Minnesota actually improve? With a proven starting five, Reeve already knows what she's getting, so successfully incorporating Minnesota's second unit into the mix can make this team even more difficult to dethrone.
Reeve says the biggest area of weakness on the team last year was her not being able to involve the talented second unit enough.
Oh, the problems in Minnesota.
That second unit that Reeve refers to returns Candice Wiggins, Monica Wright and Jessica Adair, as well as adds veteran guard Erin Thorn and No. 3 overall pick Devereaux Peters. Minnesota can also also expect more from last year's No. 4 overall pick, the 6-foot-5 Amber Harris.
Another bonus for the Lynx is that while three Lynx players will be representing the United States in the Olympics -- Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen -- none plan to miss WNBA games as a result. That is fortunate because Augustus is the team's most explosive scoring option, putting up over 16 points per game last year, and Whalen had arguably the best season of her eight-year career last year, leading the team in assists and scoring over 13 points a game.
The highly touted No. 1 overall pick last year, Moore had a successful and productive rookie season, averaging 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Still, her potential suggests numbers far beyond that.
A reason why we might not have seen the true Maya is that she was hampered by injuries during her rookie campaign.
"I expect her to be healthier than we had her last year," Reeve said. "Her knees were sore all year. She talked to us about how we only had about 70 percent of her physically."
Reeve says she intends on being able to run more plays and sets specifically for Moore this season, and if she is 100 percent healthy, the sky really is the limit for her.
Ė Anthony Oliva, WNBA.com