The Minnesota Lynx answered the two biggest questions on their roster on the first day of the free agent signing period, re-signing Janel McCarville to a multi-year deal and securing restricted free agent Monica Wright by matching an offer made by the Seattle Storm.
Both transactions were virtual formalities for Minnesota. In McCarville's case, there was no question about where she wanted to renew her contract.
"I made it clear that I wanted to play in Minneapolis and wanted to play with the Lynx, and if it was at all possible, I wanted to finish my career here," she said.
McCarville quickly erased the sorrows of a retiring Taj McWilliams-Franklin, giving the Lynx a post player with the vision normally possessed by guards. Despite playing only 21.9 minutes per game, McCarville ranked fourth among forwards in assists during the 2013 season. Her assist-to-turnover ratio was a healthy 2.2, ranking sixth in the league and only two spots behind her teammate, Lindsay Whalen (2.6). With McCarville boosting Minnesota's ball-handling, the Lynx set a league record for fewest turnovers in a season, averaging 12.12 per contest.
"I've always said a good passer makes a good shooter, so I pride myself on that," she said.
McCarville's shooting abilities aren't the most proficient for a player in the five-slot, where she makes 48.8 percent of her field-goal attempts, but McCarville is not expected to rack up big numbers given Minnesota's make-up.
However, the 6-2 native of Wisconsin worked on extending her range in her return to basketball, and when she found the environment suitable to launch a three-pointer, she converted 6 of 14 attempts. The mark is barely noticeable in comparison to sharp-shooters like Kara Lawson and Maya Moore, but the presence of a three-point shot adds even more value to a center built on a traditional offensive approach. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve encouraged McCarville to continue the long-distance regimen throughout her overseas campaign.
McCarville is just as prudent on the defensive end, even though her stats are not indicative. Her heady play disrupts the maneuvers of her opponents, and she continued the "set-up role" that allows power forward Rebekkah Brunson an advantageous position for rebounds.
"The camaraderie that we have and have built just gets stronger as the years go," McCarville said.
Securing McCarville may not have been tough, but it was an imperative for the Lynx, as the current roster has no true center outside of her. Devereaux Peters was usually called up when McCarville had to sit, but her skill set is still evolving. Brunson often gets over-matched if she has to take that spot, and Amber Harris has yet to impress anyone in the North Star state. McCarville's minutes are managed more meticulously than the rest of the Lynx core, which upholds her long-term stamina to present opponents with the most dangerous starting unit in the league.
"By signing a multi-year deal, it just shows me that they want me. It shows me that they have faith in me. And I'm going to go out and do everything I can to thank them in my own right," she said.
Wright is not among the Lynx' starting five, but locking her in quelled fan speculation that she would consider another team for an opportunity to earn more playing time.
The gesture that effectively confirmed her future in Minneapolis was delivered on Monday, when she modeled the updated jerseys to reflect Minnesota's partnership with Mayo Clinic, as the team would not likely have brought her in if they were suspicious about her seeking new pastures.
Wright's role has morphed since her rookie season in 2010. Entering the pros as a volume shooter, Wright's productivity diminished significantly in 2011 before her current upward trend. In 2013, Wright averaged 9.0 points per game and played 22.5 minutes per contest. While more time usually correlates to more scoring, the Virginia standout is a versatile nightmare for defenders, particularly after correcting her shooting form to make underhand layups.
Considered Minnesota's "sixth starter," Wright demonstrated her explosiveness when she played extended time to fill in for an injured Seimone Augustus. Her highlight in that four-game stretch came in on the road against Indiana on July 11, earning 22 points and nine rebounds in a 69-62 victory.
Wright will likely continue her role as the first bench player for the Lynx, taking the role of point guard or shooting guard. Arguing otherwise is difficult when she posted a career-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.3 last year, a respectable improvement from her 0.76 ratio in 2010. She also embodies Reeve's philosophy of quick, high-energy defense to push the tempo and score in transition, and the conversion process of Wright's first four years shows few limits.
With Wright's contract status solidified, Minnesota will return its entire primary rotation for 2014, a group that figures to hang around for the next several years. Their familiarity should create more havoc for opponents while giving Lindsey Moore and Sugar Rodgers more opportunities to study and develop their talents.
- Lynx re-sign McCarville
- Lynx acquire McCarville in three-team trade
- Wright, Whalen help Lynx hand Dream second loss
- Lynx' Wright engaged to Kevin Durant