Is This the Best Lynx Team Ever?

Outside of LeBron James, no one makes the Finals more consistently nowadays than the Minnesota Lynx. While LeBron has played in the last six NBA Finals and won three championships, the Lynx are set to play in their fifth WNBA Finals in the last six seasons in search of their fourth championship.

Minnesota’s opponent, the Los Angeles Sparks, is making its first appearance in the Finals in 14 years, so they know how difficult it is to reach the stage that the Lynx find themselves on routinely. The Sparks are a formidable opponent standing in Minnesota’s path to WNBA history — matching the Houston Comets with four titles and being the first repeat champion since the Sparks back in 2002.

If the Lynx are able to complete the task at hand and win three more games over the next two weeks, they will be in the conversation of the best WNBA teams ever assembled. But before comparing this team to the best squads of all time, let’s examine how they stack up against themselves with a closer look at their championship seasons.


2011

Season Leaders (League Rank)

Team Stats (League Rank)

The 2011 Lynx pulled off one of the biggest turnarounds in league history, going a league-best 27-7 in 2011 after finishing second-to-last at 13-21 in 2010. With Seimone Augustus back at full strength following myriad injuries in 2009 and 2010, Lindsay Whalen leading the league in assists and a rookie named Maya Moore proving she was pro ready from Day 1, the Lynx ran away from the pack to establish themselves as the class of the league.

Minnesota’s 27-7 record was six games better than the any other team (Connecticut, Indiana and Seattle all finished 21-13) and their 10.4 net efficiency rating (outscoring opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions) was double that of their nearest competitor (Indiana at 5.2).

The Lynx were dominant on both sides of the ball, posting the second-best offensive and defensive rating in the league. While Phoenix boasted the league’s best offense (109.0 OffRtg), they were tied for the third-worst defense (105.3 DefRtg). And while Seattle held teams down slightly better than the Lynx (96.0 DefRtg), they had the fourth-worst offense (98.5 OffRtg). Minnesota’s ability to rank among the league best on both sides of the court set them apart from the competition.

Moore easily won Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.5 blocks as she showcased her all-around game in her debut season. While many top draft picks join teams that are struggling and are asked to carry a heavy load, Moore was able to make a seamless transition to the WNBA as she was surrounded by a deep and talented roster.

2011 WNBA Finals Look-Back

2013

Season Leaders (League Rank)

Team Stats (League Rank)

After losing in the 2012 WNBA Finals to the Indiana Fever in four games, the Lynx returned in 2013 with a vengeance. Minnesota (26-8) finished with the league’s best regular season record for the third consecutive season and became the fifth team in WNBA history to sweep the playoffs, and only the second to do so while needing seven wins to claim the championship, which began when the Finals expanded to a best-of-five in 2005.

Teams To Sweep WNBA Playoffs

On their undefeated road to the title, the Lynx won four of their seven games by double figures, including three by at least 23 points, with an average margin of victory of 15.4 points. After tasting defeat in the Finals the year before, the Lynx welcomed back the champagne celebration following a dominant playoff run.

The playoff dominance should not have come as a surprise as this Lynx squad finished the regular season with the top-ranked offense (108.7 points per 100 possessions), the second-ranked defense (96.4 rating) and led the league in shooting (50.2 effective FG percentage). In her third WNBA season, Maya Moore took over as Minnesota’s leading scorer, a role held by Seimone Augustus since she entered the league in 2006.

Moore’s role within the Lynx offense ascended from her rookie season (13.2 ppg, third-leading scorer), to her sophomore season (16.4 ppg, just shy of Augustus’s 16.6 team lead) and finally to her third season as she led the Lynx and finished third in the WNBA in scoring at 18.5 points per game.

As Moore’s game reached new heights — she was the runner-up for the league’s Most Valuable Player award — so did the potential for this Lynx team to be ranked among the best of all-time.

All-Access: Lynx Win 2013 WNBA Finals

2015

Season Leaders (League Rank)

*Since Fowles played in only 18 games she did not qualify among official league leaders

Team Stats (League Rank)

After falling to eventual champion Phoenix in the 2014 Western Conference Finals, the Lynx returned to the court in 2015 once again looking to restate their claim as the top team in the league. But the climb back to the top would hit a few snags along the way with injuries to Augustus (missed 18 games, including the final eight of regular season with knee and foot injuries) and Whalen (missed the final four games of regular season with a strained Achilles).

With two veteran leaders not at full strength, the Lynx leaned heavily on reigning league MVP Maya Moore, who averaged 20.6 points to lead the Lynx and finish second in the league in scoring. The Lynx also bolstered their post play with the mid-season acquisition of center Sylvia Fowles as part of a three-team trade.

Already boasting one of the deepest rosters in the league, the Lynx added a three-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year with career averages of 15.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in her first seven seasons. Of course, adding such a significant player in the middle of the season is a challenge in terms of learning a new system and building team chemistry, but coach Cheryl Reeve was up to the task.

How well did Fowles fit in? Well, less than three months later, Fowles was named Finals MVP after leading the Lynx to a 3-2 series win over Indiana to claim Minnesota’s third title in five years and the first for Fowles.

Epic Duel: All-Access Look at WNBA Finals 2015

2016

Season Leaders (League Rank)

Team Stats (League Rank)

Then there is this year’s Lynx team that is back in the Finals, looking to become the first WNBA team in 14 years to successfully defend their title. While the task ahead of them is tall, the team they are bringing to the championship series may very well be the best Lynx team ever assembled.

This team simply has no weaknesses. The Lynx force their opponents to play mistake-free basketball in order to even have a chance at winning. The Lynx have the league’s top offense (107.2 OffRtg) and the league’s best defense (96.4 DefRtg), and have won games by an average of 9.3 points entering the Finals.

This team has star power (four players on Team USA), depth (players like Renee Montgomery and Natasha Howard that could start for other teams), leadership (Cheryl Reeve has won five WNBA titles as a head coach or assistant; Lindsay Whalen is one of the WNBA’s all-time best point guards), chemistry (players are willing to sacrifice their own numbers for the good of the team) and experience (five Finals appearances in six years).

Minnesota broke its own record for the best start in WNBA history at 13-0 and went on to claim the league’s top record at 28-6, which is a franchise best. The Lynx have been healthy and hungry all season long, never satisfied to rest on their past achievements. This team wants more; it wants four — as in four championships to tie the Comets for the most ever. The Lynx are three wins away from cementing their mark as not only the best Lynx team ever, but perhaps the greatest WNBA team ever.

“This group wants to be the best of all the groups that’s been there. They want to be the best Lynx team,” Reeve said earlier this season. “That’s an amazing thing for me. They’re not going to go, ‘I’m getting tired of this. This winning stuff’s getting old. It’s tiring. It’s too much.’

“No, this group, this year, wants to be the best Lynx team ever fielded. That’s really fun as a coach because you get to push them as far as you think they can go.”

All-Access: Defending Champion Lynx Gear Up for Semifinals