Lynx come away from draft night with new core

For the longest time draft night just wasn’t all that exciting for the Minnesota Lynx. All five starting spots for the next year were already set. But this year’s draft is different. This one could act as a turning point in the trajectory of the Lynx.

In Wednesday’s WNBA Draft, the Lynx selected UConn star forward Napheesa Collier with the sixth overall pick, Notre Dame forward Jessica Shepard and Buffalo’s Cierra Dillard in the second round and Gopher Kenisha Bell in the third round. They also traded for guard Lexie Brown, who was the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft.

For the Huskies, Collier averaged 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and finished with the second most points in a season by a UConn player, trailing only Maya Moore.

With power forward Rebekkah Brunson’s status still up in the air, it’s possible Collier could start in the front court alongside former WNBA MVP Sylvia Fowles. Even if Brunson returns, the Lynx’s highest draft pick since 2012 will be slated into a key role right away with expectations of being a core player for years to come.

“I can bring versatility,” Collier told the Star Tribune. “I think I can play a lot of different spots, and I work as hard as I can on both sides of the floor.”

Shepard will be expected to add depth up front along with 2016 third-rounder Temi Fagbenle.

With Whalen retired, Maya Moore taking the 2019 season off, the Lynx are in need of production from their backcourt. Brown could add some of that right away. Last season with Connecticut she rarely saw the floor as a rookie, but at Duke the 24-year-old scored 17.9 points per game and connected on 39.9 percent of her three-point attempts.

Dillard put herself in the conversation for the WNBA draft with an outstanding senior season in which she scored 25.2 points per game and dropped 29 on UConn in the NCAA Tournament. She will compete for a depth spot in the backcourt along with Bell, who averaged 20.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game last season.

The 2019 Lynx will not have the same type of expectations from the outside as they have in the past, but Wednesday night’s haul of promising players who filled nearly all of Minnesota’s needs give them a strong chance at a quick return to prominence if/when Moore returns in 2020 and beyond.