With Lindsay Whalen coaching the Minnesota Gophers, Maya Moore sitting out the 2019 season and Rebekkah Brunson possibly retiring, the Minnesota Lynx could be losing around 30 points per game out of the 78.9 points they averaged per contest last season. So when the Lynx are on the clock with the sixth overall pick in Wednesday’s WNBA draft, there’s a good case for head coach/general manager Cheryl Reeve to look to one of the most prolific scorers in the NCAA in Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale.
In ESPN’s most recent WNBA mock draft, the Lynx select the face of women’s college basketball. Ogunbowale rose to stardom after hitting game-winning shots in the Final Four and NCAA Championship games last season. She followed up her heroic performance by averaging 21.8 points per game for the Fighting Irish this season and producing totals of 34, 21, 23 and 31 in her last four NCAA Tournament games.
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While she missed a potential game-tying free throw in a title-game loss to Baylor this year, Ogunbowale has earned a reputation as a clutch shooter and threat from three-point range. Her numbers from three-point land dipped in 2018-19 to .359 but in 2017-18 she made over 45 percent of three-point attempts. The Lynx ranked second to last in three-point shots made last season and eighth in three-point percentage.
“Offensively, even with Maya Moore last year we weren’t as good as we had accustomed to being,” Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said on Tuesday. “Scoring is on my mind, for sure. We’re going to be balanced, just like we were when we had Maya. We might have to be creative in the ways that we generate offense. We sure would like to be able to space the floor. That’s top of mind for us to be able to get at least one player in the draft that can help us from three.”
With Danielle Robinson set to take Whalen’s spot as the starting point guard and Seimone Augustus back for what could be her final season at the small forward position, there is a clear hole in the starting lineup that could be filled by a point-producing guard who isn’t afraid to shoot.
However, there are concerns with Ogunbowale’s game. Her clutch shooting and competitive fire have pushed her draft stock toward the top, but a 24-for-64 (37.5 percent) shooting display against the top teams in the nation in Stanford, UConn and Baylor in the tournament are emblematic of inefficient shooting displays during her career. Ogunbowale has been plagued by slow starts, which her team mostly found ways to overcome.
Her height is a concern as well. There are very few scorers in the WNBA at the shooting guard position who are shorter than 5-foot-10. In fact, none of the top point producers last year were shorter than six foot. Dallas’s Skyler Diggins-Smith at 5-foot-9 ranked 11th, but she also produced more than six assists per game.
Atlanta’s undersized guard Tiffany Hayes averaged 17.2 points per game playing the two guard role. She is still two inches taller than Ogunbowale.
There will be plenty of options for Day 1 starters for the Lynx if Ogunbowale is already taken or the Lynx aim to fill a different position.
ESPN’s mock draft has UConn star three-point shooter Katie Lou Samuelsson landing in Los Angeles with the seventh pick and forwards Alanna Smith and Jessica Shepard being selected with the eight and nine slots. Any of those three players could make for an instant fit as could sniper Sophie Cunningham of Missouri.
The Lynx also have the 16th and 20th picks, which could give them options to trade up with plenty of needs to fill.
“We’re the Minnesota Lynx, and that means no one answers our calls,” Reeve said. “We had a call with a team – at least took the call – and said, ‘why on earth would we help you?’ That’s what we get. We would love to move up. You have to have assets to do that, and when you’re us you have to overpay to do that. We have made numerous offers to be higher than what we are, none of which have been accepted.”
But nothing would be quite as exciting for the franchise than bringing in the biggest name in NCAA women’s basketball.