The Lynx just returned home from Las Vegas. But rookie forward Napheesa Collier is going to have to head back soon.
Collier was chosen by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert as an All-Star replacement for Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson, who has an ankle injury. That gives the Lynx three All-Stars — center Sylvia Fowles and guard Odyssey Sims are the others — in Saturday’s game in Las Vegas.
Collier and the Lynx try to shy away from comparisons between Collier and Maya Moore. But both grew up in Jefferson City, Mo., both played forward at Connecticut, both were first-round draft picks by the Lynx. And both, now, have been named to the All-Star Game as rookies.
Moore is taking the season off from the Lynx to pursue non-basketball pursuits, leaving a hole in the starting lineup that has gone to Collier.
“Dependable,” Lynx coach and GM Cheryl Reeve said when asked to describe Collier’s game in a word. “She is pretty dynamic. She’s still a young player with things to add. But she can hurt you in a variety of ways. She is dependable, steady.”
As Reeve has said often, Collier and Moore are dramatically different players. But that dependability has shown all season. Collier was asked to move from her power forward position in college to small forward in the WNBA. Transitioning to the pros is hard enough, without having to change positions. And, once she was comfortable there, injuries forced her back to power forward, difficult for a 6-1 player.
“For her to do that, and for us to be able to depend on her, she’s made it look easy,” Reeve said.
Collier is third among league rookies in scoring (11.0 points per game), second in rebounding (5.9) and fourth among rookies in assists (2.3). Leaguewide, she is third with 1.9 steals per game and fifth in minutes played (32.5).
Collier is the fourth Lynx rookie All-Star, joining Seimone Augustus, Moore and Betty Lennox. The Lynx have at least three All-Stars for the seventh time in franchise history, the most among league franchises.
Collier’s 27-point effort on opening night was the second highest for any player in their WNBA debut.
Her all-around game can be seen in her rebounding, assists and steals; she is the top Lynx player at getting deflections.
“I think she’s hard to play against,” Reeve said. “I’m happy for her.”