Wright-Montgomery trade makes sense for Minnesota, not Seattle

Contributor
July 21, 2015 - 12:11pm
Renee Montgomery takes the ball up court. Photo by Abe Booker II, Stratman Photography.

Renee Montgomery takes the ball up court. Photo by Abe Booker II, Stratman Photography.

Monica Wright puts up a jumper. Photo by Matthew Fleegel, examiner.com.

Monica Wright puts up a jumper. Photo by Matthew Fleegel, examiner.com.

The Minnesota Lynx completed a rare mid-season trade Monday afternoon, sending Monica Wright to the Seattle Storm in exchange for Renee Montgomery and a 2016 second-round pick.
 
Lynx fans may recall Montgomery, who was drafted by the team as the fourth overall pick in 2009. A part-time starter in her rookie season, Montgomery was thrust into service following an ACL tear to Seimone Augustus. Minnesota would miss the playoffs that year with the loss of their top star at the time, but Montgomery performed admirably, averaging 9.0 points per game and 2.1 assists per game en route to All-Rookie Team honors. The 28-year-old was known as a volume shooter, but Minnesota's structure was considerably different under the direction of Jennifer Gillom, who was head coach at the time.
 
Montgomery was traded to Connecticut the following year as part of the deal that brought Lindsay Whalen to Minnesota. The two teams also swapped their first-round draft picks, giving Minnesota the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, which they used on Wright.
 
Montgomery was an on-and-off starter for the Sun, making the playoffs twice. Her best season was 2011, when she posted 14.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. Prior to the 2015 season, Connecticut traded Montgomery to Seattle, where she backed up Sue Bird at the point guard position. In that capacity, she averaged 7.1 points and 3.0 assists per game.
 
Throughout Wright's time with Minnesota, the graduate of Virginia was highly praised for her defense, but her offensive skills were often in flux. She earned All-Rookie Team honors in 2010 by averaging 11.1 points per game, but a trigger-happy shot selection and inability to convert underhand layups hampered her consistency.
 
Wright would become more efficient on offense as she matured, and by the time Minnesota won their second WNBA championship in 2013, the 27-year-old was considered the team's "sixth starter." Now a fan favorite, her value was high enough that Minnesota matched an offer from Seattle when Wright was a restricted free agent in 2014.
 
Unfortunately, Wright couldn't sustain that value this season. Limited to 7 of Minnesota's 14 games due to recurring knee problems, Wright's offensive production plummeted, resulting in career lows for scoring (2.1 points per game), field goal percentage (20 percent) and minutes (11.4 per game).
 
Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve places a high value on chemistry, usually forgoing mid-season moves in hopes of getting an edge in synchronization. The only other in-season transaction to take place in the Reeve era happened in 2010, when the Lynx traded Rashanda McCants for Alexis Hornbuckle. All other changes took place in the off-season or during the draft. While news of the trade shocked the Twin Cities area, it's a low-risk maneuver for the Lynx because they're getting an experienced veteran in Montgomery, which should reduce the acclimation time to a system that emphasizes efficiency ratings.
 
Montgomery's return to the team where she started her WNBA career should boost her spirits, moving from a rebuilding franchise to a perennial championship contender. With Anna Cruz sliding to shooting guard to spell Seimone Augustus, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Montgomery will likely be Minnesota's new back-up point guard.
 
On the floor, Montgomery can be a solid ball handler with capable teammates; her assist-to-turnover ratio has fluctuated from 1.2 to 1.8 for most of her career, and the ratio often correlated with her team's level of talent. She is also a respectable three-point shooter, an uncommon asset on Minnesota rosters, sporting an effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the higher value of a three-point shot) in the mid-to-upper 40s. Spacing the floor isn't a problem for the Lynx, but another perimeter threat can only balance a team that is already ferocious.
 
On Seattle's end, this trade makes little sense. Wright had arthroscopic knee surgery last week, rendering her unable to play until at least mid-August. That means Angel Goodrich will likely slide up behind Sue Bird at point guard. For an offensively challenged unit, the aforementioned weaknesses of Wright could cause stormy conditions. Her poor stats in 2015 were the result of missing open looks she could once convert, and her problems will need proper intervention in order to provide meaningful contributions.
 
Despite a lackluster 5-12 record, Seattle holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but developing for the future appears to hold precedent over a post-season berth at this point. Including a second-round pick in this deal may have affirmed the Storm's desire to acquire Wright, but it was an overbid of her current value.
 
Minnesota has a reputation for quality trades in the Reeve era, and their latest move is another example. They can better maintain their depth while Augustus recuperates while adding a proverbial chip to use in next year's draft. Second-round picks are usually a crapshoot, but no one outside of Minnesota will enjoy another chance for the team to get better.
 
The timing of the trade had Lynx fans wondering about Whalen, who was poked in the eye in the second quarter of their win against the Tulsa Shock Sunday afternoon. No official statement has been released by Minnesota as of Monday night, but indications suggest Whalen's injury will not have long-term repercussions.