So, there's a TON of talk about Kevin Durant and the possibility of him playing in D.C. for 2016, maybe to the point to where there's #KD2DC fatigue.
But if what I'm about to tell you happens and if Durant plays for the Wizards from 2016 on, it will be a big, and I mean a BIG MOMENT for Monumental Sports and all basketball fans in the D.C. area.
2016 could also be a year where the Washington Mystics have a major moment of their own. There is a major 2016 WNBA Draft prospect who could be a franchise-level player right away and could make the Mystics a much better team than they historically have been, which is ... not good.
Who is this prospect? She's Breanna Stewart, a junior who plays for UConn's women's basketball team and is widely regarded to be the first pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft.
So, what's impressive about Stewart's game?
Stewart is a 6'4 forward who can play both in the post and the perimeter. In the 2013-14 season, she averaged 19.4 points (including making 34.3 percent of her threes), 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.75 blocks per game when the Huskies went 40-0 and won their second straight national championship. Stewart was the NCAA Final Four's Most Outstanding Player in both of those years as a freshman and sophomore.
When a player leads a team to a national championship, she's going to get many individual accolades. Stewart was also a unanimous First Team All-American and received the AP and Naismith Player of the Year awards, all during her sophomore season.
And there's more. Stewart is also in consideration for being on the USA Basketball Women's National Team for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey and should have a fair chance to make the roster alongside a group of mostly WNBA players.
It would not be unprecedented for a college player to make the team. Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore was a college senior (she too was at UConn) when she played on the 2010 FIBA World Championship team. And if you follow Moore's career in the pros, she's a leading candidate for the 2014 WNBA MVP Award.
With two more years left to go in her career (American women's basketball players cannot go pro until they are four years out of high school), the future looks really bright for Stewart. For more pixels on her, Slam Online, Deadspin and Sports Illustrated also have features that I encourage you to check out. Those articles just happen to compare Stewart to ... Kevin Durant
Breanna Stewart is women's basketball's Kevin Durant?
Now that I've thrown out the idea, let's talk about it more.
The first thing that sticks out is that they are both tall, lanky forwards who can rebound the basketball at a good rate, and they can also take and make many perimeter shots. In addition to Durant, Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick in this year's NBA Draft is another forward like Stewart. Though Parker is not a lanky player (he is listed at 6'8 and 241 lbs), he also took many perimeter shots this past college season, including from three. Here is a statistical comparison of all three players below:
Both Stewart and Parker played nearly the same number of minutes per game. From there, both scored and rebounded at nearly the same rates. Their effective and three point field goal percentages also are very similar.
Now let's compare her to Durant. Yes, he averaged more points, but he also played nearly 36 minutes a game in his one year at Texas. Once you take into account per-40 minute statistics (I only showed scoring here to keep it simple), the gap narrows considerably. Based on this metric, Stewart scored 25.3 points per 40 minutes, while Durant scored 28.8. Therefore, the rebounding gap will also narrow. Finally, the two also had similar usage rates, right around 30 percent.
If there's one area where Stewart stands out more than Parker and Durant, it's her assists. She also takes care of the ball better despite her high usage rating. When she is in the WNBA, it shouldn't be surprising to see the team she plays on put her in a point-forward role.
Of course, there are some things I need to note. Stewart plays in the women's college game, whereas Parker and Durant played in the men's college game. We're also comparing her sophomore stats against their freshman stats. However, given that Stewart can't go to the WNBA until 2016 anyway, it shouldn't be a surprise to see her improve on these numbers by the time she is a senior herself. And of course, if things play out right, all three players would be very high picks in the NBA or WNBA Draft. After all,
Why would the Mystics want Stewart on their team?
The Mystics are currently rebuilding around youth, which sounds just like what the Wizards did not too long ago. However, they are doing so without a true franchise star and haven't had one in a very long time.
It's mostly because their current team is almost entirely made up of mid-first round picks and below. Even though the Mystics have a 13-14 record right now and control their playoff destiny THIS YEAR, they may find themselves on the dreaded "Treadmill of Mediocrity" if they can't draft, acquire or develop a true franchise player within the next couple seasons.
Either way, if Stewart comes to D.C. in 2016, she would instantly become the face of the Mystics franchise. She would be the equivalent of what Alex Ovechkin meant to the Capitals and John Wall meant to the Wizards when they got drafted.
Also, keep in mind that two of Stewart's former college teammates on those championship teams, Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, are rookies on the Mystics' 2014 roster. Both of them have shown a lot of promise in their own right and could be players in D.C. for a long time. But Dolson and Hartley don't appear to be franchise players. They were drafted sixth and seventh in the 2014 WNBA Draft, and franchise players just aren't found at these spots.
If Stewart is added into the mix, there would be a lot of on-the-court chemistry given these players' familiarity with each other from their UConn days. With Mystics head coach Mike Thibault at the helm (he's the 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year by the way), the sky is the limit if he has an elite talent to work with. He has praised her already last college season.
Finally, I've seen in some comments here that some of you do appreciate the women's game, but don't follow the Mystics that much. If Stewart plays for the Mystics, then I'm pretty confident that at least some of you will want to see them play.
Will the Mystics realistically be in a position to draft Stewart in 2016?
The Mystics could've had one of them...
The Mystics could've had one of them...
I mentioned that the Mystics are in position to make the playoffs this season, so this does sound a little counter-intuitive, almost like I want them to stink. But I'm conflicted here.
Yes, the Mystics are second place in the Eastern Conference as of July 31. But they're also 13-14, which is a mediocre record. Making the playoffs will mean another mid-first round pick in 2015, and that draft is expected to be weaker than normal. Given that, I think the Mystics could feasibly miss the 2015 WNBA Playoffs because they just don't have the talent to make a deep playoff run, even considering a statistical piece I wrote on their recent success.
If they miss the 2015 Playoffs, I hope the lottery balls fall their way. But historically, the Mystics have whiffed on numerous drafts when they had lottery picks where franchise players were available. The most recent was in 2013 and the Mystics haven't recovered from that.
If you are wondering if teams will try to acquire additional 2016 first round picks this offseason, it just won't happen for a draft like this. WNBA teams know that a top draft pick can be the difference between being a contender and being irrelevant. Yes, the NBA can be like this too, but it's even moreso in the WNBA. And there are fewer teams to trade with in the WNBA (12) than the NBA (30).
Still, I certainly don't want to advocate tanking just yet. But given what's potentially at stake for them and other WNBA teams that are rebuilding, well ... this looks like a sign:
In the end...
Obviously, we're nearly two years away from seeing #KD2DC and/or this
Stewart to D.C. #Stewie2DC scenario potentially play out. So a lot can happen between now and 2016. But that won't stop me from dreaming.
What if the Mystics draft Breanna Stewart in April 2016, and then Kevin Durant signs with the Wizards in July? It could be the start of something really special here in D.C.