The Phoenix Mercury and the Minnesota Lynx both have high expectations entering the WNBA season.
The Lynx, who rallied from an 11-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Mercury 80-79 in a quarterfinal playoff elimination game last September, host the Mercury in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
Minnesota, which lost to eventual champion Seattle 3-0 in the semifinals, was 14-8 during the regular season.
Though three-time All-Star Kayla McBride, a key free-agent addition, and All-Defensive selection Napheesa Collier are expected to miss at least the opener after returning from overseas, reigning WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve still has plenty work with.
Sylvia Fowles is healthy after missing most of last season with a calf injury, Crystal Dangerfield was the 2020 Rookie of the Year, Rachel Banham and Damiris Dantas were key contributors last season, and Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa joined McBride in the free-agent class.
"I get it, when we've got the names of the players that we have, and you look at the other teams in the league, you feel like Minnesota is a team that could compete for a championship," said Reeve, who doubles as general manager. "I think that's going to be said, that's the narrative, that's the expectation that's building around this team."
Phoenix, 13-9 last season, added Kia Nurse and Megan Walker to a nucleus of Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner, who left the bubble after one game last season.
Brianna Turner was a WNBA All-Defensive first-team selection last season and improved her offense while playing in the Russian League during the offseason.
"We have a big role for her," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said of Turner.
Nurse is also being counted on to contribute in a variety of ways.
"She's a great 3-point shooter but just as effective putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim," Brondello said. "We're also going to ask a lot of her on the defensive end."
--Field Level Media