The Lynx organization explains
the Katie trade. Some Minnesota fans will flip,
especially those who remember how Brian Agler churned the rosters. They shouldn't. The trade is good for the Lynx.
1. WHAT MINNESOTA LOST. Look at her performance
this year: the Katie who knocked down the big shots has been AWOL, for reasons either medical or emotional, since the middle of June. (She denies, but Suzie says, that there's a foot injury.
Maybe it's medical, and it's permanent. In that case, the player who knocked down all those big shots is gone, and there's no sense wishing her back.
Maybe it's emotional-- Katie wanted out, perhaps for a ring, perhaps to get closer to Columbus, Ohio. In that case, you can't fault the Lynx for trading a player who wanted to be traded, any more than you can fault the Mystics for trading
But maybe it's medical and temporary, in which case Evil Bill has picked himself up a great perimeter shooter (and a solid defender who won't foul much). But how much longer does Katie want to play? (She's said till age 34, which means 2-3 more years.) And how interested is she in helping her teammates improve?
More important, how much longer can the Lynx operate with players who stand around and hope Katie will score? That's what the Lynx perimeter offense has looked like, too often, since I started watching the team (2002); it had to change, just as Washington had to stop being a team in which players reacted to Holdsclaw. The offense has been more stagnant during Katie's slump this year than it was when Katie couldn't play last year-- and that's stagnant indeed. Much of that stagnation has to do with the point guard position, but that brings me to the next point...
2. WHAT MINNESOTA GAINED. Stacey Thomas is unimportant. Chandi Jones
could be very important. I didn't get much chance to watch the University of Houston (who, outside of Houston, did?) but among the guards of last year's strong draft, she got talked up
as the real rough diamond.
And rightly so. When Laimbeer has chosen to play her, she's shown speed, ballhandling skills, an outside shot, and the desire to score. That's a combination no player on the Lynx roster this year, with the potential exception of Tyger Lewis,
has shown. Without it, the Lynx aren't going to get much above .500. Stats buffs will note that Jones in 2005 shoots .411, .486 from downtown, and .789 from the line in 16 minutes per game: all those numbers are better than Katie's this year.
Would I trade Smith for Jones straight up? No. But the Lynx didn't do that. There's also a draft pick. Minnesota desperately needed perimeter scorers, Smith or no Smith, along with another option at the point, especially if Kristi Harrower isn't going to play 35 minutes a game. This trade gives the Lynx two first-round picks next year and two chances at a top-six (lottery teams plus Chicago) pick: Minnesota miss out on a top-six first-rounder only if Lynx and Shock both
make the playoffs.
Though Detroit fans seem happy,
I'm slightly surprised that Detroit took the deal-- did they get a medical report? did Katie tell them she wanted to leave? It
has put the Lynx in position for even more ill-considered opprobium from casual fans. It
will probably depress this year's attendance, and next year's season-ticket renewals. It's trading short-term for long-term. It's a risk. But the Lynx front office want championship rings--
definitely not this year, but in '06 or '07-- and the team couldn't get them by playing it safe.
UPDATE, 8/2: after Sunday's game
it looks pretty clear that the trade will be good for Detroit. That doesn't mean it's bad (or good) for the Lynx, who needed a lot more from Katie than they were getting-- and a lot more than Detroit will ask her to do-- in order to keep her as the core of the team.