The Minnesota Lynx were in need of a win against the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday to snap a four-game losing streak and remain on track to reach the WNBA Playoffs.
Napheesa Collier stepped up in response.
Collier scored 22 points on 8-14 shooting, snagged 11 rebounds, and recorded five assists, contributing in every facet of the game. The Lynx won 85-69 and their standout rookie added another impressive performance to her resume.
Collier has shined in her first WNBA campaign, showcasing the talent that will likely make her a star for years to come. Selected sixth overall by the Lynx in the 2019 Draft, the forward has started all 22 of Minnesota’s games and has fit in seamlessly with center Sylvia Fowles. She has played on the wing more often this season than she did at the University of Connecticut, with her flexible and mobile skillset adapting quickly.
Collier is currently averaging 11.8 points (on 45.9% shooting), 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game—a true two-way threat. And those averages are only rising. Over her last three games, she has averaged 17 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 54.1% from the floor. Add in her All-Star appearance and Rookie of the Month award in July, and it is clear that the 22-year-old will be a big part of Minnesota’s future.
“I think the experience just of playing has helped a lot, especially when you play teams for the second time,” Collier told the Hartford Courant last month. “You know them a little better. I definitely feel like I’m adjusting a lot better, more than I was in the beginning.”
She boasts a versatile offensive game, which helps her make those adjustments smoothly. Collier can handle the ball, put her head down and drive past defenders. It’s hard to stop her when she is making a straight line towards the basket. She can knock down three-pointers, shooting 34 percent from deep on the season. Her post moves are tough to guard against too—the rookie can bully her way in close for layups or use agile steps to find space in the paint, able to finish even when getting fouled.
Collier is a game-changer on the defensive end. She darts into passing lanes for steals and quickly sets up transition opportunities. Opposing ball-handlers always need to be careful with Collier hovering in the area. Her length makes it hard for her assignments to dribble and find openings.
The Lynx currently hold a record of 11-11, placing them seventh in the league standings. They’re one game back of the sixth-seeded Seattle Storm, and they are still only two games back of the fifth-seeded Chicago Sky. With so many teams clustered together in a pack, the Lynx have a chance to make a move towards the top of the standings and potential home games in the postseason.
The Lynx have heavily relied on their veterans in recent years, but it’s clear that this rookie is integral to the team’s immediate and future success.