MINNEAPOLIS — Cheryl Reeve delivered one of the quicker rebuilds in recent memory this year. Despite losing almost their entire core, the Lynx didn’t miss a beat — or a postseason.
Gone were Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson, who sat out the season, and Lindsay Whalen, who retired to become the Gophers’ basketball coach. Even veteran Seimone Augustus missed a large chunk of the season.
Still, Minnesota finished with the same 18-16 record, made the playoffs for the ninth straight year and boasts a roster flush with young talent.
It was an unprecedented reboot, one that earned Reeve the 2019 WNBA Execute of the Year honors, the league announced Wednesday, Sept. 18. Reeve, Minnesota’s head coach and general manager, edged Las Vegas Aces’ general manager Dan Padover in voting by a point.
Padover acquired all-star big Liz Cambage via trade this offseason, a move that helped catapult the Aces into the playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved to Las Vegas. But Reeve revitalized a franchise she helped make a four-time WNBA champion.
The Lynx weren’t expected to make the playoffs this season, let alone compete for a championship, and who could blame the team’s critics? Minnesota had to replace almost its entire core. Reeve still had Sylvia Fowles but not much else — on paper, anyway.
In her second season as general manager, Reeve had to nail the offseason and she did.
The No. 6 pick in the draft generally doesn’t produce a franchise changer, but that’s where the Lynx nabbed forward Napheesa Collier, Reeve’s target all along. Collier, named WNBA Rookie of the Year this week, was an all-star and put herself in position to be one of the league’s best players.
Minnesota selected Jessica Shepard in the second round, and she looked like a solid rotation player, averaging 4.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game before being lost early to a torn ACL in her right knee.
Two weeks after the draft, the Lynx traded for point guard Odyssey Sims, who paced the team in scoring (14.5 ppg.) while setting a new career-high in assists (5.4). The 27-year-old finished second in voting for WNBA Most Improved Player, finishing behind only Phoenix’s Leilani Mitchell.
Reeve also traded for key role players such as Lexie Brown and Stephanie Talbot, who helped round out a Lynx roster that, under the head coach’s direction, evolved and improved throughout the season despite key injuries such as the ankle ailment that caused Cecilia Zandalasini to miss the entire season, and the knee injury that kept Karima Christmas-Kelly out of all but six games.
Still, Minnesota managed to win five straight games late to cement both its ninth straight winning season. That seems likely to stretch to 10, 11, 12 and beyond in the seasons to come.
The Lynx’s once questionable future now appears bright thanks in large part to Reeve.