See more of the story

It was during the offseason, not long before WNBA free agency was set to begin. Both Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith, teammates in Chicago in 2023, were coming off transformative seasons. Both were about to be free agents. And Williams sent Smith a text.

The gist: Where are you going? What are you going to do? Let's do it together.

"To hear from Courtney was special to me," Smith said. "It made me feel good about my decision."

Both decided to sign with the Minnesota Lynx back in January. On Monday, the two talked about that decision and the upcoming WNBA season.

The signings -- along with the trade for Natisha Hiedeman -- represent a significant transformation of the Lynx roster, addressing a depth problem at the point guard position that has existed since Lindsay Whalen's retirement while adding defense, rim protecting, length and scoring to the post.

"We're getting two players come off their best seasons as pros," Lynx President of Basketball Operations and coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Alanna is a player we got to know during the college scouting process. Courtney is a player we played against for years."

Williams and Smith were teammates with the Sky last season, a team that advanced to the WNBA playoffs. For Williams, entering her ninth season, it was her first season-long summer of playing the point guard position.

"I think I was forced into it," she said. "But I learned so much. I always knew the point guard position was tough. But being thrown into that fire put that chip back on my shoulder. It opened a new door for me, expanded my game. I'm excited to see how far I can take it."

Williams averaged 10.4 points per game, down slightly from her career average of 12.1. But her 6.3 assists were a personal best, nearly double her career average of 3.5, and she did it without turning the ball over much.

For Smith, an Australian native who played at Stanford, last year was a breakthrough season, as she set career highs in starts (35), scoring (9.2), rebounding (6.6), assists (1.8) and blocks (1.3). She finished third in voting for the league's most improved player. Smith, currently playing in Turkey, is entering her sixth season.

Reeve joked that Napheesa Collier, not wanting to face Smith's tenacious defense anymore, told the team to sign her.

Offensively, the additions give the Lynx plenty of scoring options, with Williams' well-known midrange game, the prospect of her playing in the pick-and-roll with Collier and having Kayla McBride as a kick-out option ... and the fact that Smith scored better than she ever has in the WNBA.

But all of the team's significant offseason moves were made with defense in mind. The team needed to be better at ball pressure on the perimeter, something both Williams and Hiedeman will provide. They also needed to protect better at that rim, something Smith brings.

The Lynx finished in the bottom half of the WNBA in both scoring and points allowed last season. Now Smith and Williams are back together and the Lynx -- who drafted Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász last year -- have the length to improve defensively.

The Lynx were a top-tier offensive team when they were able to get stops on the defensive end, Reeve said. So, in a way, they were looking to improve the offense by starting on the other end of the court.

"We wanted to add that," Reeve said. "Get stops, get rebounds, play early. If we do that, we can have a special season."

Training camp starts next month. "April 28th can't get here fast enough," Reeve said.