Should Minnesota Lynx’s top priority be 2024 WNBA Draft? 

Photo Credit: Nike News

One thing has become painfully clear with the Minnesota Lynx – it is not the 2010s anymore. 

The on-court architects of the Lynx’s dynasty that saw the team bring four WNBA championships (all in odd-numbered seasons) to the Twin Cities have since retired or taken their acts to the coaching ranks. 

Since then, the Lynx did get back to the conference Finals in 2020 in the bubble. But the 2022 season was the first time Minnesota did not qualify for a postseason appearance since 2010 – the first season of the Cheryl Reeve era in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

Oh, by the way – even the Lynx’s Rookie of the Year from that 2020 season in Crystal Dangerfield is now wearing seafoam, black and copper with the New York Liberty.

Granted, much of that 2022 season was contested without Napheesa Collier given she was expecting. If Collier is available for the Lynx’s entire 40-game schedule for the 2023 season, Minnesota should improve from its 2022 rendition. 

But … is it in Minnesota’s best interest to have an improved 2023? 

The Lynx being out of the playoff picture for 2022 means Cheryl Reeve was in a position she has not been used to throughout much of her successful tenure with the organization – staring at ping pong balls. 

Minnesota was one of the four teams in the draft lottery for 2023 – along with the Indiana Fever, Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics. Lin Dunn and the Fever won the lottery and are likely to select South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston with the first overall pick. The Lynx will select second, followed by the Dream and then the Mystics.

Per’s 2023 mock draft, it has the Lynx selecting Stanford’s Haley Jones following the Fever pick of Boston. It also sees Atlanta selecting Diamond Miller out of Maryland and Washington picking Iowa State’s Ashley Joens. 

Jones can be a good pick for a Lynx team that is looking to rediscover an identity – and could do so if Collier is available for the entirety of next season. But there is reason to be bullish about the 2024 draft if one is the Minnesota front office. 

Actually – there are two reasons. And they have to do with who will be at the top of the draft board. 

With UConn’s Paige Bueckers sidelined for the entirety of the 2022-23 season and her intent to return for the 2023-24 campaign, this puts Bueckers automatically at the top of the 2024 board as she will be in her senior season. Another noteworthy standout will also be at the top of that draft board as she too will also be a senior. That name? Caitlin Clark out of Iowa. 

We know what a draft class looks like when there is a transcendent, generational talent waiting to be selected with one of the first few picks. Whether it was the Seattle Storm picking Breanna Stewart in 2016 or the Las Vegas Aces with A’ja Wilson in 2018 or the New York Liberty choosing Sabrina Ionescu in 2020. 

Boston is the generational talent in this year’s draft and needs to be lifted up by the mainstream sports media as was the case with Ionescu two years ago. Even if Boston is likely to be selected first overall by a franchise that has been WNBA purgatory ever since its GOAT in Tamika Catchings decided to hang up her jersey and kicks for good. 

But the 2024 draft will now have two transcendent, generational talents at the top of the board in Bueckers and Clark. And the Lynx organization cannot lose with either. 

Bueckers has been a nationally-known name since her preps days at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, a Minneapolis suburb. Clark has earned love from NBA superstars such as LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks) for being the most prolific 3-point shooter in the nation – women’s or men’s. 

And as we mentioned, Bueckers would have the added benefit of being a conquering home state heroine who made history with a local Minnesota team now hoping to write more history with its WNBA team. Imagine the jersey sales for Bueckers’ Explorer and Rebel jerseys the nanosecond she is announced as a Lynx draft pick. 

(*Maybe one of these days Nike will put the Heroines on sale too. Le sigh*)

And if it is not Bueckers, Clark would be a good plan B for the Minnesota front office. After all, Iowa is literally next door to Minnesota and Iowa City (where Clark plays now) is only a less-than-five-hour drive from Minneapolis. 

And with the hype she has already received as a collegiate player, her jersey would also sell like hotcakes. 

Another wrinkle to everything is the sale of the Lynx and the NBA’s Timberwolves from Glen Taylor to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez is slated to close in 2023 with Lore and A-Rod maintaining a majority of the franchises. One wonders how the sale will change the philosophy for the Lynx front office. Lore and A-Rod may be more open to the idea of looking ahead to the 2024 draft if it means raking in a lot of money off of a Bueckers’ No. 5 or Clark No. 22 Explorer and Rebel edition Minnesota jerseys.

It would surely make plenty of Dick’s Sporting Goods locations in Minnesota happy.

We know coach Reeve is a very competitive person and wants to win year in and year out. But as of now, all we know is that there are 11 teams in the W that want to be the Aces. How free agency works itself out will give us plenty of answers as to which teams have the best chance of being the Aces. 

Reeve also needs to look at what happened prior to the 2022 draft – when the Mystics and Dream traded their picks allowing Atlanta to draft Rhyne Howard and Washington to select Shakira Austin. Both Dan Padover and Mike Thibault hit paydirt with those picks. Howard was an All-Star selection, a Rookie of the Year and nearly lifted the Dream to the playoffs.

It would have been Atlanta’s first postseason berth since 2018 when the Dream nearly qualified for the Finals against the Storm. Austin helped the Mystics get to the playoffs and she also won a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Australia.

Gold Medal Kira. 

In a sense, Bueckers’ injury may have snakebit the Lynx given them winning the second overall pick in the 2023 draft because she may have been the second overall selection if not for said injury. 

Reeve and company would do fine with the Jones pick for now, but if they’re selecting again at the top of the 2024 draft, it is a win-win for the Cities of Twin.