In most seasons, even after just a week of camp, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve would have her starting five figured out and would be working on her team's rotations.
Not this year.
Well, Reeve does know who is likely to start for her this season. But she doesn't know how, exactly, they'll work together and might not until after the regular season is underway.
"I don't have everybody here," Reeve said. "I suspect I have two starters playing for other teams right now."
Kayla McBride is playing in Turkey, Napheesa Collier in France. Both players' playoff runs could keep them out of the Lynx opener May 14 against Phoenix. It is a difficult year for that to happen, with the offseason signings of McBride, Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa. It's hard to know how a new group will fit together if they can't get a full practice in as a group before the season starts.
Powers figures to be a key cog, either off the bench or starting. And Achonwa could be the first big off the bench.
"Aerial Powers hasn't been in enough reps yet for me to really understand what she's about," Reeve said. "So we're so far from the idea of working together as a starting unit that I don't know when we're going to get to that. It's going to be once the season starts."
The Lynx open their two-game preseason schedule at Atlanta on Saturday. According to Reeve it will be more a scrimmage-like situation. The Lynx finish out the preseason at home against Washington May 8, then open the season against Phoenix six days later.
After a week of training camp, it's a welcome chance to face a new opponent.
"We're at the point where we know each other's plays," Reeve said. "We learned them together, and then we guard 'em. So it looks bad, because we know everything we're trying to do. So that freshness of playing against somebody else, I think, will be really helpful for both teams."
Even without her starting five intact, Reeve is likely to be looking for several things Saturday:
•What steps has point guard Crystal Dangerfield taken since winning rookie of the year last year? Asked to add defense and playmaking to the team, she will have her first chance to show it in competition.
•How will the Lynx offense run with Achonwa on the floor? Reeve is excited with Achonwa's playmaking ability operating out of the high post. That sort of offense was the staple of the Lynx's first two WNBA championships.
"That is the player I am," Achonwa said. "I'm never going to be the go-to player to score, to make a move on my own. But running the ball through me? The Princeton offense is what I grew up in. So being able to pass, to see a play before it happens, is my niche. This is the conversation coach Reeve and I had before I came here, how well I fit in Minnesota's program."
•Getting a good look at Powers, who is versatile enough to play three positions. Reeve needs to get a good idea just how Powers — who can play both off-guard and small forward and even initiate the offense from the point position at times — fits into the lineup.
•How will stretch power forward Damiris Dantas fit in with a lineup that includes more perimeter scoring? The team leader in threes last season, Dantas — who spent the offseason in her native Brazil, where COVID-19 has been so problematic — was unable to do a lot of offseason conditioning. Still working into shape, she could get a lot of reps.